Monadnock Moment No. 3: Carleton Ellis, Margarine Inventor
Did you know that the margarine which you use daily was invented by a Keene native? Carleton Ellis was born in Keene in 1876, the son of the florist Marcus Ellis and his wife Katherine. Carleton Ellis was the valedictorian of his Keene High School class of 1896; he went on to study at MIT.
Ellis had moved to Montclair, New Jersey by the early years of the 20th century. He became a prolific inventor with 753 patents to his credit, the third largest number awarded to any single person.
It was a patent awarded to Ellis in 1913, however, that was to overshadow all of the others. During that year he patented a margarine made from vegetable oil. A form of margarine had been in existence for some years, but it had previously been made from animal fats. This animal fat margarine was greasy, often indigestible, and quite susceptible to contamination. Ellis’ margarine, which could be made from either corn, peanut, or cottonseed oil, was much safer and healthier than either animal fat margarine or the butter made from cow’s milk at that time. And thus it was that a Keene boy laid the foundation for the massive margarine industry by introducing margarine as we know it today.