What’s So Great About Sliced Bread?

What are the gadgets you love to use? If there is an invention or tool that you think is very clever and useful, you can say that it’s “the greatest thing since sliced bread”.

When I was child, I sometimes heard adults use that phrase, and thought it was strange. There were many things in my life that were great, such as my dog, my bicycle, my Lego blocks, and my funlight . One thing that would not be on my list of great things was sliced bread. What’s so great about sliced bread?

Otto Frederick Rohwedder is the man who gave the world sliced bread. He lived in Davenport, Iowa, and invented a bread slicing machine in 1912. He had a problem, though; the sliced bread quickly became stale. Eventually, Rohwedder solved this problem. He changed his machine so that it would wrap the bread in waxed paper after it was sliced. By 1928, Rohwedder’s bread-slicing machine was perfected and bakeries began to sell sliced bread.

In 1943, during World War II, bakeries were ordered to stop using bread slicing machines. They were told that the heavy paper that the loaves were wrapped in was needed for other uses.

Americans didn’t like giving up their sliced bread. On January 26, 1943 an unhappy housewife wrote this 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!

Maybe that housewife’s letter influenced government officials. The ban on sliced bread lasted only three months.

We use the phrase “the greatest thing since sliced bread” (or, “the best thing since sliced bread”) about gadgets, inventions, and tools that make our lives easier.

1930 Electric Bread Slicing Machine; St. Louis, MO

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What do you use that is the greatest thing since sliced bread?

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