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All About Popcorn - Popcorn History

Published June 10, 2010        by Rae Ann

PopcornThe next few weeks I'll be exploring the wonderful world of popcorn.  Who doesn't love a good bowl of these delicious, crunchy kernels?  But how did Popcorn come to be?  Who would of thought of heating the kernels up to make them pop?

The History of Popcorn

Popcorn has been grown and eaten as a snack in the United States for thousands of years.  It is believed that the popping of corn was first discovered by Native Americans who threw the corn into the fire causing it to pop. They also used popped corn to make garlands that the women wore as wedding ceremony accessories and at other celebration dances. Likely the native Americans introduced popcorn to the American colonists who actually ground it up mixing it with milk for breakfast.

Popping corn became quite popular as a recreational activity by the 1840s. In the 1870s popcorn was commonly sold at carnivals and circuses as well as in grocery stores.

With the introduction of the movies or 'talking pictures', popcorn solidified its place in America's movie theaters. Although theater owners initially refused to sell popcorn because it was too messy, many theater patrons brought the popcorn to the theater with them by purchasing it from street vendors on the way in. Of course, theater owners finally caught on and introduced the snack selling it at their own concession counters. This introduction of popcorn to movie theaters enabled the popcorn industry to keep growing even during the great depression of the 1930s. In addition, popcorn was a relatively affordable luxury even for struggling families as they could buy it for just 5 to 10 cents a bag.

Because of the sugar shortage during World War II, candy was not readily available as a snack item. Thanks to the lack of candy snacks, Americans turned to popcorn to fill their snack needs, eating 3 times as much popcorn as usual. World War II also induced a baking flour shortage which the popcorn industry capitalized on. Bread makers were forced to substitute 25% ground popcorn for their wheat flour.

After many years riding the popcorn popularity wave, the industry actually had a slump in the 1950s when TV was introduced. People stopped going to the theaters in lieu of staying home watching TV. The lack of theater goers created a huge drop in popcorn consumption. Up to that point, people didn't really eat popcorn at home. However, Americans missed their popcorn so they started popping it at home and the introduction of the microwave made home popping even easier. So the love affair has continued ever since. These days, popcorn is one of America's most popular and enduring snacks.

Check out our Popcorn Gifts and fall in love with popcorn all over again!