Hard to think that popping two pieces of bread into a toaster is a revolutionary act, but, well up until the late 1920’s, it was.
While the idea of sliced bread wasn’t a revolutionary concept—John Montagu, also known as the aptly-named 4th Earl of Sandwich, was eating the things during his poker games all the way back in the 1700’s—but the idea of pre-sliced bread, now there was a new thought.
Enter Otto Rohwedder.
Originally a jeweler by trade in the bustling town of St. Joseph, Missouri, Otto was well convinced that he could make a bread slicing machine, an invention that would be the greatest thing since sliced bread (couldn’t resist), so he sold the store and got to work. His first attempt in 1917 bore no fruit, a fire at the warehouse he was producing the device in caught fire and set his initial design up in smoke. But a few years later in 1927 his attempt succeeded and actually improved upon the initial design, the machine now not only slicing bread but wrapping it as well.
He sold the first of his machines to nearby Chillicothe, and the first commercially sold sliced bread came about on July 7th, 1928. From there it spread out, his machines going across the nation and selling like hotcakes to businesses and in 1930, Wonder Bread was introduced to the populace, and the pre-sliced bread took off like a rocket, prompting other companies to follow suit and by 1933 pre-sliced bread across the country outsold non-sliced.
While there’s something charming and endearing about non-sliced bread, something that can remind us all about the holidays, traditional meals, and the old practice of breaking bread, well, sometimes you really want a no-hassle grilled cheese, and the next time you have one, be sure to thank old Otto for it.