We'll celebrate anything at Housetohome, so when we discovered it was the humble sliced loaf's 85th birthday we thought we'd raise a toast (ta da!) to its lesser-known inventor Otto Frederick Rohwedder
You may not have heard of Otto Frederick Rohwedder but I’ll bet, if you
had, you’d want to thank him every single morning.
Why, you may ask? Because he’s the
inventor of the sliced loaf no less – saviour of breakfast tables and
sandwich boxes the world over.
Before this ingenious invention we
imagine life was a daily struggle with sliced fingers, cobbled together
(couldn’t resist) sandwiches and crumby (sorry) breakfasts.
But one man’s vision, combined with his background as a jeweller (stay with us, it is relevant!), produced the sliced loaf to the amazement and delight of all.
Genius Otto first came up with the idea of a sliced loaf in 1912 while living in Missouri and working as a jeweller. No, we couldn’t initially see the connection either, but something must have inspired the frustrated inventor to move from diamonds to sarnies.
So convinced was he that this would be the greatest thing since…er… sliced bread that he sold his three jewellery stores and put the money towards realising his not-so half-baked vision.
Presumably it took the creative American a little time to adjust to his new profession as his first attempt at a loaf was held together with hat pins.
After a predictable setback where bakers complained of the pins falling out, Otto continued to refine the design. Even a factory fire couldn’t stop the determined designer, although it did destroy his blueprints along with the prototype of his bread slicer. Doh.
Some 15 years later and the plucky inventor finally designed a new machine that not only sliced the bread, but also wrapped it in paper, too.
The first pre-sliced loaf hit the shelves in 1928 and started selling like… hot cakes. Just five years later and a staggering 80% of all bread produced by American bakeries was pre-sliced. Otto was well and truly on the rise (pun fully intended).
Despite a brief spell during World War II, when the American government banned sliced bread (presumably causing outrage, cut fingers and uneven sandwiches), the sliced loaf has been a kitchen staple for 85 years. It even led to the creation of the ubiquitous toaster.
Think we’re going overboard with our praise for the humble loaf? Consider this quote by Aaron Bobrow-Strain (yes really), author of everyone’s favourite bedtime read, White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf: ‘The sliced loaf becomes a kind of small, edible promise of a better world.’ Crumbs! Happy Birthday.