Slicing bread yourself is not only tedious, it also results in uneven slices. The bread slicing machine, first marketed in 1928, was an incredibly useful invention and took the country by storm so that in just five years, about 80% of bread was sold pre-sliced. The phrase “the greatest thing since sliced bread” has become a cliche, so much so that one wonders whether a similar saying existed before it and, if so, what the equivalent product of comparison was.
But during World War II, the overzealous person in charge of war time food supplies actually banned sliced bread for reasons that had dubious merit.
In 1943, Claude R. Wickard, the head of the War Foods Administration as well as the Secretary of Agriculture, got the bright idea to ban pre-sliced bread in America, which he did on January 18, 1943. The specific reasons behind this aren’t entirely clear, though it was about conservation of resources, particularly generally thought to have been about conserving wax paper, wheat, and steel.
None of these reasons held up. The US had a two-year stockpile of wheat, there was no shortage of wax paper, and it was not clear that much steel would be saved. The outcry against the ban was so great that he reversed his policy after just three months.