Culinary Arts

Culinary Arts

A cook at Hanford making pies

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

  • Necessity is the Mother of Invention

    A cook at Hanford making pies

    Harry Petcher, the man in charge of Hanford's massive box lunch department, explains how engineers solved the problem of spreading margarine on 50,000 sandwiches.

    Narrator: Feeding Hanford’s enormous workforce required ingenuity and resourcefulness. Harry Petcher, the man in charge of Hanford’s massive box lunch department, along with his team of over 350 workers had to turn out more than 50,000 sandwiches every day. When the task of spreading margarine on sandwich bread threatened to slow down operations, Petcher’s crew came up with an ingenious solution.

    Harry Petcher: When we would make our sandwiches, we would put twelve to eighteen pieces of bread on a tray and one girl would put margarine on, another girl would put the meat on, another girl would put what they call the top on, and then another person would put it into the wrapping machine. So we were having a slow job on spreading the margarine. We tried to thaw or melt tubs and tubs and tubs of margarine and people are building up with spatulas trying to spread it and the waste is just something else.

    We had a problem. One of the girl's husbands solved it and this guy came up with a spray. He took a paint spray where the spray thing sucks the paint up, he took two cathodes--metal cathodes that had electric heat in them--and put those down into the margarine. Then he’d take this spray gun and he would go, “Psh, psh, psh” and it would spray the bread. He invented this and we got about ten, twelve of them together put together by the engineering department. Necessity is the mother of invention, let's face it.


Quick Fact:
The Manhattan Project's enormous workforce meant administrators had to come up with innovative ways to feed thousands of people at a time.