If you ever claimed that something was the greatest thing since sliced bread, you’re referring to a very particular date – the 7th July 1928. That was the day that pre-sliced and wrapped bread was first sold by the Chillicothe Baking Company in Missouri. Their Kleen Maid Sliced Bread proved incredibly popular, and was advertised as “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped.” It was this slogan that led to the hyperbolic phrase we now use to describe an invention that has a huge impact on daily life.
The American inventor of the bread slicing machine was trained optometrist and former jeweller Otto Frederick Rohwedder. Having become convinced that he could invent and market an automatic bread slicing machine, he sold his three jewellery stores to finance its development. However a fire in his factory destroyed both the blueprints and prototype in 1917, which pushed back the development of the machine by a number of years.
Soon after its eventual release the invention quickly caught on as bakeries across the country clamoured to produce and market this new type of bread. The social impact was enormous and led to an increase in bread consumption due to the ease of simply reaching for another slice. Sliced bread even became a political issue when, at the height of the Second World War, it was banned due to concerns over the quantity of wax paper being used to wrap it. However, the ban was lifted after just three months, and sliced bread has remained a staple food ever since.