Irishman Duncan O’Flanagan longed for a peaceful, quiet life. During his career as a soldier of fortune, he had seen enough violence and bloodshed and now he was ready to retire and fulfill his lifelong dream of running his own bakery. He excitedly opened Duncan’s Dough Hut in the small Irish village of Booterstown, where he baked breads, cakes, pastries and pies for pleasure and profit.
Particularly popular with his customers, were his special loaves of pre-sliced sourdough bread. The texture was refined and light and the villagers declared that Duncan’s bread was a wonder. O’Flanagan’s secret was the special slicing machine he had invented, which allowed him to uniformly slice the bread before packaging it for sale. Customers loved the neat, even slices, which were the perfect thickness for sandwiches and saved time when preparing the day’s lunches for many busy homemakers.
Word of this ‘wonder’ bread began to spread throughout Ireland, England, Europe and eventually, even across the ocean. Finally, it came to the attention of frustrated American inventor, Otto Rohwedder, who had long been puzzling over his own bread predicament: How could he cram thick handcut slices of homemade bread into a newly marketed device called a toaster and achieve even toasting on both sides? In each of his attempts, the unevenly sliced bread inevitably came out of the toaster un-browned on one half and charred on the other. Upon hearing of the Irish ‘wonder’ bread, Rohwedder was struck with the notion that, if he were to market the idea of pre-slicing and packaging bread before sale in the United States, he could achieve wealth and fame. He knew few would question his claim to the idea, as Ireland was much removed from the industrial revolution currently spreading through America.
After several failed attempts to recreate the success of O’Flanagan’s slicing device, including one disastrous idea where he used hat pins to hold the bread slices in place for packaging, Rohwedder finally marketed his bread slicer in 1928. The pre-sliced bread was well-received in the United States and Rohwedder did indeed receive credit for the revolutionary idea.
Although there were many in Ireland and even England who decried the American’s claim of ownership to this fantastic invention, they were largely ignored and dismissed as radicals and Irish nationalists. Thus another Irish achievement has passed into the annals of history, falsely attributed to a lesser nation …