|SLICED BREAD NEWS|
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Wanted: sliced bread machine!
The Sliced Bread Committee would like to acquire one of the original Rohwedder bread slicing machines for display in Chillicothe. Many of the bakeries who bought one are now out of business and hard to track. If you have a machine, or know where one can be found, please let us know!
Call Patti Leatherman at 888-646-7679 or email Brenda.
'Slice' of History: Inventor's Son Returns to Where Sliced Bread Began
Richard Rohwedder was just 13 years old in 1928 when he traveled from Iowa to Chillicothe with his parents and piece of machinery that would instantly change the way consumers bought bread. The massive unit, approximately five feet long and three feet high, was an invention of his father, Otto F. Rohwedder. It was a bread slicing machine. And, nowhere in the world were bakers selling sliced loaves of bread.
But, a Chillicothe baker, who was on the verge of bankruptcy, took a chance on the invention and on July 7, 1928, put the first loaves of sliced bread ever made, Kleen Maid Bread, on the shelves of Chillicothe grocery stores. From that moment on, sliced bread became a part of history - a history that began right here, in Chillicothe. "My father and Frank Bench were friends," Rohwedder said during a reception held in his honor. "When no one else in the world would give my father's machine a try, Frank Bench did... Other bakers scoffed at the idea." But, the invention was an instant success.
"Frank Bench's bakery increased its bread sales by 2,000 percent in two weeks," said Rohwedder, now 88 years old. Rohwedder, of Alexander, Ark., returned to Chillicothe for the first time in 75 years this week. And, he was greeted in style for the role his father played in carving a piece of world history for Chillicothe. Rohwedder arrived Tuesday night at the invitation of the Constitution-Tribune and was a guest at Grand River Inn. Rohwedder had a full schedule in Chillicothe, beginning with a visit to the building Frank Bench had constructed for his bakery at the northwest corner of First and Elm streets near the railroad depot. The building is now occupied by SMC Electric Supply.
While here, he met with Catherine Stortz Ripley, news editor of the Constitution-Tribune, for an in-depth interview at Grand River Inn. At the request of Livingston County Library Director Karen Hicklin, the interview was videotaped for historical purposes. F.R. Bailey, of Bailey Productions, and Paul Sturm, of the Constitution-Tribune operated the cameras. The raw tape will be edited and copies given to the library, museum, the Constitution-Tribune, and Rohwedder.
One of the main reasons Rohwedder came to Chillicothe was to share with Ripley his scrapbook, one of his prized possessions with items concerning the bread slicing machine dating back to the 1920s. He graciously allowed the newspaper to make photocopies of everything in the scrapbook. Those memories will be preserved in separate copies displayed at the library, museum and newspaper office as well as on computer disk.
After welcoming remarks made by Ripley, who coordinated Rohwedder's visit, Chillicothe Mayor Todd Rodenberg offered some remarks. On behalf of the city, he presented Rohwedder with a golden key to the city encased in an elegant display box. Written on an engraved plate were the words, "Chillicothe, the home of sliced bread." The mayor also presented Rohwedder a shirt with a gold key embroidered on it. Ripley then presented the guest of honor with an engraved plaque with the words "In appreciation of Otto F. Rohwedder for our 'slice' of world history. Presented to Richard O. Rohwedder, August 20, 2003. Presented by Catherine Stortz Ripley, her husband, Steve, and son, Dalton. Constitution-Tribune, Chillicothe, Mo., the home of sliced bread."
Ripley, on behalf of the newspaper, also presented Rohwedder with a copy of "Dateline - Livingston County," a history book she authored two years ago which let to a mounting interest in promoting Chillicothe as the home of sliced bread. As a token of appreciation for Rohwedder making the visit to Chillicothe, Dr. Jack Neal, curator of Grand River Historical Society Museum, presented Rohwedder with a lifetime membership card.
Among those attending the reception was Joseph Crookshanks, whose father was opening Crookshanks' Bakery just across the street east of Bench's Chillicothe Baking Company about the time Bench was going out of business in the 1930s. Also attending was Bob Staton Sr., who served as Chillicothe mayor when Frank Bench, after having left the bakery business, was hired as the city's street superintendent. Several relatives of the late Frank Bench were present and visited with Rohwedder during the reception. These included Betty Colton (who, by marriage, is a niece of Frank Bench) and her daughters Debbie Colton and Karen Dixon. A woman from Brookfield, who is a niece of Frank Bench, also attended.
Mentioned in National Examiner as Home of Sliced Bread
By Catherine Stortz Ripley / C-T News Editor, August 22, 2003
Publicity over Chillicothe being the home of sliced bread is continuing to grow with the latest recognition found in the National Examiner dated Aug. 26, 2003, and found in Chillicothe stores Friday, August 22. The story, accompanied with a photograph of an early bread slicing machine and artwork, fills half of the tabloid page. The story notes that it was 75 years ago that sliced bread was invented. It's the greatest thing since... well... you know the headline read. The story continued:
Any way you cut it, an itinerant jeweler and a small-town baker joined forces 75 years ago to launch the greatest invention since... well... whatever came before sliced bread! M.F. Bench's Chillicothe Baking Co. in tiny Chillicothe, Mo., began selling the first loaves of sliced bread, Kleen Maid Bread, in July 1928 becoming the spearhead of culinary revolution that led to the invention of toasters, the rise of Wonder Bread and the catchphrase: The greatest thing since sliced bread.
Other bakers had turned down Iowa inventor Otto Rohwedder's brainstorm for 13 years. They told the traveling jeweler that their customers didn't mind cutting loaves and, besides, slicing would let the bread go stale faster. Then Kleen Maid Bread began selling like hotcakes and Wonder Bread and other companies jumped at the idea, leaving Rohwedder a mere footnote in history. Just this week, Chillicothe was host to Richard "Dick" Rohwedder, the son of inventor Otto Rohwedder. The younger Rohwedder, now 88 years old, was in Chillicothe helping install his father's bread machine in 1928. He held the first loaf of bread to go through the slicer at Bench's bakery in Chillicothe.
The National Examiner is a weekly publication featuring stories about everything from the stars to personal human-interest stories. It also features what the stars are wearing and a weekly crossword puzzle.
|Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Reprinted with permission from Ripley Entertainment
||United Media and Ripley Entertainment published this cartoon on Sunday, October 5, 2003 (click on the image to see the entire cartoon).|
Site Announced for Sliced Bread Monument
Chillicothe Rotarian Armand Peterson looks over drawings of the proposed sliced bread monument. Plans call for the building to be designed as a giant loaf of bread, measuring 30 feet long, 60 feet wide and 30 feet tall. Above the loaf would be a 50-foot arch. Grand River Inn has offered land west of the hotel for placement of the monument.
A plot of land west of Grand River Inn in south Chillicothe has been offered as the possible site for a monument recognizing Chillicothe's claim to fame as being the home of sliced bread. The location was announced by Ed Douglas, ex-officio leader of the Sliced Bread Committee, during a Rotary Club meeting held at Grand River Inn. "Grand River Inn agreed to give us land right west of the building for the monument," said Douglas. "We appreciate this donation."
Douglas noted that the location would provide exceptional visibility to motorists on both U.S. Highways 36 and 65. Plans are progressing with the development of the monument and Douglas put on display for the Rotarians a drawing of the proposed monument.
The drawing was provided by architect Ed Korf, who has handled several Chillicothe construction projects. The proposal calls for the building to be designed as a giant loaf of bread, measuring 30 feet long, 60 feet wide and 30 feet tall. Above the loaf would be a 50-foot arch. To give perspective to the size of the monument, Douglas said that Grand River Inn is about 20 feet tall. A water fountain is also proposed to be a part of the monument.
Inside the monument could be a museum, a replica of a bread slicing machine, a theater to show videos of the history of sliced bread and of Chillicothe, a small gift shop, a visitors bureau, freshly baked bread and, possibly, the Chillicothe Area of Chamber Commerce office. A children's playground could be outside.
Chillicothe In National Magazine 'A Big Deal'
It was small, but it was a mention nonetheless in a national news magazine about Chillicothe being the place where inventor Otto Rohwedder first tried out his bread slicing machine. The fact that Chillicothe is getting recognition for this event is part of the goals of the Sliced Bread Committee, an ad hoc group of individuals wanting to see Chillicothe become well-known as "the home of sliced bread." "It's exciting," said Ed Douglas, who chairs the committee, in commenting about the article in U.S. News & World Report. "This is a shot in the arm for us."
The article was part of a series of articles featuring the way Americans eat. The sliced bread story talked about how bakers scoffed at Rohwedder's invention until he convinced Chillicothe baker Frank Bench to give his machine a try. The Sliced Bread Committee has been meeting monthly for about the last year-and-a-half discussing ways to increase awareness of Chillicothe's claim that resurfaced a few years ago. The historical event occurred in July 1928 at Chillicothe Baking Company. That day had been mostly forgotten until it was rediscovered and published in a history book, "Dateline - Livingston County" in 2001, a project of the Constitution-Tribune. Since 2003 when a wire service carried a story internationally about the 75th anniversary of sliced bread, radio programs featuring the topic have been heard in Canada, Australia and throughout Missouri. Articles appeared in "The National Examiner" and the topic was even featured in Ripley's Believe it or Not."
Barb Burton, executive vice president of the Chillicothe Area Chamber of Commerce, said the recent mention in U.S. News & World Report is "a big deal." "It's always nice to have national recognition for your community," she said. "It also says a lot about the phrase ('It's the greatest thing since sliced bread') and how popular that phrase is. If we are the home of sliced bread and the national publications pick up on that, that could mean something for us in the way of visitors down the line." Burton acknowledged that the community needs to develop displays about the history of sliced bread for visitors. "We need to get ready with exhibits and areas of interest for when visitors do come," she said.
The committee's most visible achievement has been the development of a website, www.homeofslicedbread.com. The website includes photographs and diagrams of the original bread slicer, a photograph of the inventor, various newspaper articles that have been published along the way, an informational poster that is available for purchase as well as "sliced bread candles" that are also for sale. A display is also set up at the Grand River Historical Society Museum. Currently, efforts are being made to locate and acquire one of Rohwedder's bread slicing machines to have it on display in Chillicothe. The machines weren't made for very long but after the first one was put to use in Chillicothe, demand for Rohwedder's invention was great. The committee is pursuing the possibility of obtaining the Rohwedder bread slicing machine from the Smithsonian on a long-term loan.
U.S. News & World Report
Mentions Chillicothe As Home Of Sliced Bread
Chillicothe is getting yet another plug as being the home of sliced bread with the latest mention being in U.S. News & World Report.
The magazine's cover is devoted to the theme of "America Eats!" and displays a flag-draped apple pie. Inside are vignettes about the foods Americans eat. There are stories about how the foods we eat were influenced by slaves, immigrants, prohibition, the Great Depression, refrigeration, the gold rush, battlefields, fast foods and, of course, sliced bread. Earlier this summer a reporter for the magazine contacted the Constitution-Tribune seeking information about Richard Rohwedder, whose father, Otto Rohwedder, invented the bread slicing machine and first put it to use at Frank Bench's bakery in Chillicothe in July 1928.
In her article titled "Sliced Bread: The Greatest Thing, Period" Betsy Querna talked with Rohwedder, who now resides in Arkansas. She writes: "Nobody wanted Otto Rohwedder's machine. The Davenport, Iowa, salesman had worked on a device for slicing loaves of bread for more than a decade, but bakers were dubious. They protested that the bread would go stale, that customers only wanted their loves whole, or that it just wouldn't work." "Then, in 1928, Frank Bench, who owned a small bakery in Chillicothe, Mo., decided to give it a try. Richard Rohwedder, Otto's son, who was 13 years old at the time, fed the bread through the "very peculiar-looking machine." Kleen Maid Bread quickly became popular. "The ladies liked and wanted it," he recalls, and sales at Bench's bakery increased by 2,000 percent in just a few weeks."
The latest edition of U.S. News & World Report features an article titled "Sliced Bread: The Greatest Thing, Period" which tells the story about Chillicothe being the first place in the world to sell commercially-sliced bread. It includes an interview with Richard Rohwedder, whose father invented the bread-slicing machine.
Town Claims its Slice of Bread History
CHILLICOTHE, Mo.- Everyone has heard the phrase "it's the greatest thing since sliced bread," used to hype everything from toasters to cell phones. But few know that this northwest Missouri town was the place sliced bread was first sold to the public.
Chillicothe's boast is not without controversy. Battle Creek, Mich., the nation's cereal capital, also claims to be the home of sliced bread. When pressed recently, Battle Creek's historians were unable to produce proof.
In Missouri, the claim is bolstered by old newspaper articles and local memories. Cathy Stortz Ripley, editor of the Constitution-Tribune, was researching a book when she ran across a news story dated July 7, 1928, announcing that the Chillicothe Banking Co. would market wrapped loaves of sliced bread to local grocery stores. An accompanying ad trumpeted: "“Announcing: The Greatest Forward Step in the Baking Industry Since Bread was Wrapped - Sliced Kleen Maid Bread."
This invention is credited to a jeweler named Otto Rohwedder, who 76 years ago created a 10-foot-long slicing machine with steel blades that actually stuffed sliced loaves into wax-paper wrappers. He labored over the machine more than 13 years before any bakers offered to give it a shot.
Sliced bread saved homemakers hours of work. It put toasters in every home. And its popularity eventually reduced Rohwedder to a footnote. By 1930, he has sold his patent. Wonder Bread, which already wrapped its loaves, built its own machines and used delivery trucks to market sliced bread across the nation. And soon every new innovation of convenience was being touted as the "greatest thing since sliced bread."
Arkansan's Invention Made Him (Sliced) Toast of Town
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- "It's the greatest thing since sliced bread." You've heard it, you may have even said it, but how many times have you actually wondered when and how sliced bread came about? Well, Richard O. Rohwedder of North Little Rock can tell you all about it. His father invented sliced bread. Really.
It was 1917 when Otto F. Rohwedder, then a jewelry store owner in St. Joseph, Mo., had his first bread-slicing machine built in a factory in Monmouth, Ill. But before he could get it on the market, the factory burned to the ground, taking the machine and a lot of Rohwedder's other tools and materials with it.
Another decade passed before Rohwedder, by then living in his hometown of Davenport, Iowa, was able to put aside enough money to rebuild and market his bread slicing machine. Fortunately for him, no one else had though of the concept in the meantime. "It was a concept, a dream," Rohwedder, 74, said of his father's accomplishment. "He saw a need, and the need was this - have you ever tried to slice a loaf of bread and slice it evenly?"
While the machine was still in the idea stage, the elder Rohwedder traveled to several cities because, his son explained, "he had to sell the world on sliced bread." But "that was when the bankers said he was crazy," said Rohwedder, who was in his teens at the time. "No one would take a chance on selling sliced bread (they thought) the bread would dry out." Yet the inventor's surveys showed housewives fell in love at first slice.
And it was a lasting love affair. During World War II, when the government tried to halt the making of bread slicers because of the need for steel, "Mrs. Housewife wouldn't let them." Rohwedder said. "It was the only thing (the government) tried to stop and didn't." The first bread slicing machine was installed in 1928 in a friend's foundering bakery in Chillicothe, Mo. "We all went down there," the younger Rohwedder said. The family "took the slicer down there, and I fed the first loaf of bread into the slicer."
Frank Bench, the Chillicothe baker who had that first slicer, saw his Kleen Maid Bread sales increase 2,000 percent in those first couple of weeks, Rohwedder said. His dad was becoming more than just famous in the baking industry; he was becoming extremely busy. "I remember the phone ringing day and night, all the time, with bakers ordering slicers," Rohwedder said. In fact, business grew so much, so fast that Rohwedder at first couldn’t keep up. Once past the initial rush, the future was looking bright for Rohwedder.
But the dark days of the Depression did much snuff to his success. A lack of money forced him to merge his operation with a larger company, and he lost his patent rights. His father became a salaried employee of the company, Rohwedder said, "but he was disappointed that he never saw the money he dreamed he would have from his successful invention." His father's salary was a good one, Rohwedder said, "it was far different from realizing the royalties."
The bread slicer wasn't the only first in the bread business attributed by Otto F. Rohwedder. He also invented the bread display rack. Korn Baking Co. in Davenport brought the first fancy display racks from Rohwedder in 1923. They were shaped somewhat like postal boxes found on street corners, and they sported a picture of a young Richard Rohwedder enjoying a healthy-looking sandwich and a glass of milk. That particular style of bread rack didn't stay around long, but it "started a trend," said the man whose boyhood picture was on the rack.
Such a claim to fame as the Rohwedders have is not always readily believed. "When my grandchildren were in (elementary) school and had show-and-tell," Rohwedder said, "they would get up and tell their class that their great-grandfather invented sliced bread. The teacher would pooh-pooh it, and they would come home crying." "We'd have to get proof for them to take back and show the teachers that, yes, their grandfather did invent sliced bread," he said.