Missouri Town Claims Glory of Sliced Bread
Sliced bread is the benchmark against which wonderful inventions are measured. Its birthplace was long claimed by Battle Creek, Michigan -- without apparent proof -- but that assertion has now been nullified. On January 26, 2007, Chillicothe, Missouri, erected not one, but two plaques proclaiming itself to be "The Home of Sliced Bread" and pegging the date as July 7, 1928. Even more majestic manifestations of its claim are in the works.
Chillicothe had no idea that it was the home of sliced bread until 2001, when a local reporter came across an old newspaper clipping that referred to the event. Further digging revealed that the son of the bread-slicing-and-wrapping machine was still alive in Arkansas. At age 88, he flew to Chillicothe with a scrapbook of clippings from the late 1920s, which proved that his father, Otto F. Rohwedder, had indeed first put his invention to use at Frank Bench's Chillicothe Baking Company.
Sliced bread was an immediate hit, according to the scrapbook: bread sales soared, orders for the machines poured in, and Otto F. Rohwedder dreamed of fame and fortune -- until the Great Depression forced him to sell his patents and he spent the rest of his life as an employee of other food industry machine companies.
"I guess, in the back of my mind, I'm always thinking, gee, is this true?" said Cathy Ripley, who is now the news editor of the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune. But the facts in the scrapbook stood up under scrutiny, and Chillicothe's response was, according to Cathy, understandable. "Hey, let's capitalize on it!"
In addition to the plaques, a Sliced Bread Committee has been formed. Its chairman, Ed Douglas, probably influenced by the nearby World's Largest Goose and World's Largest Pecan, has had plans drawn for a World's Largest Loaf of Sliced Bread, a building that will house both the Chillicothe Chamber of Commerce and an exhibit devoted to Rohwedder and his invention.
"An interactive museum is the ultimate goal," said Cathy, which would include Rohwedder's second bread-slicing-and-wrapping machine, currently in a warehouse at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. (Chillicothe's first machine eventually fell apart.) We suggested expanding Chillicothe's annual bread-baking contest into a bread-slicing contest, which would interactively demonstrate the misery of life pre-July 7, 1928. Cathy -- who is also a member of the Sliced Bread Committee -- promised to take our idea under consideration.[02/18/2007]
- 1st St., Chillicothe, MO
- A mile north of US Hwy 36 and two blocks east of US Hwy 65/Washington St. A freestanding plaque is on the northwest corner of 1st and Elm Sts; a smaller plaque is affixed to the brick building behind it.
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