History of Popcorn


For centuries, popcorn has been loved and revered by people all around the world. From its discovery in South America to being found mummified inside ancient tombs, this delightful snack is still a favourite today! Popcorn's appeal comes from being low-fat and gluten-free while packing tons of flavour - perfect for any health-conscious consumer or movie night. Whether you like your kernels salty & buttery at the movies, kettle corn at festivals, or caramel balls over holidays, one thing's certain: we can all agree that popcorn is a classic!

While it's a popular myth that popcorn was served at the first Thanksgiving, this exaggeration was created over two centuries later. It turns out our Pilgrim friends cultivated corn in Plymouth Colony- just not of the poppable variety! So unfortunately for us modern-day snackers, there likely wasn't any buttery (or cheesy!) popcorn present on that famous feast table back in 1621.

Americans have been enjoying popcorn since long before the first Thanksgiving. The Iroquois people of upstate New York, Vermont and Quebec were likely among some of the earliest consumers in North America - bursting kernels with sand inside clay jars! Later, during the 1800s, families began using it as a late-night treat while gathering around the fireside or at picnics. But its true popularity rose to new heights when Charles Cretors came along over 100 years ago; he invented the heckuva machine for popping corn, a significant game changer for movie theatres across America!

In 1895, Charles Cretors had a revolutionary idea: to bring the freshly roasted nuts taste right into his candy store. So investing in an ordinary commercial peanut roaster wasn't enough—he was determined to create something extraordinary and crafty! After years of tinkering with it, Cretors managed to develop steam-powered equipment that could perfectly pop every kernel almost instantly using uniform heat application and delicious seasonings - giving birth to our beloved popcorn culture as we know it today; for two decades later, he even invented the first horse-drawn "popcorn truck".

Popcorn Dates Back Thousands of Years

Have you ever wondered why the Bible mentions "corn" being stored in Egyptian pyramids? It's because, back then, any grain native to a particular area was referred to as 'corn' - so what we may refer to today as corn (maize) is just one region-specific grain among many. So, for example, in Scotland and Ireland, oats were regarded as 'corn', while wheat was considered it in England! That shows that language can be confusing even if not much time passes. American settlers opted for maize when they adopted this word into their language, which made things simpler!

History was made in 1948 and 1950 when archaeologists discovered the oldest popcorn on record! Buried deep inside West Central New Mexico's Bat Cave, the maize was estimated to be around 4,000 years old. Each came in varying sizes - some smaller than a penny and others as large as two inches. Who would have thought that people have enjoyed this simple snack for thousands of years?!

Popcorn in the New World

Popcorn was an essential part of Aztec Indian celebrations in the early 16th century - so much so that young women even performed a special 'popcorn dance' adorned with garlands as thick as corn tassels. So when Cortes and his men invaded Mexico, they came face to face for the first time with this delicious snack: it wasn't just enjoyed as a tasty treat but also used ceremonially! From encircling statues dedicated to Tlaloc, god of rain and fertility, adorning headdresses; to stringing popcorn necklaces or jewellery – these ancient people found many ways to give maize its crunchy glory!

As the Aztec fishermen prepared for their ceremony, momochitl corn was ceremoniously cast in front of them. Then, the parched corn would burst open and blossom into a white flower - seen as hailstones bestowed by the water god who watched over them!

Over a thousand years ago, the ancient people of Peru and Chile were already enjoying popcorn as an after-dinner treat! Cobo's 1650 account described pisancalla – what we now call popcorn – being toasted until it bursts. Remarkably, recent archaeological discoveries have revealed that preserved kernels in South American burial sites still pop even today - showing us just how far back our love for this delicious snack goes!

Popcorn Facts

  1. In the mid-19th century, American farmers revolutionised agriculture with a new tool - the moldboard plough. With it, they could produce substantial amounts of maize at unprecedented levels.
  2. Popcorn – it's not just for movies anymore! Once upon a time, this beloved snack was served as breakfast fare in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In that era of innovation, could our inventors have foreseen popcorn inspiring future cereals? We'll never know - but one thing is sure: despite its past place on tables at dawn or dusk, popcorn's popularity has undoubtedly stood the test of time.
  3. Ella Kellogg and her husband, John Harvey, were advocates of this hearty whole grain well before the popularity of cornflakes and other denatured breakfast items. They both recognised its nutritional benefits – something to consider next time we get our movie theatre snacks.
  4. Around the holidays, popcorn rapidly rose in popularity and became a go-to treat for kids. Both Christmas meals and decorations were made from it due to its affordability. Popcorn balls especially took off during the late nineteenth century; they weren't just popular treats but grand decorations as well - Victorian homes adorned their trees, mantels and doors with them. Plus, there was no shortage of recipes available – cookbooks at the turn of that century had multiple variations for making these delicious gifts!
  5. Before the start of The Great Depression, popcorn was a beloved snack enjoyed by all. Street vendors would travel from town to town with their steam- and gas-powered poppers - bringing treats for fairs, parks, and expos! When times got tough during the historic financial crisis that hit America hard at its core, folks found solace in sweet (or savoury) snacks like popcorn --which cost only 5 or 10 cents per bag-- providing one of the few luxuries many could still afford when so much else had been lost. An Oklahoma banker who experienced significant losses due to his bank failure ended up repurchasing three farms he'd previously owned after establishing success with a little shop close by which sold freshly popped corn made using none other than a popcorn maker.
  6. Popcorn proved to be a surprisingly resilient treat during the Great Depression. While many other sweets saw plummeting sales, popcorn's popularity skyrocketed - primarily due to its introduction into movie theatres, and it is an affordable choice for both customers and owners alike. One particularly canny cinema owner cut his ticket prices while installing a popcorn machine – much to his financial benefit.
  7. In the 1920s, it's hard to believe that movie theatres refused one of America's most iconic snacks - popcorn. But indeed, they did! Tenacious street vendors sold it outside for everyone entering a theatre, and those proprietors who wouldn't join in on this delicious craze quickly found themselves out of business. Nowadays, there'll almost always be an enticing smell inside our favourite cinemas; something tells us we can thank these inventive entrepreneurs for that aroma synonymous with Hollywood magic.
  8. With the rise of television, at-home popcorn consumption was doomed. Moviegoers turned down their tubs of popcorn with an equally sharp decline in demand; however, this did not signal a demise for these salty snacky treats! Creative minds soon discovered that people could still enjoy eating delicious snacks while watching TV – just like lightning striking twice, we now have generations worldwide snuggling up with some kernels to watch their favourite shows.
  9. The popcorn industry took a giant leap forward in the mid-20th century when Percy Spencer of Raytheon Manufacturing Corp. used his invention - magnetrons, which were initially designed for use during WWII - to create microwaves and ovens that could heat our favourite snack food. By the early 1980s, microwave versions of this classic treat flooded households everywhere, helping propel domestic consumption by tens of thousands each year.

The days of horse and buggy popcorn consumption are long gone, thanks to the invaluable invention of microwave popcorn bags in 1981. Since then, our collective craving for this cherished snack has grown drastically, devouring upwards of a million pounds annually! So whether you're watching your favourite TV show or enjoying some time with friends - nothing quite beats having a big bowl (or two!)of delicious popped corn nearby.

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