The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread...
It would have to be unsliced bread, right?
Welcome to Fun Fact Friyay! This newsletter is all about keeping things brief and sending you off into the world smarter, wiser, and happier.
Today’s fact: Sliced bread was banned in the United States for two months during World War II.
As the title of this story suggests, sliced bread is often used as a comparison tool. It’s more often used as a vehicle for sandwiches or toast (avocado or otherwise), but would you have clicked on this if I teased avocado toast instead?
Actually, maybe that’s a good idea for next time…
Anyway, the first loaf of sliced bread was sold in 1928. And people loved it — especially housewives who had to make breakfast for a husband and anywhere between two and 14 kids rushing to school.
Unfortunately, slicing the bread required more heavy-duty wrapping to keep the bread fresh. With the United States focusing on World War II, Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard thought it was silly to have unnecessary expenses like this.
In January 1943, Wickard announced a ban against sliced bread.
People who willfully ignored the ban were subject to fines, jail time, and loss of rationing assistance from the government.
Despite the restrictions, Americans were going to slice their bread. Wheat was in higher demand than ever before, and the country saw an increase in steel knives — even though steel was a scarce resource at the time.
We got to see American ingenuity at its finest. Some bakeries taught people how to slice bread. General Baking Co. invented loaves with little markings to tell customers where to cut. New gadgets came out, like a measuring tool and a cutter connected to the knife for more precise slicing.
Can you imagine the Shark Tank pitches for these things? Barbara Corcoran would be out before the first demonstration even happened.
Luckily, the ban didn’t last for too long. On March 6, 1943, Wickard gave an update on the ban:
“Our experience with the order, however, leads us to believe that the savings are not as much as we expected.”
Wickard went on to say the War Production Board had informed the government that there was plenty of wax paper to go around, and sliced bread could have its heyday once again. And America is better off because of it.
Thanks to Jeffrey Rubel for the inspiration for this post! Now, let’s all enjoy a PB&J.