Duke got her start making sandwiches and selling them to local drugstore soda fountains and corner groceries. She baked her own bread, roasted her own meats, and, most importantly, made a fine mayonnaise.
Duke’s mayonnaise is one of the South’s favorite condiments, whipped white gold sold in squat glass jars affixed with a simple yellow label. Though now owned by C. F. Sauer Company of Richmond, Virginia, Duke’s mayonnaise is still produced in Greenville, the city of its birth.
Eugenia Duke mixed her first batch of mayonnaise in her home on Manly Street sometime in the early years of the twentieth century (1917 is the date most often cited). Duke got her start making sandwiches and selling them to local drugstore soda fountains and corner groceries. She baked her own bread, roasted her own meats, and, most importantly, made a fine mayonnaise. Unlike in the commercial versions that were coming on the market, there was no sugar in Duke’s mayonnaise recipe, nor did she whip in egg whites as filler. And thanks to her use of cider vinegar, her product had a pleasing tartness.
During World War I, Duke expanded her business, selling sandwiches to servicemen stationed at nearby Fort Sevier. Soon soldiers were writing her, each asking that a jar or two be shipped to faraway Georgia or Virginia, and Duke was in the mayonnaise-manufacturing business. Her business expanded rapidly. In 1920 she sold the sandwich business to her bookkeeper Alan Hart of Mauldin. In 1923 she opened a mayonnaise-manufacturing plant in Greenville. In 1929 she sold her mayonnaise-manufacturing business along with her prized recipe to the C. F. Sauer Company and moved to California, where she operated a catering business.
Edge, John T. Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Companion to the South. Athens, Ga.: Hill Street, 2000.
Sloan, Kathleen Lewis. “Hold the Mayo? Not If It Says ‘Duke’s.’” Sandlapper 2 (December 1991): 108–9.
Thompson, Samantha. “Pass the Mayo.” Greenville News, June 25, 1995, upstate business sec., pp. 8–10.