Sliced Bread
by A.F '09


"Things have only been 'the next best thing since sliced bread' from 1928," says Todd Savage, a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. And he's right! We always hear this saying when someone is talking about some great invention. Well, what's a better way to describe a great invention by comparing it to one? American Jeweler Otto Rohwedder never stopped trying to fulfill his dream of having sliced bread. Even during a near-fatal sickness and having to lose everything in a factory fire Jeweler continued to try to make sliced bread a reality. Rohwedder finally "perfected" a machine that could cut and wrap bread so it could remain fresh! 

Savage, Todd. "Chicago Tribune." How did we ever live without...; Sliced Bread November 2003: 3.

Everyone always thought that the home of sliced bread (where it was invented) was Chillicothe Baking Company, 100 Elm Street, Chillicothe, Mo. But there was no proof that this was true except for a local newspaper article stating that M.F. Bench's Chillicothe Baking Company was the one of the first uses of the machine. It also said that Mr. Bench helped Rohwedder dine tune it also. The brick building that was once the bakery was now electronics supply store so there was no physical proof. But Kathy Stortz Ripley, editor of the Chicago Tribune, did find some "old-timers" who described how the machine looked. According to them the machine was invented by Rohwedder and was quite bulky. It cut by raising its steel blades, lowering them, and then stuffing the cut loaf into a paper wrapper. It was about 10 feet long and sliced the bread about an inch wide. Now for such an amazing invention, there are few facts on its actual history. It is known that Rohwedder worked on his machine for over 13 years. Some say that he first took his machine to the Battle Creek Bakery even though there is no evidence he did so. All we know is that this machine was a big hit. The popularity of the machine was so great it slowly reduced Rohwedder to a "footnote". Soon all the big bread companies, like Wonder Bread, were building their own machines.

Wenske, Paul. "The Kansas City Star." 29 July 2003. History of Sliced Bread little known on 75th anniversary. Kansas City. 10 May 2004. .

"Food Reference Website: Facts & Trivia." Sliced Bread. Food Reference. 10 May 2004. .

In January 1943, during World War II, the government banned the making and using of bread-slicers. They needed airplanes more bread-slicing machines. However this ban did not go over well with the people and 3 moths later the ban was revoked. A story March 9, 1943 in the Constitution-Tribune titled "Mrs. Housewife Can Relieve Herself of Troublesome Task" showed how much the country relied on this machine. Now you might wonder why the city of Chillicothe hasn't capitalized on its fame. Sadly what happened was a beer bottler bought the building of the bakery and threw out all the junk, a.k.a. the first bread slicer, without realizing its worth.

Wenske, Paul. "The Kansas City Star." 29 July 2003. History of Sliced Bread little known on 75th anniversary. Kansas City. 10 May 2004. .

The actual bread-slicing machine has changed dramatically over the years. What was once used by hand is now powered by other means. Bread is now almost always sold sliced. This process is formed by parallel rows of blades through which the loaves of bread are carried by conveyors. Because the bread is usually warm when sliced it makes a mess to cut through the sticky bread. This has caused blade-cleaning devices to be invented. As you can see this machine while not always recognized, as one is a machine that has changed the way we live or eat bread.

Baking." Encyclop¾dia Britannica. 2004. Encyclop¾dia Britannica Online School Edition. 12 May 2004 .


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