The history of catsup, plus check out these vintage catsup/ketchup brands

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16 vintage catsup brands from the '50s
Considered the second most popular condiment in America, catsup has come a surprisingly long way to adorn our hot dogs and provide a tasty dip for our fries. Find out the history of catsup below, and see vintage bottles of more than a dozen brands.

Among the many bottles of catsup featured below, there are just two brands of ketchup — Heinz and Paramount brands spelled it the K way instead of with the C.

Fun fact: As of 2020, the top brands were Heinz, Hunt’s, various store brands (generics), Del Monte… and then all the rest combined.

A history of catsup (1976)

From the Tampa Bay Times (Florida) September 9, 1976

Some people say “it’s just not a meal without ketchup.” While enjoying the tomatoey goodness of ketchup, did you ever wonder where it all came from and when it got started?

Well, according to the Del Monte Corporation, “it’s a secret from the Far East.” Catsup (different brands have different spellings) originated in Asia, where its name was derived from “ket-tsiap” (Chinese), “ketchup” (Malayan), or “kachiap” (Thai), meaning a spicy sauce of or for fish. History indicates Portuguese traders took tomato seeds to Macao, a southeast island of China.

Heinz tomato ketchup from 1962

Tomatoes then traveled either to Malaya or to China next, where they were first used as an ingredient and later evolved into the condiment, catsup. Soon catsup became a well-known favorite in every household, yet each family kept its own secret recipe.

Catsup left Southeast Asia and went on to India via China expatriates. As this popular condiment made its way to England from India, further adaptations were made by English cooks.

The Brits tried to imitate the blend of tangy, oriental flavors with fish, brine, herbs and spices. In turn, their recipes were borrowed and adapted by American settlers when they reached the New World.

The British called the sauce “ketchup,” and it became a national favorite. A “Housekeepers Pocketbook” of 1748 warned readers not to be without this condiment, while writers Charles Dickens and Lord Byron sang its praises in their writings.

MORE: 26 ways to serve an old favorite: Hot dogs

Del Monte catsup - aspic recipe 1960

Sea captains from Maine acquired a taste for ketchup and took it back to New England, where it was used to sauce codfish cakes. They brought tomato seeds from Spain and Cuba, and by the 1700s, tomato catsup, was reinstated.

Due to the unavailability of tomatoes in America, catsup was first made from walnuts and mushrooms, and from just about any berry or fruit that was available.

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The original American catsups were also made without sugar, and were usually spicy and tart. The American demand for a less tart catsup eventually had its way, however, and by 1886, a sweeter catsup was firmly established.

Originally, catsup was used extensively in cooking, with cooks adding it as flavoring to fish, vegatable and meat dishes. Today’s American dictionaries still define catsup as a condiment which is used to enhance the flavor of food.

Hurff tomato catsup (1937)
Hurff tomato catsup (1937)

When the H. J. Heinz Company was founded in 1876, ketchup — or catsup, as it is often called in America — became a popular company product. Today marketing surveys show it is the favorite American condiment. Catsup is found in the homes of 98 out of 100 families and is sold around the world.

So, come on and enhance your meal with catsup or ketchup. No matter how you spell it, It still makes a lot of foods taste better. Add ketchup to a recipe and discover a totally new flavor.

Ketchup history adapted from articles in The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, California) Jan 22, 1958; The Indiana Gazette (Indiana, Pennsylvania) Nov 1, 1976; and the Tampa Bay Times (Florida) September 9, 1976.


Vintage Hunt's catsup bottle 1968

The catsup bottle

Shake and shake
The catsup bottle.
None’ll come —
And then a lot’ll.

Going to Extremes, Richard Armour (1949)


Catsup from the ’50s: Sexton, NAAS, Donald Duck, Del Monte

Vintage 1950s catsup brands (4)


White Swan, Standby, Flotill, Hunt’s tomato catsup

Vintage 1950s catsup brands (1)


History of catsup: Heinz ketchup, Snider’s, Stokely’s Finest, Dennison’s

Vintage 1950s catsup brands (2)


Paramount ketchup, Red Wing, Frost, S&W tomato catsup

Vintage 1950s catsup brands (3)

ALSO SEE: Vintage McDonald’s menus & food: See 5 decades of the famous fast food chain’s history


Snider’s vintage catsup, made real country-style (1946)

1946 Snider's catsup


Hunt’s catsup in flavors: Hickory & Pizza (1965)

1965 Hunt's flavored catsup food


It’s Hunt’s… It’s got sweet-spice flavor… just what a steak sandwich needs

1956 Vintage Hunt's catsup

ALSO SEE: 14 retro hamburger recipes for some differently delicious dinners

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