Bread, bread, bread. We can’t seem to get enough of it, can we? Whether you’re making a Swedish Coffee Bread, a garlic bread, or a simple bread stick, it has to be sliced before you serve it. But have you ever wondered why breads are sliced or when the slicing began? Let’s find out.
Bread has been around since 8,000 b.c.e. There’s evidence for that! Humans have been producing bread by hand and they even resembled Mexican tortillas back then. Years have passed and we now have a fluffier kind of bread that can either be store-bought or homemade. Though bread has existed for quite some time, sliced bread has only existed for less than a hundred years. Automatically sliced commercial bread was produced in Chillicothe, Missouri, on the 6th of July, 1928, because of the machine invented by Otto Rohwedder. Rohwedder hailed from Iowa and was a Missouri-based jeweler. However, his journey to producing sliced bread wasn’t easy.
On 1917, his prototype and blueprints were destroyed by a ruthless fire. He was also doubted by bakers who thought that loaves sliced by the factory would rapidly fall apart or go hard. The doubters, critics, and the fire did not stop him; instead, these encouraged him to go and continue his quest. In 1928, he was able to rebuild a power-driven bread slicer with multiple blades. Thanks to his friend, Frank Bench, the machine was able to perform its purpose in Frank Bench’s Chillicothe Baking Company.
In July 6, 1928, his modern machine was reported in the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune. Some were a bit skeptical to see the bread sliced, but housewives were excited because each slice of bread was evenly cut. The cuts were neat and accurate, which makes them better-looking than bread sliced at home with a bread knife. The article on that day called Rohwedder’s contraption a “considerable research”.
Since then, it became a thing in the United States, proving that the machine and the product it made wasn’t just a fad. By 1930, it has become the talk of the town across the U.S. Loaves produced by the factory were made to be softer and because of this, they were harder to slice at home. The timing of Rohwedder’s device was just right because slicing modern loaves neatly at home was almost impossible.
In the same year, Wonder started distributing sliced bread. Wonder Bread was first sold in stores in Indianapolis in 1921. The bread was then owned by the Taggart Baking Company. In 1925, it was bought by the Continental Baking Company, and Wonder was then sold nationally. Thanks to their distribution of sliced bread, their popularity rocketed.
However, factory-sliced breads such as Wonder were banned for a short period of time by the U.S. government during World War II. They did this to preserve resources like the paper that wraps each loaf which maintained its freshness. Sadly, in 2012, Wonder Bread totally disappeared from stores after the Hostess Brands, its then-owner, declared that they were bankrupt. But on September 23, 2013, the Wonder Bread made a comeback on thanks to another company called the FlowersFoods, which bought Wonder on July 22 of the same year.
The Wonder brand not only supported Rohwedder’s idea of sliced bread, they made it known to other parts of the world. Still, it was Otto Rowhwedder’s determination that paid off and it’s him we have to thank for his glorious idea of evenly and nicely cut loaves of bread we now enjoy.