It was the year 1921 and the place was the Indianapolis Speedway-site of the International Balloon Race. Elmer Cline looked up at the clear blue sky, filled with awe. To be specific, he was filled with "wonder" (his word) at the sight of hundreds of red, blue, and yellow hot air balloons. Now Elmer was no run-of-the-mill fan of hot air balloons. In fact he was the vice-president for Taggart Baking Company, a business in need of a slogan to promote a new loaf of bread. Inspiration struck. Surely, if balloons can fill a spectator with wonder, Taggart's new product could do the same. Wonder Bread was born and with it came an ingenious ad campaign. Taggert trucks delivered helium-filled balloons to children living in the city of Indianapolis. Attached to the balloons were letters inviting families to try their new bread. Elmer's inspiration was a hit and Wonder Bread became a national sensation. In addition to the clever ad campaign, Wonder Bread was a novelty. For the first time consumers could buy pre-sliced bread. If you ever hear the expression-"the best invention since sliced bread"-you now know where it comes from.
Wonder Bread was one of the first baking companies to enhance white bread with vitamins and minerals. Bread enrichment became known as "the quiet miracle", nearly eliminating the disease Beriberi. This is not a trifling event. In researching this post, my sister helped out by sending me photos of this horrible skin disease that looked like the beginning stages of leprosy. As kids, we used to joke about Wonder Bread "building bodies twelve ways." No more jokes from me. If this is not enough to convince you of the wonder in this bread, there is more to learn. Wonder Bread invented a revolutionary way to bake bread without holes. Wait. There's more. In the 1970's, Wonder Bread was one of the first companies to clearly label freshness dates and product ingredients.
So the next time you buy a loaf of sliced bread and read the label for freshness and ingredients, think of Elmer Cline and his sense of wonder at hot-air balloons and the invention of sliced bread.