FOOD HISTORY: Sliced Bread

Before sliced bread was invented, people baked their own bread or bought loaves of bread that they had to slice. Each time you sliced, you got a ragged and non-uniform slice. However, Otto Rohwedder from Davenport, Iowa had an idea for a slicer that would automatically cut bread into uniform slices for the consumer. He started working on his idea in 1912 and, over the next few years, had several working models. Many bakers rejected Rohwedder's invention, saying that the bread would fall apart and would get stale more rapidly than the whole loaf (which was true) and that the consumer didn't care to have pre-sliced bread. However, when the Chillicothe Baking Company( Chillicothe, Mo)  put one of the machines to work in 1928, these bakers found they were wrong. The local newspaper wrote, "So neat and precise are the slices and so definitely better than anyone could cut by hand with a bread knife, that one realizes instantly that here is a refinement that will receive a hearty and permanent welcome." In 1927, Rohwedder found a solution to the sliced bread becoming stale more rapidly, by devising a machine that not only sliced the bread but wrapped it as well. Rohwedder, in 1929, sold his machines to the Micro-Westco Company of Bettendorf, Iowa and served as Vice-President and sales manager of the Rohwedder Bakery Machine Company, a new division of  Micro-Westco. By the 1930's, sliced bread was fully commercialized, helped by the invention of the pop-up toaster, introduced in 1926, which required uniform slices for best results. In 1930, The Wonder Bread Company, using their own specialized slicing machines, was the first commercial manufacturer of wrapped, pre-sliced bread. By 1933, more bakers were selling pre-sliced bread than whole loaves and the sales of Rohwedders machines soared. In 1943, in the midst of World War II, the U.S. government actually banned sliced bread on the theory that the country needed the metal used in making bread slicing blades more for the manufacture of airplanes than for bread slicers. A public uproar over this edict was so great that it was rescinded within a few months. THEREFORE, PRE- SLICED BREAD WAS RETAINED AND WE ARE STILL EATING PRE-SLICED 60 YEARS LATER.