The Time the U.S. Government Banned Sliced Bread

iStock.com/scorpp
iStock.com/scorpp

Around 1928, a Missouri jeweler named Otto F. Rohwedder invented the automatic bread-slicing machine and became the darling of American kitchens. Bakeries began advertising the pre-cut loaves as "the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped," prompting Americans to coin that immortal phrase: "The greatest thing since sliced bread."

But America's love of sliced bread wouldn't stop the government from later banning it.

Starting January 18, 1943—the midst of World War II—sliced bread was barred from American bakeries and homes. New baking regulations set by the Office of Price Administration had boosted flour prices, and the government wanted to prevent these costs from getting passed down to the consumer. By banning the use of expensive bread-slicing machines, the government was hoping bakeries could keep their prices low. Officials were also worried about the country's supply of wax paper—and sliced bread required twice as much paraffin wrapping as an unsliced loaf. (It prevented the slices from drying prematurely.)

The decision was extremely unpopular. On January 26, Sue Forrester of Fairfield, Connecticut wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times complaining on behalf of the country’s housewives [PDF]. "I should like to let you know how important sliced bread is to the morale and saneness of a household," Forrester wrote, saying she was forced to hand-cut more than 30 slices of bread every day for her family. It was a waste of American time and energy, she argued. It was also a waste of money: A good bread knife was difficult to find, let alone afford, during the war.

The rule was so disliked that nobody in the government apparently wanted to confess to having the idea. The ban was ordered by Food Administrator Claude R. Wickard, but the office of Price Administration blamed the idea on the agricultural department, which blamed the baking industry.

"The 'off-again-on-again' ban on sliced bread today has all the earmarks of a bureaucratic thriller," Illinois's Belvidere Daily Republican reported. "The mystery over 'whodunnit' in the first place is surprised only by the confusion in high places and the pointing of fingers at the next guy or any one within pointing distance."

The rule also apparently took everybody by surprise. (Or, as the Daily Republican put it, "[B]akers were caught with their wrappers down, so to speak.") According to the Chicago Tribune, "[T]he governmental ban on the sale of sliced bread, effective yesterday, caught hundreds of Chicago housewives by surprise and sent them scurrying to hardware stores to raid depleted supplies of bread knives."

The ban applied to everybody except hotels, restaurants, and railroad dining cars, which were awarded a 60-day reprieve to prepare. Bakeries that refused to abide by the regulation and continued using their bread slicers faced steep fines. The New York Area Supervisor of the Food Distribution Administration, John F. Conaboy, warned bakeries that the government was "prepared to take stern measures if necessary."

But even the law's biggest proponents couldn't seem to get behind it. Emil Fink, a prominent baker and member of the New York City Bakers Advisory Committee, pushed hard for the bread-slicing ban. But one year later, Fink was in court—for slicing bread. According to The New York Times, a U.S. Attorney chastised the bakery-owner: "[Fink] called upon the Government to enforce the regulation rigidly and, at that very time, his bakery was violating the law." Fink was fined $1000.

According to a February 1943 report in the Harrisburg Telegraph, the ban wasn't even saving money—in fact, bakers in the area saw sales drop as much as 5 or 10 percent. "While all bakers have varied reasons for the prevailing decrease, they all agree that the absence of sliced bread is at least playing some part in the drop," the paper reported.

Not only did the rule fail to save money, it didn't even save that much wax paper. On March 8, 1943, the ban was rescinded, prompting jubilant headlines across the country. As The New York Times trumpeted: "Sliced Bread Put Back on Sale; Housewives' Thumbs Safe Again."

10 Products for a Better Night's Sleep

Amazon/Comfort Spaces
Amazon/Comfort Spaces

Getting a full eight hours of sleep can be tough these days. If you’re having trouble catching enough Zzzs, consider giving these highly rated and recommended products a try.

1. Everlasting Comfort Pure Memory Foam Knee Pillow; $25

Everlasting Comfort Knee Pillow
Everlasting Comfort/Amazon

For side sleepers, keeping the spine, hips, and legs aligned is key to a good night’s rest—and a pain-free morning after. Everlasting Comfort’s memory foam knee pillow is ergonomically designed to fit between the knees or thighs to ensure proper alignment. One simple but game-changing feature is the removable strap, which you can fasten around one leg; this keeps the pillow in place even as you roll at night, meaning you don’t have to wake up to adjust it (or pick it up from your floor). Reviewers call the pillow “life-changing” and “the best knee pillow I’ve found.” Plus, it comes with two pairs of ear plugs.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Letsfit White Noise Machine; $21

Letsfit White Noise Machine
Letsfit/Amazon

White noise machines: They’re not just for babies! This Letsfit model—which is rated 4.7 out of five with nearly 3500 reviews—has 14 potential sleep soundtracks, including three white noise tracks, to better block out everything from sirens to birds that chirp enthusiastically at dawn (although there’s also a birds track, if that’s your thing). It also has a timer function and a night light.

Buy it: Amazon

3. ECLIPSE Blackout Curtains; $16

Eclipse Black Out Curtains
Eclipse/Amazon

According to the National Sleep Foundation, too much light in a room when you’re trying to snooze is a recipe for sleep disaster. These understated polyester curtains from ECLIPSE block 99 percent of light and reduce noise—plus, they’ll help you save on energy costs. "Our neighbor leaves their backyard light on all night with what I can only guess is the same kind of bulb they use on a train headlight. It shines across their yard, through ours, straight at our bedroom window," one Amazon reviewer who purchased the curtains in black wrote. "These drapes block the light completely."

Buy it: Amazon

4. JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock; $38

JALL Wake Up Light Sunrise Alarm Clock
JALL/Amazon

Being jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock can set the wrong mood for the rest of your day. Wake up in a more pleasant way with this clock, which gradually lights up between 10 percent and 100 percent in the 30 minutes before your alarm. You can choose between seven different colors and several natural sounds as well as a regular alarm beep, but why would you ever use that? “Since getting this clock my sleep has been much better,” one reviewer reported. “I wake up not feeling tired but refreshed.”

Buy it: Amazon

5. Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light; $200

Philips SmartSleep Wake-Up Light
Philips/Amazon

If you’re looking for an alarm clock with even more features, Philips’s SmartSleep Wake-Up Light is smartphone-enabled and equipped with an AmbiTrack sensor, which tracks things like bedroom temperature, humidity, and light levels, then gives recommendations for how you can get a better night’s rest.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Slumber Cloud Stratus Sheet Set; $159

Stratus sheets from Slumber Cloud.
Slumber Cloud

Being too hot or too cold can kill a good night’s sleep. The Good Housekeeping Institute rated these sheets—which are made with Outlast fibers engineered by NASA—as 2020’s best temperature-regulating sheets.

Buy it: SlumberCloud

7. Comfort Space Coolmax Sheet Set; $29-$40

Comfort Spaces Coolmax Sheets
Comfort Spaces/Amazon

If $159 sheets are out of your price range, the GHI recommends these sheets from Comfort Spaces, which are made with moisture-wicking Coolmax microfiber. Depending on the size you need, they range in price from $29 to $40.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Coop Home Goods Eden Memory Foam Pillow; $80

Coop Eden Pillow
Coop Home Goods/Amazon

This pillow—which has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon—is filled with memory foam scraps and microfiber, and comes with an extra half-pound of fill so you can add, or subtract, the amount in the pillow for ultimate comfort. As a bonus, the pillows are hypoallergenic, mite-resistant, and washable.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Baloo Weighted Blanket; $149-$169

Baloo Weighted Blanket
Baloo/Amazon

Though the science is still out on weighted blankets, some people swear by them. Wirecutter named this Baloo blanket the best, not in small part because, unlike many weighted blankets, it’s machine-washable and -dryable. It’s currently available in 12-pound ($149) twin size and 20-pound ($169) queen size. It’s rated 4.7 out of five stars on Amazon, with one reviewer reporting that “when it's spread out over you it just feels like a comfy, snuggly hug for your whole body … I've found it super relaxing for falling asleep the last few nights, and it looks nice on the end of the bed, too.” 

Buy it: Amazon 

10. Philips Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band; $200

Philips SmartSleep Snoring Relief Band
Philips/Amazon

Few things can disturb your slumber—and that of the ones you love—like loudly sawing logs. Philips’s Smartsleep Snoring Relief Band is designed for people who snore when they’re sleeping on their backs, and according to the company, 86 percent of people who used the band reported reduced snoring after a month. The device wraps around the torso and is equipped with a sensor that delivers vibrations if it detects you moving to sleep on your back; those vibrations stop when you roll onto your side. The next day, you can see how many hours you spent in bed, how many of those hours you spent on your back, and your response rate to the vibrations. The sensor has an algorithm that notes your response rate and tweaks the intensity of vibrations based on that. “This device works exactly as advertised,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I’d say it’s perfect.”

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Make Breakfast for the Family in a Flash With the Dash Rapid Egg Cooker

Dash/Amazon
Dash/Amazon

The number of ways you can eat eggs is limited only by your cooking ability and imagination. Now, thanks to the foolproof Dash Rapid Egg Cooker, even that doesn't have to hold you back, because you'll be able to prepare your eggs exactly how you like them in just minutes—no flipping, stirring, or frying required.

Weighing roughly 1 pound and measuring 7.5 inches across, this egg cooker is the perfect size for a shelf or countertop. Its design accommodates a variety of egg preparations, so if you like your eggs boiled, you can fit up to six of them on the tray at once and cook them until they're soft-boiled, hard-boiled, or somewhere in between. The cooker also features trays for poaching eggs and making omelettes.

Rapid Egg Cooker.
Dash/Amazon

The device comes with a measuring cup showing how much water you need to cook each style of egg, and it buzzes and shuts off automatically when they're done. That way, you can make your perfect breakfast even before you've had your first cup of coffee.

The gadget is super popular with breakfast-lovers. It has a 4.6-star rating on Amazon, and the online retailer lists it as one the most-loved items on the site. You can purchase it on Amazon today for $20.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.