What is the greatest invention? Many think of the printing press, the wheel, or the telegraph, but most do not immediately consider sliced bread; yet, it is the invention to which all others are compared. Without it, the phrase “the best thing since sliced bread” would not exist. Sliced bread had a greater effect on the world than most realize. For example, the toaster was invented two years before sliced bread, but after the invention, the sales of the toaster soared (“Fascinating Facts”). Sliced bread shaped our perspective of food and convenience in America. Additionally, the way in which bread was sliced differentiated individuals: thinner for women and children and thicker for workers and men. The bread slicer contributed to the American desire for accessible food that continues to this day. Sliced bread was more than simply an invention to relieve housewives; it revolutionized the American way.
Bread was one of the first foods that was made instead of grown or hunted. Bread dates all the way back to the Neolithic era. By the twentieth century, Americans consumed bread in greater quantities than any other food. Bread has constantly evolved since the Neolithic age, but the manner in which it was served did not change drastically until 1928. Even before the bread-slicing machine, sliced bread was controversial. The act of slicing bread before it was necessary was banned during World War One (Bobrow-Strain). Thus, housewives were forced to cut bread at the table as needed so it would not go stale and be wasted. This prevented the bread from having to be thrown out unnecessarily and new bread, which could have gone to the soldiers, to be bought for the family (“Fascinating Facts”).
Now he is known as “The Father of Sliced Bread” (“Bread-Slicing Machine”), but before this culinary revolution, people knew him as Otto Frederick Rohwedder. He was born July 7, 1880 in Davenport, Iowa and had a sister, Elizabeth Pickerhill (1877-1970) (“Fascinating Facts”). Rohwedder attended school at Northern Illinois College of Ophthalmology and Otology in Chicago. He graduated in 1900 with a degree in optics and the training required to build eyeglasses (“Bread-Slicing Machine”). However, something in Rohwedder changed after graduation and instead of opening an optics shop, he opened a jewelry store in St. Joseph, Michigan. He was a successful jeweler and later opened two more stores. In 1905, Rohwedder married Carrie Johnson (1880-1955) with whom he had two children. (“Fascinating Facts”)
One day in 1912 Rohwedder conjured up the magical machine that would slice bread so that housewives would not have to. Rohwedder did not actually begin designing the bread-slicing prototype until 1916 when he sold all three of his jewelry stores and moved back to Davenport, Iowa. In 1917, a fire destroyed the warehouse where Rohwedder worked resulting in a complete loss of faith in the project by the investors who then withdrew their funding. Rohwedder was then forced to...