This Day in History: Sliced Bread Made its Debut. Americans Loved It! The Government Banned It.


On this day 86 years ago, the best thing since—well, since ever—hit store shelves: sliced bread.

The day before its official debut, Chillicothe Baking Company, the first company to produce and market this revolutionary new way to buy bread, put out a full-page ad in its local Missouri paper the Chillicothe Constitution Tribune.

Announcing: The Greatest Forward Step in the Baking Industry Since Bread was Wrapped—Sliced Kleen Maid Bread.

The ad slogan is possibly where the phrase "best thing since sliced bread" originated.

Two years later, another baking company brought sliced bread to a national market with the iconic brand Wonder Bread.

Housewives rejoiced, toaster sales boomed, and Americans ate more slices of bread than ever before.

Then, on January 18, 1943, the modern marvel disappeared from store shelves. The reason? Government officials had initiated the first-ever war on carbs—a ban on pre-sliced bread, deemed necessary to help conserve resources for World War II.

The sandwich-loving public was not happy. As one woman put it in a letter to The New York Times:

I should like to let you know how important sliced bread is to the morale and saneness of a household. My husband and four children are all in a rush during and after breakfast. Without ready-sliced bread I must do the slicing for toast—two pieces for each one—that's ten. For their lunches I must cut by hand at least twenty slices, for two sandwiches apiece. Afterward I make my own toast. Twenty-two slices of bread to be cut in a hurry!"

The head of the War Food Administration said the ban was to conserve the thicker wax paper that Federal Drug Administration regulations said bakeries had to use because sliced bread went stale faster than whole loaves. 

The ban did not last long though, probably due to its unpopularity. The government repealed it three months later with the head of the War Food Administration saying,

Our experience with the order, however, leads us to believe that the savings are not as much as we expected, and the War Production Board tells us that sufficient wax paper to wrap sliced bread for four months is in the hands of paper processor and the baking industry.

Sandwich-loving Americans haven't gone stale on the modern convenience since.