HISTORY: The Cracker Kingdom's New Ruler
Charlotte Magazine|June 2020
Lance stayed homegrown and humble over its first century. Can it still, now that the Campbell’s Soup folks own it??
JARED MISNER

SANDRA WALKER is the type of lifelong Charlottean who, when you ask if she’s from Charlotte, tells you, No, but thank you for asking. She’s from Indian Land, South Carolina, back “when it was all country.”

Today, at age 67, Walker lives in a much different Charlotte, one that encompasses Indian Land in its ravenous regional sprawl. Indian Land is home to Red Ventures, the Google-like technology company, and its expansive campus, with a basketball court, food trucks, and nearly 4,000 employees.

In Walker’s lifetime, Charlotte’s population has more than sextupled, having grown from a textile manufacturing hub of about 134,000 to a nouveau-Southern metropolis of nearly 873,000 residents, skyscrapers, and two professional sports teams with a third on the way. One thing that hasn’t changed for Walker—at least not in 47 years—is her employer. She’s worked at Lance, Inc., the nationally renowned cracker company, since 1973, when she was 20. She started as a “packer,” placing the company’s sandwich crackers into boxes, when Richard Nixon was president and John Belk was Charlotte’s mayor.

“I didn’t know a lot about Lance,” Walker says in a bustling coffeehouse in Steele Creek, not far from her home. “But then I started hearing things, like it was such a good company to work for and good people to work with.”

THE COMPANY’S TIES TO THE CITY are even older. Philip Lance established the first in 1913 when, after a mix-up with a customer, the food broker was stuck with 500 pounds of peanuts. To recoup his costs, Lance sold bags of peanuts for 5 cents each on the corner of Trade and Tryon, steps away from what is now Charlotte’s Epicentre.

The snacks were a hit. They continued to evolve thanks to the ingenuity of his daughter, Mary Arnold Lance Van Every, who had the idea to grind the peanuts into peanut butter and spread it between two saltines. It sounds obvious today, but those became the world’s first commercially sold peanut butter cracker sandwiches.

“Lance’s is one of the great success stories of Charlotte and the Carolinas,” Tom Hanchett, historian in residence at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, told WTVI in a January documentary about the company.

By 1973, the year Walker started at Lance, the company had grown from just Lance and his son-in-law, Salem Van Every—who joined him in 1915, doubling the company workforce—to an $80 million company with 4,500 employees in 34 states.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM CHARLOTTE MAGAZINEView All

‘This Is How We're Going to Make Your Child Better'

Pediatric neurosurgery is technically and emotionally complex—and traditionally dominated by men. As Novant’s first female pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Erin Kiehna Richardson has had to learn the intricacies of a demanding field and battle sexism along the way

10+ mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

The Dumbledore of CMC

A surgery resident wrote a series of children’s books and created a special kind of medical magic

7 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

LGBTQ HB2+5

Five years after the furor of House Bill 2, the LGBTQ community—in Charlotte, in North Carolina, and across much of the nation—fights attacks on new fronts

6 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

Oh, Snap!

New ‘selfie museum’ in Concord celebrates the 1990s

5 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

ALLISON LATOS

The WSOC anchor on her hard trek from one episode of loss and grief to another—and the meaning of resilience

7 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

GOOD HEALTH

For years, Charlotte has been one of the largest American cities that lacked a four-year medical school. The health care professionals who finally made it happen overcame a series of setbacks, false starts, and failures, and they plan to use their clean slate to create a new kind of community asset

10+ mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

Summer Partee

From woodwork to retail, the kindergarten teacher-turned-designer has learned how to do it herself

3 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

Uptown or Downtown?

Archives illuminate how long we’ve argued over the perennial question

3 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

NOW OPEN NOVEL ITALIAN

Paul Verica brings a simpler version of the city’s hottest food trend to NoDa

3 mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021

TOP DOCTORS 2021

The annual list you can't without

10+ mins read
Charlotte Magazine
July 2021
RELATED STORIES

Learning to Manage Eco-Anxiety

CHARLOTTE DUFOUR is a veteran in the fields of international cooperation and sustainable food systems. In part 3 of her interview with KALPANA SAI of the Heartfulness Institute, she focuses on our relationship with the outside world and the environment.

4 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
May 2022

Let's Get Personal Cliff's Notes

From vintage furniture to a koi pond and orchid garden, designer Cliff Fong's Los Angeles home checks all the boxes.

4 mins read
Elle Decor
April 2022

THE Journey

Feminist activist, scholar, and writer Salamishah Tillet has read and reflected on most of Alice Walker's work, and last year released In Search of The Color Purple, a tribute to the enduring power and influence of the epistolary novel. Here, Tillet considers Walker's just-released Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker, 1965-2000, in this, the 40th anniversary of the publication of The Color Purple.

10+ mins read
The Oprah Magazine
Volume 2. No 2 - 2022

Gorgeous Gorgeous GIRLS

Is TikTok beauty a waste of time or a frontier for true discovery?

3 mins read
Town & Country
April 2022

FIFA RIVALS STREAMING COMPANIES WITH OWN SOCCER PLATFORM

FIFA is getting into the streaming platform business with a soccer version of Netflix and Amazon Prime.

1 min read
AppleMagazine
April 15, 2022

Make Your Time More Valuable

You don’t always need to hire to grow your business. But you do need to rethink what makes you competitive.

2 mins read
Entrepreneur
April - May 2022

APPLE CO-FOUNDER WOZNIAK STILL LOOKING FOR NEXT BIG THING

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has remained immersed in technology while also pursuing divergent interests since his 1985 departure from the revolutionary company he started with the late Steve Jobs.

3 mins read
Techlife News
March 26, 2022

LONG RIFLES AND ROUND BALLS

An American rifle story.

8 mins read
Gun Digest The Magazine
March 2022

IN ‘THE ADAM PROJECT,' A BLOCKBUSTER THERAPY SESSION

Pathos and action are found in equal parts in “ The Adam Project,” the latest attempt by Netflix to create the kind of throwback blockbuster that you might have paid to see in movie theaters.

3 mins read
AppleMagazine
March 18, 2022

Love animates the World

CHARLOTTE DUFOUR is a veteran in the fields of international cooperation and sustainable food systems. Here she is interviewed by KALPANA SAI of the Heartfulness Institute about the role of Yoga and spirituality in mental health and wellness. She shares some solutions for a world that seems more anxious and disconnected than ever

4 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
March 2022