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History Of The Movie Popcorn

Early Popcorn History
 


  • Though popcorn probably originated in Mexico, it was grown in China, Sumatra and India years before Columbus visited America.
 
  • Biblical accounts of "corn" stored in the pyramids of Egypt are misunderstood. The "corn" from the bible was probably barley. The mistake comes from a changed use of the word "corn," which used to signify the most-used grain of a specific place. In England, "corn" was wheat, and in Scotland and Ireland the word referred to oats. Since maize was the common American "corn," it took that name -- and keeps it today.
  • The oldest known corn pollen is scarcely distinguishable from modern corn pollen, judging by the 80,000-year-old fossil found 200 feet below Mexico City.
  • It is believed that the first use of wild and early cultivated corn was popping.
  • The oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in the Bat Cave of west central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950. Ranging from smaller than a penny to about 2 inches, the oldest Bat Cave ears are about 5,600 years old.
  • In tombs on the east coast of Peru, researchers have found grains of popcorn perhaps 1,000 years old. These grains have been so well-preserved that they will still pop.
  • In southwestern Utah, a 1,000-year-old popped kernel of popcorn was found in a dry cave inhabited by predecessors of the Pueblo Indians.
  • A Zapotec funeral urn found in Mexico and dating from about 300 A.D. depicts a Maize god with symbols representing primitive popcorn in his headdress.
  • Ancient popcorn poppers -- shallow vessels with a hole on the top, a single handle sometimes decorated with a sculptured motif such as a cat, and sometimes decorated with printed motifs all over the vessel -- have been found on the north coast of Peru and date back to the pre-Incan Mohica Culture of about 300 A.D.
  • Most popcorn from 800 years ago was tough and slender-stalked. The kernels themselves were quite resilient. Even today, winds sometimes blow desert sands from ancient burials, exposing kernels of popped corn that look fresh and white but are many centuries old.

Europeans Meet Popcorn

  • By the time Europeans began settling in the "New World," popcorn and other corn types had spread to all Native American tribes in North and South America, except those in the extreme northern and southern areas of the continents. More than 700 types of popcorn were being grown, many extravagant poppers had been invented, and popcorn was worn in the hair and around the neck. There was even a widely consumed popcorn beer.
  • When Columbus first arrived to the West Indies, the natives tried to sell popcorn to his crew.
  • In 1519, Cortes got his first sight of popcorn when he invaded Mexico and came into contact with the Aztecs. Popcorn was an important food for the Aztec Indians, who also used popcorn as decoration for ceremonial headdresses, necklaces and ornaments on statues of their gods, including Tlaloc, the god of maize, rain and fertility.
  • An early Spanish account of a ceremony honoring the Aztec gods who watched over fishermen reads: "They scattered before him parched corn, called momochitl, a kind of corn which bursts when parched and discloses its contents and makes itself look like a very white flower; they said these were hailstones given to the god of water."
  • Writing of Peruvian Indians in 1650, the Spaniard Cobo says, "They toast a certain kind of corn until it bursts. They call it pisancalla, and they use it as a confection."
  • Early French explorers through the Great Lakes region (circa 1612) reported that the Iroquois popped popcorn in a pottery vessel with heated sand and used it to make popcorn soup, among other things.
  • The English colonists were introduced to popcorn at the first Thanksgiving Feast at Plymouth, Massachusetts. Quadequina, brother of the Wampanoag chief Massasoit, brought a deerskin bag of popped corn to the celebration as a gift.
  • Native Americans would bring popcorn "snacks" to meetings with the English colonists as a token of goodwill during peace negotiations.
  • Colonial housewives served popcorn with sugar and cream for breakfast -- the first "puffed" breakfast cereal eaten by Europeans. Some colonists popped corn using a cylinder of thin sheet-iron that revolved on an axle in front of the fireplace like a squirrel cage.

 

Recent Popcorn History

  • Popcorn was very popular from the 1890s until the Great Depression. Street vendors used to follow crowds around, pushing steam or gas-powered poppers through fairs, parks and expositions.
 
  • During the Depression, popcorn at 5 or 10 cents a bag was one of the few luxuries down-and-out families could afford. While other businesses failed, the popcorn business thrived. An Oklahoma banker who went broke when his bank failed bought a popcorn machine and started a business in a small store near a theater. After a couple years, his popcorn business made enough money to buy back three of the farms he'd lost.
  • During World War II, sugar was sent overseas for U.S. troops, which meant there wasn't much sugar left in the States to make candy. Thanks to this unusual situation, Americans ate three times as much popcorn as usual.
  • Popcorn went into a slump during the early 1950s, when television became popular. Attendance at movie theaters dropped and, with it, popcorn consumption. When the public began eating popcorn at home, the new relationship between television and popcorn led to a resurge in popularity.
  • Microwave popcorn -- the very first use of microwave heating in the 1940s -- has already accounted for $240 million in annual U.S. popcorn sales in the 1990s.
  • Americans today consume 17.3 billion quarts of popped popcorn each year. The average American eats about 68 quarts.

 

The History of Popcorn Poppers

  • The ancient way to pop corn was to heat sand in a fire and stir kernels of popcorn in when the sand was fully heated.
  • Some Native American poppers used the same elements as modern popcorn machines: heat, oil and a pan of some sort. Pans were made from materials ranging from soapstone to clay and metal. Some of these poppers were huge, reaching eight feet across.
  • Exploring Paraguay during the 18th century, Felix de Azara told of a kind of popcorn with kernels on the tassel which, when "it is boiled in fat or oil, the grains burst without becoming detached, and there results a superb bouquet fit to adorn a lady's hair at night without anyone knowing what it was. I have often eaten these burst grains and found them very good."
  • Some Native Americans spread oil on an ear of popcorn and laid it near a fire, causing the kernels to pop attached to the ear. It was eaten similar to corn-on-the-cob.
  • Clay or metal cooking vessels also were used by some tribes in North and South America to pop popcorn. One ancient popper still used today is a roughly spherical clay pot with a large hole at one side, a handle that goes around the top and tripod legs, very similar to the prehistoric popcorn pot found in Peru. These vessels are used with or without lids and with or without the addition of oil or fat for popping. The Papagos in Arizona still pop popcorn in large clay ollas -- shallow clay vessels sometimes up to eight feet wide -- over a fire... no doubt a custom descended from the Mexican and South American Indians who appear to have had the most advanced methods of popping popcorn. These people developed a number of pottery poppers as far back as 1,500 years ago.
  • According to Chief Whirling Thunder, a 20th century Winnebago chief in Chicago, Winnebago Indians have -- for as long as anyone remembers -- popped popcorn right on the cob by inserting a sharp stick through the cob and holding it near the fire. The Chief also said there is an old Winnebago saying that the ear of popcorn "should not be longer than the distance between the floating ribs on each side of the person to eat it." This conserved the limited supplies of the popular, precious snack!
  • The first popcorn "machine" was invented by Charlie Cretors in 1885. Until then, poppers were made to sit in front of stores to attract attention. But vendors wanted to be close to the crowds, especially the crowds near movie theaters. So Charlie made poppers that could be pushed on foot, pulled by horse and mounted on trucks. Today, much of the popcorn you buy at movies and fairs is popped in poppers made by the Cretors family.
  • Home poppers were first introduced around 1925, and a few years later they were being built in Junior High shop classes.
  • In 1945, Percy Spencer discovered that when popcorn was placed under microwave energy, it popped. This led to experiments with other foods, and the birth of the microwave oven.

Fun Facts About Popcorn

  • Each kernel of popcorn contains a tiny drop of water. When heated, the expansion of this water causes the corn to pop.

     

  • It was the experimentation of popping popcorn with microwaves in 1945 that led to the creation of the microwave oven.

     

  • Ration of yellow to white popcorn kernels sold in bags: 9 to 1.
  • How high can popcorn kernels can pop: up to 3 feet in the air.

     

  • How many pounds of popcorn Americans consume in a year: 1,124,600,000 or 1.12 billion pounds.

     

  • Percentage of popcorn purchases at retail stores in both raw and popped form and eaten at home: 70 percent.

     

  • Percentage of popcorn bought and eaten at theaters, ballparks and other recreational centers: 30 percent.
  • When the bible refers to corn, it's not really referring to corn.

     

  • Corn was used to be a catch all word for the predominant grain in the area. In the case of the bible, it was barley.

     

  • The English Corn Laws, passed in 1436, were actually about wheat.

     

  • Of the five types of corn -- sweet corn, dent corn, flint corn, pod corn and popcorn -- only popcorn pops.

 

  • Most popcorn comes in two basic shapes when it's popped: snowflake and mushroom. Snowflake is used in movie theaters and ballparks because it looks and pops bigger. Mushroom is used for cnady confections because it doesn't crumble.

     

  • The oldest corn: popcorn, which evolved from a wild grass that grew thousands of years ago.

     

  • Varieties of modern popcorn that can grow wild: none. Due to the breeding of hybrids, all varieties of corn are in need of man-made assistance.

     

  • Most of the world's popcorn is grown in these states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio.

     

  • The peak period for popcorn sales for home consumption: Fall.

     

  • Popcorn sales taper off during Spring and Summer.

     

  • Almost all the popcorn consumed throughout the world is grown in the United States.

     

  • Ideal moisture content of popcorn: 13.5 percent. To achieve the best popability, the moisture content of popcorn should be from 13 percent to 14.5 percent.

     

  • How much popcorn expands over ts original kernel size: from 40 to 42 times; some hybrids expand over 45 times.

     

  • Percentage of popped kernels that good popcorn should produce: at least 98%.

     

  • One gram of popcorn kernels yields: 43 to 44 cubic centimeters of popped corn - about 22% more than in the mid-1950s.

     

  • Since 1936, popcorn yield has almost doubled.

     

  • Want to study popcorn? Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, currently conducts hybrid research on popcorn.

     

  • The world's largest popcorn ball, as measured by th Guiness Book of World Records is 12 feet in diameter, containing 2,000 pounds of popcorn, 40,000 pounds of sugar, 280 gallons of corn syrup, and 400 gallons of water.

 


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Movie Mania was last Updated On: 05/24/2007     By: Alex Roth

 


Movie Mania was last Updated On: 05/24/2007     By: Alex Roth


Movie Mania was last Updated On: 05/24/2007     By: Alex Roth