History of the Popcorn Machine

Early History

The earliest recorded popcorn popper was found on Peru's northern coast, dating back to pre-Incan culture in roughly 300 A.D. The device bears little resemblance to modern popcorn machines, only a shallow vessel with a hole on top and a single handle, presumably held over a cooking fire.

17th century colonists popped corn using a device formed of a thin sheet of metal shaped into a cylinder, with a handle attached. The implement was rotated in front of the fire on an axle, much like a squirrel cage.
19th and 20th Century Popcorn Machines
The very first true popcorn machine was made by Charles Cretors of Chicago, Illinois in 1885. In order to test his machine, it was necessary for Charles to operate it on the street as the customer. He was issued a peddler’s license to use the machine on December 2, 1885. Until then, poppers were made to sit in front of stores to attract attention. The huge, ponderous popcorn machine with its gasoline burner became a familiar part of the scent. Street vendors used to follow crowds around, pushing steam or gas-powered poppers through fairs, parks, and expositions. The Cretors family continues to make popcorn machines to this day.

In 1914, Fred Hoke & James Holcomb began producing and selling industrial size popcorn machines invented by Dan Tolbert. They focused on marketing the machines as a business idea, claiming a Holcomb & Hoke Co. machine would easily pay for itself through popcorn sales by earning as much as 65 cents on every dollar sold. The pair claim to have sold millions of dollars worth of their machines, priced between $400 and $1300 each, although no solid evidence has surfaced to back their claims. By 1934, Holcomb & Hoke Co. was no longer selling machines as most of their customers had become delinquent on payments due to the arrival of the Great Depression. The company hasn't filled an order for repair parts since 1940.

Around 1922, JR Burch started producing popcorn machines under the name Burch Manufacturing Company. Six months later, Charles T. Manley joined him and they formed the Burch Manufacturing and Sales Company. They separated in less than 12 months. Burch went to St. Louis and started the Star Manufacturing Company. It wasn't until 1940 that Manley changed the name of the original company to Manley, Inc. When Burch started the Star Manufacturing Company, the product was on the low end of the quality and price line. The product did not sell well and the price was continuously lowered to be more competitive. Finally the Star name had deteriorated to the point that they decided to change the name to Advance Manufacturing Company. It was the same company and structure, only with a different name. Due in large part to health concerns, the hot-air popper was invented in 1978. While traditional oil-popped popcorn derives 45% of its calories from fat, hot-air popped popcorn derives only 5%.

ePopcorn.com, Seattle, WA

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