Bread History

Bread has been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years.

Historians believe that humans during the Neolithic or New Stone Age (c. 4000 BC to 2000 BC) mixed crushed grains with water to form a paste that could be cooked over a fire and eaten. By about 2600 BC, Egyptians had discovered a way to leaven bread (or make it rise) using wild yeast found in the air. Their baking skills soon expanded to more than 50 varieties of bread, including whole wheat and sourdough. By 100 BC, Rome had more than 200 commercial bakeries.

One of the most popular uses of bread today is in sandwiches. The word “sandwich” was coined in 1780 when an Englishman named John Montague refused to leave the gambling table for a meal. He ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread. When others around him began to order the same “sandwich,” Montague, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, became a legend.

U.S. Milestones In Modern Baking

In the U.S., bread baking slowly began moving from the home and small bakery shops to automated bakeries in the late 1800s. In 1910, 95% of bread in the U.S. was still made at home. By the 1960s, 95% of bread was made by commercial bakeries. Here are some milestones in the history of modern baking in the U.S. (Sources: Baking Industry April 12, 1952; Baking Industry April 1987.)

1890 The first “mechanical bakery” is reportedly invented. Machinery in the bakery took flour from the barrel at one end of the bakery and turned out loaves of bread at the other.

1892 Bakers can buy a bread moulding, scaling and panning machine that can be operated by “three men and two boys” and produce 3,600 loaves per hour.

1895 Wrapping loaves of bread in waxed paper is growing in popularity. An oven is invented that allows bread to move on conveyors, creating a continuous baking process.

1927 The automatic commercial bread slicer is invented by Otto Rohwedder. The machine both sliced and wrapped a loaf of bread.

1932 A Baltimore, Md., bakery begins using transparent bread wrappers.

1938 Commercial bakers begin to voluntarily enrich white bread with B vitamins and iron to fight beriberi, pellagra, and other diseases.

1943 The FDA requires bread to be enriched with B vitamins and irons.

1959 Bakers begin to use metal detectors on production lines to eliminate possible product contamination.

1962 Polypropylene plastic film is tested for bread packages.

1974 UPC codes become more widespread and bakers work to print the code on flexible bread packaging.

1977 The FTC requires food processors, including bakers, to include ingredient lists on package labels.

1998 Commercial bakers in the U.S. enrich breads with folic acid to reduce the risk of neural tube birth defects.

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