Popcorn - American's historical favorite snack

The Modern American History of Popcorn

Jul 25, 2023Thad Paul

Everyone knows what popcorn is but do you know anything else about it? The history of popcorn is rarely discussed yet America’s favorite snack has quite the past.

Popping corn kernels have been around for a very long time. For North America, before this snack received its name and popularity, it was sold under many names, including Pearls and Nonpareil. The term popped corn debuted in 1848 appearing in John Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms. At the time the kernels were popped on a stove top. Popcorn did not really start gaining popularity until the 1890s when Charles Cretors invention of the popcorn maker, making this tasty treat infinitely more accessible. Cretors built steam-powered popcorn carts that allowed wider distribution and high production rates.


As time went on, popcorn grew in popularity when other snacks became inaccessible. Due to its low cost, popcorn remained affordable during the Great Depression and became a vital source of income for struggling farmers. Popcorn continued to remain accessible even through World War II where candy production dwindled. During this time Americans consumed three times more popcorn than they had before.

In 1981, the first patent for microwave popcorn bag was given to General Mills. With the ability to produce America’s favorite snack at home, consumption grew again but this time it was much more dramatic.

Popcorn has remained one of America's favorite snacks for decades. Nowadays we are lucky to have many options in flavor and style of preparation. The number of variations we have today makes popcorn.

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