Popcorn History

Do you know how long people have been making popcorn? What was Columbus’ first experience with popcorn? Or How much did popcorn help with the microwave invention? There probably hasn’t been much discussion at school, but popcorn has its history.

Ancient history of popcorn

To understand the history of popcorn, we must first know the origin of these. That origin is none other than corn.

Everyone knows that corn comes originally from America; however, how is it possible that there are mentions of corn in the Bible? Even before 1492, there was already talk of corn in England, Ireland and Scotland. Did corn exist in Europe before the colonization of the American continent?

Although it would be fascinating to say yes, I’m afraid the answer is, No.

The confusion arises from the use of the word corn, which, although currently there is no doubt and represents that beautiful grain from which popcorn is born. In ancient Europe corn was called to the most abundant grain; The English called corn to wheat while the Scottish and Irish called oats that way.

Using that rule of calling corn the most abundant grain, in America corn was the corn we know and in Europe wheat and barley were renamed with the current names.

Probably the first use of wild corn and the first crops were to burst it.

The oldest corn ears ever found were discovered at Bat Cave in central-western New Mexico in 1948 and 1950. Ranging from smaller than a penny to about two inches, the ears of Bat Cave are approximately 4000 years old.

In the early 16th century, popcorn was an integral part of Aztec ceremonies. Bernardino de Sahagún wrote: “And also a series of young women danced, after what was promised, a popcorn dance. As thick as their popcorn tassels were their garlands of popcorn and these were placed over (the girls’) head”.

In 1519, Cortes had his first encounter with popcorn when he invaded Mexico and had contact with the Aztecs.

Popcorn was an essential food for the Aztecs, who even used popcorn to decorate ceremonial headdresses, necklaces and other adornments on the statues of their gods.

Aztec Popcorn

“They walked away before the corn was toasted, a type of corn that breaks when it dries, and it is when it makes known its contents that it looks like a white flower.”

Written by the Indians of Peru in 1650, the Spaniard Cobo says, “They use a type of corn that explodes, and they use it as a sweet.”

Field ploughing became common in the mid-1800s and led to widespread corn planting in the United States.

Recent history of popcorn

From 1890 until the Great Depression, popcorn was super popular. At any holiday, fair, exhibition or congress, you could find popcorn vendors with their beautiful portable machines that used gas or steam to make them.

If there was a luxury that families could afford during the Depression, those were the popcorn that cost about 5 cents a bag. Thus, while many businesses went bankrupt, the popcorn market thrived.

The story goes that an American banker, when the bank where he worked broke, bought a popcorn machine and started a business near a small store near the theatre. After a couple of years, his company went so well that he could recover all the properties lost by bankruptcy.

First American Popcorn machine

Popcorn had a decline during the 1950s, when television became widespread, attendance in movie theatres fell and with it the consumption of popcorn. Now, thanks to DVDs and home movie TVs, people are consuming more and more popcorn at home.

The first use of the microwave popcorn was in the 1940s and by the 1990s had raised annual popcorn sales to $240 million.

Americans today consume more than 17 trillion quarts of popcorn each year. The average American consumes 54 quarts.

History of popcorn machines

One of the ways to make popcorn in ancient times was to heat sand in the fire and scatter the grains on it when it was properly hot.

American first popcorn machine

In an exploration in Paraguay during the 18th century, Félix de Azara said of a species of popcorn with grains in the spike that when “it is boiled in fat or oil, the grains burst. I’ve often eaten these broken grains, and I find them very tasty.”

Charles Cretors invented the first mobile popcorn machine in 1893, and exposed to the world in the same year during a world exhibition of inventions in Chicago.

On the other hand, Percy Spencer worked on how to produce mass magnetrons. These devices were used in the Second World War as a microwave. Once the war was over, popcorn was an incentive for the development of this microwave and other Spencer inventions.

Today we have a huge range of popcorn maker brands and we have analysed the majority of them.