John Taylor, the creator of pork roll, was born on Oct. 6, 1836, in Hamilton Square.

As a young man, Taylor went into the grocery business before making the switch to the pork and cattle industry, creating Taylor Provisions Company of Trenton. In 1856, he created the secret recipe for his pork roll, known as Taylor’s Prepared Ham.

Taylor was forced to change the name after the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act; Taylor’s product wasn’t enough like the new definition of “ham.”

He changed the name to Taylor Pork Roll; it was also sold as Trenton Pork Roll. Taylor attempted to trademark the words “pork roll,” describing it as “a food article made of pork, packed in a cylindrical cotton sack or bag in such form that it could be quickly prepared for cooking by slicing without removal from the bag.”

A court case in 1910 ruled that pork roll was not trademarkable. Of course, success breeds competition and other companies started making their own pork roll, notably Case Pork Roll, Kohler Provisions and Loeffler Gourmet. In New Jersey, a strange phenomenon developed: even though the word “ham” was dropped from the name in 1906, some residents, notably in the northern part of the state, continue to call it “Taylor Ham” while the rest of the state refers to it by its generic name, “pork roll.”

New Jersey has such an ardent love affair with its home grown delicacy, there are even festivals celebrating the meat. While the debate over what to call it may always rage, no one can deny the enduring legacy of John Taylor’s creation.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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