The Hoosier 40 is HAPPY to participate in the FUN Holiday – Popcorn Day!!!
We do it by celebrating the one…the only…Orville Redenbacher!!
Orville Redenbacher was born on July 16, 1907, in Brazil, Indiana (which happens to be on US Hwy 40) and studied agronomy at Purdue University. After graduation, he ran a profitable fertilizer company and in his free time focused on creating the perfect popcorn. He sold the kernels from the back of his car and eventually appeared on television selling what is now known as Orville Redenbacher Popcorn. He died on September 19, 1995, in Coronado, California.
Early Life & Studies
Entrepreneur Orville Redenbacher was born on July 16, 1907, in Brazil, Indiana, and grew up on a small corn farm. As a child, he was active in the local 4-H chapter. After graduating in the top 5 percent of his high school class, Redenbacher went on to Purdue University, where he joined Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and studied agronomy.
Redenbacher worked as a Vigo County Farm Bureau Extension agent in Terre Haute, Indiana and at Princeton Farms in Princeton, Indiana. He also ran a very successful fertilizer company and became quite wealthy. Since childhood, Redenbacher had had a single obsession: creating the perfect popping corn. As an adult, he dedicated all his free time to developing a new strain of popping corn. He eventually settled on a type and went into business with Charlie Bowman.
The two named their new hybrid corn RedBow, but were persuaded to change the name by an advertising agency. The result, Orville Redenbacher Popcorn, struck gold. At first, Redenbacher sold the kernels from the back of his car. Around 1972, however, Redenbacher began appearing in television commercials, as himself, hawking his new popcorn. He even appeared on the television show To Tell the Truth where he stumped panelists such as Kitty Carlisle Hart, Peggy Cass and Joe Garagiola.
Initially bought by Hunt-Wesson Foods in 1976, Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn, through a series of business buy-outs, settled under the umbrella of giant ConAgra. Redenbacher continued to appear in television commercials, sometimes with his grandson, Gary. Immediately recognizable by his white hair, bow tie and glasses, Redenbacher became a beloved pitchman. Consumers were confused as to whether or not he was an actor, so Redenbacher appeared on television talk shows to clear up the confusion.
Orville Redenbacher died in Coronado, California, on September 19, 1995. He had suffered a heart attack while in his Jacuzzi and drowned. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.
January 19 is Popcorn Day, a day to organize an impromptu movie night, just so that you can enjoy a tub or two of crunchy, salty and buttery popcorn. Or, if you have a sweet tooth, treat yourself to some delicious caramel popcorn.
The unofficial holiday is also sometimes celebrated on the day of the Super Bowl in the United States, where it is called National Popcorn Day.
Popcorn is a snack made by heating corn or maize kernels. When heated – either in a microwave oven or on the stovetop – the hull on the outside of the kernels break or “pop” creating the delicious snack we call popcorn.
Long and Varied History
Popcorn has a very long and varied history. Historians believe that corn whose kernels could be popped was first cultivated around 5000 B.C.E in Mexico. Archeologists have found evidence of first popcorn maker – a utensil with holes and a handle – dating back to 400 C.E. in Peru.
In many indigenous cultures, corn and popcorn were used for religious purposes and decoration.
Popular Movie Theater Snack
Popcorn became popular in the US around the early 1900s when it was sold on street corners under the name of Pearls. Now a popular movie theater snack, theater owners initially were against serving popcorn in their premises. During the depression, however, popcorn became one of the few luxuries that people could afford forcing theater owners to start selling popcorn. Today, it is a huge part of the movie experience.
Popcorn’s fortunes fell as VCRs became popular and people started watching films at home. The invention of microwave oven popcorn and home popcorn machines once again brought popcorn into the lives of movie aficionados.
Popcorn is also often used for decoration and as packaging material.
How to Celebrate?
- Add popcorn to all your meals today. Start the day with popcorn cereal – add milk, honey or maple syrup to popcorn. Sprinkle some popcorn on your lunch salad instead of croutons. Replace Rice Krispies in Rice Krispie treats with popcorn to make sweet treats for your evening snack. Use crushed popcorn instead of breadcrumbs to coat your breadcrumbed chicken breast for dinner. And end the day with some ice cream topped with chocolate and caramel popcorn.
- Host a movie night and have a popcorn bar for your guests. May we recommend serving parmesan and bacon popcorn, jalapeño popcorn, curry popcorn, maple-pecan popcorn, cake batter popcorn and chocolate popcorn, in addition to the original butter popcorn?
Did You Know…
…that popcorn is the official snack food of the State of Illinois, United States?