Chillicothe, MO was first to see 'knead' for sliced bread

Posted at 9:21 PM, Oct 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-19 19:55:47-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Inside a Chillicothe restaurant, 41 Action News Anchor Kevin Holmes sat down with resident Mary Katherine. Many in Chillicothe view her as a local historian.  

She was born August 18, 1922 and moved to Chillicothe as a 10-year-old. It was a city on the rise in several ways.

"I had a lady say to me one time, ‘You sure must’ve had it easy,' and if I ever wanted to hit anybody it was her," she said. "You had to go in the spring wagon with a team of horses to get your groceries."

One thing usually missing from the grocery list is bread. Mary Katherine’s family was no different.

“When I grew up, my mother made homemade bread. You get one slice this wide, and one slice this wide. Maybe I’m exaggerating it, but there’s a difference. That difference was short lived. It changed when the now 96-year-old was a toddler.  

Livingston County Commissioner Ed Douglas has garnered the nickname "Sliced Ed." He’s helping document the history of sliced bread. Douglas said jeweler-turned-inventor Otto Rohwedder came up with the idea.

“He faced a lot of resistance, like a lot of inventors. A lot of guys who go against the grain, so to speak," said Douglas. 

The idea was anything but crumby to the Chillicothe Baking Company. Owner Frank Bench agreed to become the first baker to sell the bread slicer to the public. Shortly after, sales at his bakery increased by 2,000 percent. 

"It brings more dough," Douglas said. "Everyone knows the saying, 'It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.' You hear it all the time. I’ve heard presidents say it. I’ve heard it worldwide. Nobody says 'that’s the greatest thing since the iPad.'"

There are murals in Chillicothe, even a museum dedicated to sliced bread. Douglas and his team have approached state lawmakers to recognize July 7 as “Sliced Bread Day” in Missouri. They say it must pass this legislative session, or their efforts will be toast.  

"We were researching what other places had," Douglas said. "And there’s a place out in Colorado, I forget where, but they have a frozen dead guy. Nothing special about him, he’s just frozen and he’s dead. Well, I think this is a little better than that."

Mary Katherine said the sliced bread maker is an invention she doesn't take for granted, especially when eating some of her favorite meals. "BLT, chicken salad sandwich, a hamburger." Either way you slice it, it’s an invention everyone can feed off.