Popcorn History

In 1948 kernels of an early corn variety capable of being popped were found in an archaeological dig in a New Mexico rock shelter known as "Bat Cave". These finds are widely reported as being the oldest ears of popcorn ever found; such reports often say they are dated to be 4000-5000 years old, or more. The actual facts about the Bat Cave corn are less clear. While initial reports dated the corn to be 4000-5000 years old, in 1967 the same researchers revealed data from more specifically targeted dating: a sample consisting only of cobs was dated to be 1,752 years old, and a sample of cobs and nearby wood 2,249 years. These dates have been called into question as well: Michael S. Berry, after a study of the Bat Cave procedures, wrote it "was a poorly excavated site that can be interpreted nearly any way one pleases by juggling the data." In these times popcorn was prepared by using a bowl containing sand and placing the bowl over a fire, the sand heated the kernels and the ready popcorn rised to the top from under the sand. Popcorn in those days was most likely ground up into a gruel afterwards.

Popcorn was very popular in the 1890s, until the Great Depression . As corn crops became more depleted during the Great Depression, nuts were used instead of corn. During the Depression, popcorn was a luxury at 5-10 cents a bag. When some of the other businesses failed, the popcorn business thrived. An example is "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 of years, his popcorn business made enough money to buy back three of the farms he'd lost." In the time of World War II, Americans ate three times more popcorn than they had before because of the sugar that was going over seas.

At least six localities (all in the United States of America ) claim to be the "Popcorn Capital of the World": Valparaiso, Indiana ; Van Buren, Indiana ; Marion, Ohio ; Ridgway, Illinois ; Schaller, Iowa ; and North Loup, Nebraska . According to the USDA , most of the maize used for popcorn production is specifically planted for this purpose; most is grown in Nebraska and Indiana with increasing area in Texas.

As the result of an elementary school project, popcorn became the official state snack food of Illinois.


Movies And Popcorn

Some years later, when street vendors started setting up outside movie theatres, they were not welcome, at least as far as the theater owners were concerned. They thought the vendors were a distraction. But movie goers didn't agree. They went out on the sidewalk in droves to buy bags of yummy popcorn before going back inside to see the movie.


The Movie Snack Bar Is Invented

In 1989, the ninety-year-old U.S. Post Office building in downtown Marion was available for purchase. It was an ideal choice for the Marion County Historical Society and the Wyandot Popcorn Museum. The Wyandot Popcorn Museum trustees offered the Marion County Historical Society financial support with the understanding that 40% of the main floor would be used for the Wyandot Popcorn Museum.

Movie theatre owners have always had a keen eye for profits. So a few of the smarter ones asked the vendors to come inside and split whatever they made from their popcorn sales with the theatre. Of course it wasn't long until the theatre owners realized they could set up their own popcorn popper and send the vendor packing... And that's apparently how the movie snack bar came to be.