Popcorn – A Brief History

Popcorn is an all American favorite. It is found in homes everywhere across the United States where it is consumed on movie nights and while watching the Big Game. In Orlando, a popcorn shop is a source of a wild and delicious parade of popcorn flavors. Yet, popcorn is not really a new tasty sensation. It has been part of the cultural identity of North and South America for centuries.

Early Food

Corn or maize is not an old world food. It is new world one. It has acted as a staple and a treat for over 4,000 years. It has been a part of rituals among the Aztec women as observed and recorded by Bernardino de Sahagun in the 16th century. He noted that these were not simply maize but “popcorn garlands” which they wore upon their heads.

Corn of all types was used in a variety of ways, comprising part of the indigenous culture of many of North and South American natives, including Aztecs, Hurons and Iroquois. In Peru, missionary and writer, Bernabé Cobo (1582-1657), wrote how the natives, “… toast a certain kind of corn until it bursts. They call it pisancalla, and they use it as a confection.” Corn, including popcorn, was a New World food and treat that many of the settlers to the United States learned to eat and enjoy. Colonial wives fed their children popcorn for breakfast in a bowl or dish with milk and sugar.

The Brave New Corn

There was nary a popcorn shop in this Brave New World until the 1800s arrived. During this period of time a number of inventions fueled an interest in popcorn that was never to abate.

  • 1885: The invention of a commercial popper by Charles Cretors
  • 1896: Production of caramel corn for mass consumption F.W. and Louis Rueckheim previews to mixed and generally unfavorable reviews at the Chicago Columbian World Fair. They altered the composition and created Cracker Jacks

The 1880s also saw popcorn being grown in large amount is the fields of Iowa. The earliest producer who created a brand name for his popcorn was Albert Dickinson Co. of Odebolt, Iowa. His popcorn was called “Big Buster” and “Little Buster.” It preceded the appearance of “Jolly Time” branded by Cloid H. Smith in Sioux City, Iowa in 1914.

  • 1893: Cretors takes his popcorn pooping machine to the midway at Chicago’s Columbian Expedition. It is a moveable popcorn shop

Modern Popcorn History

During the 19th century popcorn began to appear bagged or canned on shelves at general stores. It began to become very popular at carnivals and circuses. Concessions stands at baseball games and movie and burlesque also sold it. There were no stores, dedicated to it, no popcorn shops. During the 1930s, it remained one of the most affordable “treats” or snacks available. Its popularity grew even further during World War II when sugar was a rationed.

The coming of television brought people close together at home. While popcorn sales dropped initially, they soon began to climb as people began to buy it and eat or make it at home. When microwaves became readily available during the 1980s, the demand for popcorn and the increase in specialty popcorn also grew.

Today – The Popcorn Shop

A mere 20 years ago, no one would have considered in Orlando a popcorn shop to be a feasible and profitable enterprise. Popcorn was a product to be found within other retail outlets. Today, you can purchase a wide assortment of popcorn flavors and colors. It is another chapter in what has been a long and interesting history that is, after all, only corn.

If you are looking for gourmet, seasoned and/or candied popcorn, visit in Orlando a Popcorn Shop known as the Park Avenue Popcorn Shoppe. It produces and sells one of the largest and tastiest assortments of flavors possible. To learn more, or to purchase our product online, visit today!

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