Happy Birthday, Sliced Bread!

Georgina Bagnall

Georgina Bagnall

Technical Assistant at Franks & Co
E : georgina.bagnall@franksco.com
T : +44 (0)114 249 9888

Georgina graduated from King’s College London with a Master’s degree in Physics, specialising in biophysics and nanotechnology. Her final year project included using emulsions to fabricate micro-patterns, for the purpose of investigating the protein folding phenomenon.
Georgina also completed modules at Queen Mary University of London and University College London.
Georgina previously worked as Research Officer for a technology transfer company. She focused on the commercialization of universities' quantum and photonics research projects.
Before joining Franks & Co Georgina worked as in Patent Administration at an IP firm in London.
Georgina is now furthering her understanding of UK, European and International patent law and is developing experience across a range of intellectual property matters, including those in patents, trade marks and designs. She also maintains and develops relationships with clients and foreign associates.
Georgina Bagnall

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This month marks the 90th anniversary of the very first sliced bread patents.

By the late 1920’s the majority of bread baking was done in factories. The result was an incredibly soft bread loaf, which in turn, was incredibly difficult to slice at home with a traditional bread knife, yet factory slicing would result in the bread being stale before it was even sold.

A jeweller from Missouri, Otto F. Rohwedder, invented a machine with a conveyor belt and

of a series of uniform cutting bands that would slice an entire loaf of bread in a single operation and then promptly and efficiently package the loaf. In November 1928 Otto F. Rohwedder filed the first-ever patents on the mechanisms he created to slice and package bread. You can read Otto Rohwedder’s patent disclosing the slicer here US1867377A, one of the sliced bread packaging patents can also be found here US1816399A.

 

Page 2 of Otto Frederick Rohwedder’s patent “Machine for slicing an entire loaf of bread at a single operation” filed November 26, 1928.

The inventions did not take off immediately. Bakeries were sceptical that people would forgo the longevity of their loaves just so they wouldn’t have to slice it themselves. It was Rohwedder’s friend Frank Bench, owner of the Chillicothe Baking Company, who took a chance on the invention. Bench’s gamble paid off and the bakeries sales boosted by 2000%. Pre-sliced bread then went national when the Continental Baking Company introduced Wonder Bread to the country in 1930.

Due to the convenience of pre-sliced bread people eating more bread than ever before. This then led to increased sales of spreads such as jams and even automatic pop-up toasters. In WWII sliced bread was briefly banned in an attempt to reduce the amount of wrapping used on a loaf of bread. There was outrage amongst the public, even letters from distraught housewives complaining of tirelessly slicing bread, the ban was subsequently lifted after less than two months. There was no going back, sliced bread was here to stay.

The idiom “the greatest thing since sliced bread” is commonly used to praise an invention or development. This phrase references sliced bread as the ultimate innovative achievement, and as such it, of course, has its associated patents.

In 1933 Otto F. Rohwedder sold his patent rights to a larger company during the Great Depression. Patents do not just hold a legal role, but also a strategic one, good inventions that are protected by strong patents will be useful and therefore valuable. Rohwedder used his patents to survive the longest, deepest economic crisis in American history.

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