On August 28, 1928, Otto Frederick Rohwedder received a patent for “Bread Fastening Machine,” U.S. Patent No. 1,682,581.

Many have heard the phrase “it’s the best thing since sliced bread” which must mean that sliced bread is the threshold for great inventions. U.S. Patent No. 1,682,581, the “Bread Fastening Machine” was invented by Iowa native Otto Frederick Rohwedder. This machine was the first automatic commercial bread slicer that also packaged the bread in a sealed bag.

Rohwedder was born in Davenport, Iowa in 1880. He graduated with a degree in optics and pursued a career as a jeweler, owning three stores. Rohwedder enjoyed tinkering with watches and other gadgets in his spare time and some believe this, and his knowledge of consumers bread purchasing habits, lead him to create the bread slicer. Rohwedder went so far as to survey over 30,000 housewives asking what they wanted from their bread. The results showed not having to cut the bread was what they wanted most. 

In 1916 Rohwedder sold all three of his jewelry stores and began to work on a bread slicer prototype. The three main objects of this machine are “to provide an appliance which can be used in combination with a bread slicing machine and which will secure together the slices of bread when cut” as well as to “hold each end of the loaf and permit slices at the middle section of the loaf to be taken out so that the remaining portions of the loaf can then be placed in juxtaposition” and finally to “provide means for preventing the drying out of the loaf of bread when cut by retaining one or both ends or crusts in their original position and avoiding the exposure of the cut surface of the loaf to the air.”

In 1927, Rohwedder finished the machine and sold the first one to his friend and baker, Frank Bench. Sales were not great at first; people believed sliced bread became stale faster but, Bench continued to use the machine. Eventually, people came to appreciate the ease of pre-sliced bread and by 1928, word spread and sales increased dramatically.

From 1927 to 1936, Rohwedder obtained seven more patents relating to methods of slicing bread but eventually sold his patent rights to Iowa company, Bettendorf. 

Suiter Swantz IP is a full-service intellectual property law firm, based in Omaha, NE, serving all of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. If you have any intellectual property questions or need assistance with any patent, trademark, or copyright matters and would like to speak with one of our patent attorneys please contact us.