A cliché that just about every American knows "The greatest thing since sliced bread." But how did this epoch-making invention become so celebrated? The story begins in 1928, when Otto Frederick Rohwedder created the "greatest invention"-pre-sliced bread. But, believe it or not, Rohwedder's innovation was initially met with skepticism.
Before the invention of pre-sliced bread, bread of all kinds was either baked at home or bought in full loaves (not sliced) at the bakery. For both home-baked and bakery loaves of bread, the consumer had to personally cut off a slice of bread every time he wanted one, which meant rugged, irregular cuts. This was time-consuming, especially if you were making several sandwiches and needed many slices. It was also very difficult to make uniform, thin slices.
This all changed when Rohwedder, of Davenport, Iowa, invented the Rohwedder Bread Slicer. Rohwedder began working on a bread slicer in 1912 but his initial prototypes were met with scoffs from bakers who were certain that pre-sliced bread would quickly go stale. But Rohwedder was certain that his invention would be a major convenience for consumers and did not let the bakers' skepticism slow him down.
In an attempt to address the staleness problem, Rohwedder used hatpins to keep the pieces of bread together in the hopes of keeping the loaf fresh. However, the hatpins continually fell out, detracting from the product's overall convenience.
In 1928, Rohwedder came up with a way to keep pre-sliced bread fresh. He added a feature to the Rohwedder Bread Slicer that wrapped the loaf in a wax paper after slicing.
Even with the sliced bread wrapped, bakers remained dubious. In 1928, Rohwedder traveled to Chillicothe, Missouri, where baker Frank Bench took a chance on this idea. The very first loaf of pre-sliced bread went on store shelves on July 7, 1928, as "Sliced Kleen Maid Bread." It was an instant success. Bench's sales quickly skyrocketed.
Wonder Bread Makes It Go National
In 1930, Wonder Bread began to commercially produce pre-sliced loaves of bread, popularizing sliced bread and making it a household staple familiar to generations. Soon other brands warmed to the idea, and for decades there has been row upon row of sliced white, rye, wheat, multigrain, rye and raisin bread on grocery store shelves. Very few people living in the 21st century remember a time when there was no sliced bread, the universally-agreed-upon "greatest thing."