July 7 is Sliced Bread Day in Missouri

July 7 is now officially Sliced Bread Day in the State of Missouri.

Last Thursday, just a day before the end of the legislative session in Jefferson City, lawmakers gave final approval to a House Bill, which, among other things, designated July 7 as Missouri Sliced Bread Day.

While doing research in 2001, the Constitution-Tribune;’s former News Editor, Cathy Ripley discovered a small headline reading, “Sliced Bread is made here. Chillicothe Baking Co. the First Bakers in the World to Sell This Product to the Public."

After speaking with local residents and historians, Ripley said she heard interesting stories about the claims of Chillicothe being the Home of Sliced Bread, but had no tangible facts or supporting evidence..

“In 2003, a Kansas City Star reporter stopped by the Constitution-Tribune office and I suggested that he do an investigation into the history of sliced bread to see if he could solve the puzzle. He couldn't. But, what he did accomplish was draw worldwide attention to the mystery about the origin of sliced bread. His story moved across the wire services exactly 75 years after the July 6, 1928, Constitution-Tribune article was published,” Ripley recalled. “Within days, I received a letter from the founder of Bedford Industries, in Minnesota. He told me that Chillicothe was, indeed, where sliced bread was first introduced to the world. He said he knew this to be fact because he had once employed Richard Rohwedder, the son of the man who invented the bread-slicing machine. At the age of 89, Richard traveled to Chillicothe in 2003 and shared with me his father's scrapbook. The scrapbook was full of documentation confirming that his father invented the world's first bread-slicing machine and that it was first put to use at Frank Bench's bakery. Richard was in Chillicothe in 1928 and was a small boy when he fed the first loaf of bread to go through his father's bread-slicing machine. The scrapbook also had photographs and documentation that had been provided to the Smithsonian.”

And from there the effort for Chillicothe to claim this innovative piece of international history began. Soon, Marvin Holcer and Pam Klingerman, curator of the Grand River Historical Society, began to work on an exhibit and a movement to bring the notoriety to town, including a sliced bread machine from the Smithsonian.

Over the years a Sliced Bread Committee was established by Ed Douglas; Kelly Poling painted a large mural along Washington Street and eventually a festival, Sliced Bread Days was formed. This summer a Sliced Bread Museum will open at 100 Elm St., at the corner of First and Elm Streets.

Amy Supple, director of Visit Chillicothe, said the passage of the legislation and acknowledgment of a special day, has been a long time coming. “We have been working to promote Chillicothe as the Home of Sliced Bread for over 10 years,” she said. “It just reinforces that our sliced bread story is significant and has an impact that is recognized across the state and beyond that.”

During the 2018 Session, Representative Rusty Black, introduced legislation, which would name July 7 as Sliced Bread Day in Missouri, however, the language got added to another bill that eventually did not pass out of the Missouri Senate, despite the best efforts by local Senator Denny Hoskins. However, this year, Black and Hoskins were able to ensure the language was added to another similar bill and was able to pass in the final days of the 2019 legislative Session.

“Rep. Black has been an amazing champion. He recognized this could be something that would have a positive impact on Chillicothe and we are so glad he was able to usher it through this year and it passed,” Supple said. “He worked with Sen Hoskins and we owe him a debt of gratitude as well.”

Klingerman, said that the passage of the legislation is not only great for Chillicothe.

“This isn’t just great for Chillicothe - it is great for Missouri,’ she said. “This will, absolutely draw more people to the area and when they come to the area they buy fuel, go out to eat, visit the museum and do things around town. Many people may not realize the draw that being the Home of Sliced Bread has.”

Since adding the sliced bread exhibit and demonstrating the 1936 Oliver 777 Bread Slicing machine, the museum was able to obtain a few years ago, attendance in the museum has increased, according to Klingerman.

Sliced Bread Day is officially July 7, however, Supple said the festival, called Sliced Bread Days will be celebrated July 5-7, this year, in conjunction with the Freedom Festival.

“Sliced bread is the standard by which inventions are often measured,” Ripley said. “You don't hear people say that something is the greatest thing since the iPhone, or the greatest thing since the computer, or the microwave, or the airplane. People say that "It's the greatest thing since sliced bread." It has been exciting and tremendously rewarding for me to see so much develop as a result of my research; but, none of it would have been accomplished without the genuine interest of a few people who took the initiative to provide me with vital pieces to solve this historical puzzle once this long-forgotten article was uncovered.”