|SMITHSONIAN BREAD SLICER|
Hundreds View Bread
Slicer on Loan from Smithsonian
July 8, 2013 / By CALLI PRICE / C-T News
CAPTION: Carmen Burgett (right), a great-niece of Chillicothe Baker Frank Bench, and Christine Bryers (center), granddaughter of bread slicer inventor Otto Rohwedder, cut a ribbon, signaling the opening of the 'A Slice of America' exhibit at Grand River Historical Society Museum featuring a bread slicer on loan from the Smithsonian.
The Grand River Historical Society Museum hosted an open house on Sunday, July 7, from 1 to 6 p.m., to introduce the museum's new exhibit, A Slice of America. More than 200 people came to view the unveiling of the exhibit, featuring the world's second bread-slicing machine, which is on an extended loan from the Smithsonian Institution.
Patrons included community members as well as family members of the two men - Otto Rohwedder and Frank Bench - who introduced commercially-sliced bread to the world on July 7, 1928, in Chillicothe. The event began with words of welcome by Marvin Holcer, museum president, Chillicothe Mayor Chuck Haney, and Pam Clingerman, museum curator. Clingerman expressed her feelings of joy for the new exhibit and what a big success bringing the machine to Chillicothe would be for the town. Clingerman then introduced Alumna of the Smithsonian National Board Claudia Ream Allen, with whom Clingerman worked to bring the bread-slicer to Chillicothe.
Allen, a Chillicothe native, discussed her involvement with the Smithsonian and bringing the machine to Chillicothe, which she said was a two-year-long process. Tears of joy were shed as she discussed her pride in having the machine in the community that introduced sliced bread to the world. Allen read a letter addressed to Clingerman from Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute Wayne Clough. The letter congratulated Clingerman and the museum directors on the new exhibition and thanked them for helping the Smithsonian to share the story of the bread slicer. "Reaching people everywhere is a cornerstone of the Smithsonian's mission, and I am pleased that the people of Chillicothe, Missouri, will have access to this uniquely American treasure during the 85th anniversary of commercially sliced bread," Clough wrote. "Smithsonian collections belong to us all, and I truly appreciate your efforts to help us share the story of American innovation and ingenuity."
In a later interview, Allen said she was pleased to come back to her hometown to see this event. "It's such a charming story," Allen said. "It's so American... everyone's fascinated by the whole idea of it being here." Allen also introduced Catherine Stortz Ripley, news editor of the Constitution-Tribune, and said that Ripley's dedication and efforts led to this exhibit. "From the beginning to end - your research and dedication has led to this discovery," Allen told Ripley. "Your shared knowledge has led to this exhibit - the culmination of your efforts as a star reporter."
Ripley presented a slide show with the story of her discovery that sliced bread was invented in Chillicothe. "Ten years ago, I never would have dreamed something like this would happen," she said. "That's because 10 years ago, we didn't even know the pieces to this puzzle existed."
CAPTION: A man stands looking at the world's second bread-slicing machine, on loan from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, and now on display at Grand River Historical Society Museum in Chillicothe. This machine was used in Korn's Bakery in Davenport, Iowa, in 1928. Earlier that year, on July 7, 1928, Frank Bench's Chillicothe Baking Company became the first bakery in the world to sell commercially-sliced bread to the public. The museum is open from 1 until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
Special Delivery from Smithsonian
CAPTION: A large crate, containing an original Rohwedder bread-slicing machine on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, arrived Wednesday afternoon. A forklift, operated by Grand River Historical Society President Marvin Holcer, transported the crate from the truck to inside the Grand River Historical Society Museum. The museum will be closed to the public now until the machine is formally unveiled during a ceremony on Sunday, July 7, 2013 - the 85th anniversary of sliced bread.
A slice of history arrived via a large panel truck in Chillicothe late Wednesday afternoon. This particular artifact is an original Rohwedder bread-slicing machine on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C. The machine had been on the road since early Monday morning with other parcels that were delivered in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Kansas and Arkansas, before arriving in Chillicothe. "This is one of the most interesting objects I moved," said driver Chris Balint, of Bonsai ARTransport, of Baltimore, Md.
A forklift was used to move the wooden box containing the bread-slicing machine out of the truck and into Grand River Historical Society Museum, where it will be unveiled during a public ceremony on Sunday, July 7. A small group of people were on hand to witness Wednesday's delivery, including museum Curator Pam Clingerman. "I can't believe it has finally happened," said Clingerman. "It has been a long time."
Paul Benson, chief conservator with the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, arrived in Chillicothe today (Thursday) to uncrate the bread slicer and place it in its temporary home at Grand River Historical Society Museum. Eighty-five years ago, on July 7, 1928, a Chillicothe bakery became the first place in the world to sell commercially-sliced bread. The bakery was owned and operated by Frank Bench and the machine was the invention of Otto F. Rohwedder, of Davenport, Iowa.
Sliced bread was such an instant success that the machine in Chillicothe is believed to have fallen apart after six months of heavy use. Rohwedder's second slicer, now at the Chillicothe museum, was used at Korn's Bakery, in Davenport, Iowa. The machine was donated to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History by Rohwedder's daughter, Margaret R. Steinhauer, of Albion, Mich., in 1974. The slicer had been in the Smithsonian's collections storage facility in Silver Hill, Md., since that time.
Also as part of the Smithsonian's collection is a photograph of the original installation at Chillicothe Bakery with baker Bench talking on the telephone. That photo was used as the basis for a mural, painted by local artist Kelly Poling, that will surround the bread-slicing machine.
The museum's quest for obtaining the bread-slicer on loan from the Smithsonian began about 10 years ago, with the initial loan request made by Drs. Jack Neal and Frank Stark, long-time boosters of the museum. Although the Smithsonian was interested in loaning out the machine, the local museum board concluded that it did not have the finances or time to continue with the request, and the project was shelved. "In 2011, after an endowment that allowed us to make much needed upgrades to the museum family and to add Pam Clingerman as a full-time curator, in 2011, the board felt it was time to contact the Smithsonian again," said museum board member Ron Wilder.
CAPTION: Muralist Kelly Poling appears to have stepped back in time, to Frank Bench's 1928 Chillicothe Bakery, as he puts finishing touches onto the mural that will be part of a new exhibit at the Grand River Historical Society Museum, beginning Sunday, July 7. The exhibit will house a Rohwedder bread slicing machine, similar to the slicer that was first put to use in Chillicothe on July 7, 1928. The machine arrived late Wednesday afternoon, on loan from the Smithsonian Institution.
Bread Slicer From Smithsonian
CAPTION: This Rohwedder bread slicing machine - Model No. 2 - which was installed at Korn's Bakery of Davenport, Iowa, in 1928 and is part of the Smithsonian Institution's collection, will be coming to Chillicothe and be on temporary display at the Grand River Historical Society Museum this summer. Otto Rohwedder's first machine - installed earlier in 1928 in Chillicothe - was used until it fell apart. The second one (shown in the center of the photograph) was donated to the Smithsonian by the inventor's daughter in 1974.
A slice of history in the form of an original Rohwedder bread slicing machine - which is now part of the Smithsonian Institution's collection - is scheduled to arrive in Chillicothe this summer. Grand River Historical Society Museum officials announced to the Constitution-Tribune on Wednesday that the museum has been approved to house the machine on a temporary loan from the Smithsonian Institution. It is hoped that the historical piece will be set in place at the museum by the 85th anniversary of sliced bread.
The original Rohwedder bread slicing machine - the first of its kind to commercially slice bread - was put to use in Frank Bench's Chillicothe Baking Company on July 7, 1928. According to records on file with the Smithsonian, the machine was used until it "fell apart." The second slicer was used at Korn's Bakery in Davenport, Iowa, and was donated to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History by Margaret R. Steinhauer, of Albion, Mich., in 1974. Her father, Otto F. Rohwedder, of Davenport, Iowa, developed the machine to slice fresh bakery bread. The slicer had been in the Smithsonian's collections storage facility in Silver Hill, Md., since. The piece is now being conserved and prepared for shipping to the Chillicothe's museum.
"When the Smithsonian sends a piece out, it has to be conserved," said Grand River Historical Society Museum Curator Pamela Clingerman. "It has to be made sure that everything on it works properly, that it's not rusty, and that it is fit for exhibit because it is coming from the national museum."
Preparing the local museum to house the national artifact was an arduous task in order to meet the Smithsonian's requirements. "We installed a new security system, we had to do environmental readings, and had to buy hygro-thermometers and have them calibrated," Clingerman said. "The whole museum had to be modified."
The museum officials are now awaiting approval of their exhibit plan, meeting the Smithsonian's requirements. Part of the requirement is that the item to be on display cannot be on a main aisle and it cannot have two open areas, nor be near air conditioning vents. "We plan to paint the bakery on the three walls surrounding the bread slicer," Clingerman said. "We are putting it on a base that will support it. We will put in a Plexi-window so that people can't get close to it to touch it, but they can look at it." She said text panels will be used to provide information about the bread slicer. "It's a slice of Chillicothe history," the curator said about the slicer. "It's a very important part of Chillicothe."
In addition to the many hours involved in preparing the application as well as the physical aspects of the museum, local efforts to secure the loan were supported by former Chillicothean Claudia Ream Allen, who serves on the National Board of the Smithsonian Institution, and Congressman Sam Graves.
Efforts had been made years ago by the Sliced Bread Committee and the museum to secure the Smithsonian's slicer on loan, but lack of funding and inadequate housing were prohibitive. The museum, at the time, was not properly equipped nor did it have the funds to make the necessary upgrades. The Sliced Bread Committee also lacked funds to establish a proper exhibit.
However, since that time, the museum was gifted funds that allowed for physical upgrades and has employed a curator with museum experience. "The building is up to par," said Clingerman, who is in her third year as the museum's curator. "It is environmentally controlled. We had to check candles to make sure the lighting was the right lighting. We had to make sure the area can support the bread slicing machine because it is over 500 pounds."
In addition to the expense involved to provide proper display, it is estimated that the historical society will pay around $8,000 to have the slicer prepared and shipped to Chillicothe, including the proper insurance and personnel to make the transport and installation, according to Livingston County Historical Society President Marvin Holcer. The historical society has already paid $2,000 for conservation of the slicer. Holcer said that the group has spent about three years altering the museum to get ready for the slicer's display. He said that the Smithsonian is now planning to display the piece after its Chillicothe visit. It is anticipated that the slicer will be in Chillicothe for three years. Holcer said that having the Smithsonian's slicer will be a huge draw for tourists. "It means that tourism in Chillicothe is going to influx like you can't believe," he said.
The fact that Chillicothe was the first place in the world to sell commercially-sliced bread seemingly was forgotten until 2001, when Constitution-Tribune News Editor Catherine Stortz Ripley came across the 1928 newspaper article stating that sliced bread was sold in Chillicothe. That discovery led to locating Richard Rohwedder, son of the bread slicing machine inventor, who confirmed this piece of local history. Richard Rohwedder also had documents supporting the first installation in Chillicothe, as well as the photograph shown accompanying this article regarding his father's second slicer, which was installed at Korn's Bakery in Davenport, Iowa.