Recognizing the cultural and culinary impact of one of South Carolina’s most revered condiments, the state House of Representatives have declared April 27, 2017, as “Duke’s Day” in honor of the 100th anniversary of the celebrated mayonnaise.
The resolution, which was adopted last week by state leaders, begins with a detailed account of the genesis of Duke’s Mayonnaise, starting with the early days. Born in Columbus, Ga., in 1881 as the youngest of 10 children, Eugenia Thomas would later move to Greenville with her husband, Harry Duke, and their daughter.
By 1917, the United States joined the Allied Forces to fight in World War I. As soldiers flooded into Greenville to train at Camp Sevier, Duke’s Mayonnaise was born.
“Noting the hardworking, hungry soldiers-in-training, Eugenia Duke began selling sandwiches slathered with her homemade mayonnaise, starting in 1917. Popular favorites like chicken salad, pimento cheese, and egg salad cost a dime each, and Eugenia made a profit of two cents per sandwich, about 40 cents in today’s dollars. Years after they’d left the camp, soldiers wrote to Eugenia, begging for her sandwich recipes and jars of her delectable spread,” states the House resolution.
As word of her sandwich enterprise spread, Duke was urged by a top salesman to begin packaging her mayonnaise as a separate product in 1923.
“Eugenia sold her sandwich business to focus her attention solely on the spread. The sandwich operation, Duke Sandwich Company, still operates in Greenville today ... In 1929, Eugenia was struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for her famous mayonnaise. She sold her business, and the C.F. Sauer Company was happy to take over and continue spreading Duke’s across the United States, after which Eugenia served as C.F. Sauer’s mayonnaise spokeswoman,” the resolution continues.
In honoring Duke’s Mayonnaise with its own official day, state lawmakers hope to recognize the creamy tang and cultural contributions of the spread as it reaches the century mark.