You’ve heard the idiom “the greatest thing since sliced bread,” but have you ever stopped to wonder when (and by whom) sliced bread was actually invented? Here’s what you need to know:
Sliced Bread History
Sliced bread was invented in 1928 by Otto Frederick Rohwedder, a man of many trades (he was an engineer, inventor, and jeweler with a degree in optics—talk about a resume).
Bakers of the time scoffed at Rohwedder’s idea for an automatic bread-slicing machine, but he didn’t let their skepticism stop him: He actually sold his Missouri jewelry store chain to fund his passion project.
In 1917, a factory fire destroyed his prototype and all of his blueprints. But Rohwedder—who believed with his whole heart and soul that sliced bread was the wave of the future, damn it—would not be deterred. The first mention of the machine, in the July 6, 1928 edition of the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune, was a glowing review of the invention.
According to the article, the average housewife would experience “a thrill of pleasure when she first sees a loaf of this bread with each slice the exact counterpart of its fellows. So neat and precise are the slices, and so definitely better than anyone could possibly slice by hand with a bread knife that one realizes instantly that here is a refinement that will receive a hearty and permanent welcome.”
Chillicothe Baking Company debuted Kleen Maid Sliced Bread on July 7, 1928, a product that was met with mild success. A couple years later, when sliced Wonder bread was introduced, sliced bread became a kitchen staple.
On January 18, 1943, the U.S. government placed a ban on sliced bread.
“The Secretary of Agriculture maintained that sliced bread went stale faster and therefore Americans used more wheat, which was needed to feed the GIs,” during World War II, according to Why Do Donuts Have Holes?: Fascinating Facts About What We Eat And Drink by Dan Voorhees. “It was also said that bread-slicing machines that broke down needed metal parts to be fixed. The metal was better used for manufacturing guns, tanks, and ships.”
Fortunately for us, the ban was lifted on March 8, 1943.
Related: 20 Easy Bread Recipes With No Yeast
Effects of Sliced Bread
The invention of sliced bread changed more than just the bread industry. It drastically affected how much bread was eaten (sandwiches were suddenly much easier to make at home), which resulted in increased sales of butter, jams, peanut butter, and other spreads.
Things Older Than Sliced Bread
The popular idiom “the greatest thing since sliced bread” is often used to praise new innovation and ideas.
To put into context just how relatively new the invention is, here are 10 modern day things older than sliced bread:
- Betty White, who was born on January 17, 1922. This makes the actress a Capricorn and sliced bread the greatest thing since Betty White. You may have seen a viral meme inspired by this amazing fact floating around social media.
- Jelly beans, which debuted in 1861.
- The spork, which debuted in 1874.
- Tattoo machines, which debuted in 1876.
- The Band-Aid, which debuted in 1920.
- Hearing aids, which debuted in 1902.
- Lie detectors, which debuted in 1921.
- The Tilt-A-Whirl, which debuted in 1926.
- Packaged frozen foods, which debuted in 1927.
- Kool-Aid, which debuted in 1927.