Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Baker's Dozen of Bread Wrappers

I picked up these two colorful bread wrapper bags from a book and paper dealer friend a while back who had no idea of their history. Based upon their somewhat modernistic designs and typography, I would suggest they are from the 1940s. Finding these two French bread bags got me wondering more about the history of the bread wrapper which is probably as old as bread. 
     It is probably no surprise that the earliest bread wrappers were oiled parchment and coated bees wax papers which were moisture-proof, however it was an enthusiastic young sign painter specializing in bakery advertising in the early 20th century who first pioneered and promoted packaged bread. "Fresh and Sweet - Good to Eat" was popularized in 1909 by his client, the Holsum Bread brand, which was used by various independent bakers around the country. Later, the collapsible cardboard tray was introduced by a baker in St. Louis Missouri after he bought one of the earliest bread slicing machines and needed a package to keep the bread fresh. This soon gave rise to sliced Wonder Bread in 1930, which forever changed the course of bread marketing with their colored balloon inspired logo and package design. 

Shorpy offered up this great image of a team of bread wrappers at the Gordon Pagel Baking Co. in Detroit taken in 1914. Another beautiful image of wrapped French breads with labels popped up from this tumblr. Some appear to be dated 1849 and 1889, but I cannot confirm the image's origin.

As the competition of commercial bread companies in the US proliferated, so did their wrappers. Printed waxed papers on long rolls helped to mechanize the bread packaging industry in the 1940s and 50s. The wrappers were then sealed with a label at each end which the consumer could then use to reseal it. The examples below are just a partial collection from A Sampler of Things. With exception to Omar WheatyDonald Duck, and Aunt Betty, it seems smiling young girls were the preferred subject for many of these enriched bread brands. 

And another enriched white bread Donald Duck design found here, which was pre-baked bread. I see by their wrapper they took precautions to include the copyright notice for Walt Disney Productions, but no mention here about the Wonder Bread inspired polka-dots. 

Two more from my travels: the Jersey Bread paper wrapper and a Dutch-Boy  advertising masonite sign from the 1950s.

With the flood of artisan bakeries in the past three decades, there has been a return to the simple paper bread wrappers and bags. A few standout brand solutions are the hand-wrapped breads from The Breadshop in Honolulu designed by Wall to Wall Studios. It features simple bakery paper with tape.

Acme Bread in Berkeley, California began baking breads thirty years for the restaurant industry. Today they have several retail shops where you can buy their breads, but they encourage customers to minimize paper waste by offering a five-cent-per-loaf discount if they forgo all bread packaging.

The best thing since sliced bread?

A better bread wrapper is always on the rise.

:: Source of image: The Girl By the Sea


  1. The things that can be done with bread. I should say tasty things. Now I tell my age. I remember some of those old bread wrappers. Not the ones tied, but the others.

  2. Didn't those dots on Donald Duck end up on Silvercup?

  3. Downunder in Australia, we have the larger bakeries who wrap in plastic, some organic wet breads are shrink-wrapped in a vacuum and smaller bakeries at organic markets just sell with a brown bag. I have kept every wrapper for many years and have made artist books - works in series - give us our daily bread all inserted into plastic sleeved books . . . never showed them, it doesn't matter.
    As usual a great post . . . Eric Baker sends me his 'daily dozen' images most days - It was good to see his Gotham Books logo - thanks again
    mal E (ephemeral-male)


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