The Roaring Twenties

In 1921, the first automatic doughnut making machine was introduced. And according to the Great Idea Finder (, 1921 was also the year the Taggert Baking Co. of Indianapolis was planning to launch its 1.5-lb. loaf of bread. Elmer Cline was given the task of finding a name for the new bread. Elmer was inspired while visiting the International Balloon Race at the Indianapolis Speedway, awestruck by a sky filled with hundreds of colorful balloons. To Elmer, the image signified a sense of “wonder,” and Wonder Bread was born. In 1925, the Continental Baking Co. bought the Indianapolis bakery, and “Slo-baked” Wonder Bread soon became a national brand.

By 1922, Alessandro Gonnella, owner of Gonnella Baking Co., was 59 years old and decided to retire as president of his company, although he continued on as the single largest shareholder and influential board member. With his resignation, a second generation was taking over and in 1923, Lawrence Marcucci became bakery president.

For years, the company baked in wood-burning hearth ovens built into the walls of its plant on Erie St. in Chicago, and delivered bread to more than 200 customers. It was a time to make money if you were a business owner or entrepreneur, says the company’s book. These were good times for Gonnella as business continued to expand. The company was a major player in Chicago’s entire baking establishment, not just the Italian immigrant segment.

In 1924, when bread sold for 5 cents a loaf, Clarence Birdseye invented frozen food and the American Society of Bakery Engineers (ASBE), the precursor of the American Society of Baking (ASB), was established as a professional society of commercial bakers. These bakers were either engaged in, involved with or interested in wholesale or large-scale bakery production, grain science, engineering, research, quality assurance and food safety. Today, ASB is international in scope, and has more than 2,000 members located in North America and is represented in more than 43 other countries. It is said that both ASBE and AIB took the lead in developing and training the growing bakery workforce.

Also gathering steam in the baking industry was the W.E. Long Co., Chicago. William Edgar Long began his career counseling wholesale bakers with their advertising and sales promotions and created the company in 1900. Long’s success in these areas led him to create what is today known as The Long Co., an independent bakers’ cooperative, dedicated to assisting its members in managing their bakery operations and to manage profitably.

Best thing since…