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It was originally produced by Taggart Baking Company of Indianapolis and debuted on May 21, 1921, after "blind" promotion with ads that stated only that a "Wonder" was coming on May 21, 1921. It was named by Taggart Vice President Elmer Cline, who was inspired by the International Balloon Race at the Indianapolis Speedway resulting in the red, yellow and blue logo.
Taggart was purchased by Continental Baking in 1925. This made Wonder Bread a national brand and added "It's Slo Baked" to the logo. In the 1930s, Continental Baking began shipping Wonder Bread in sliced form, one of the first companies to do so. Unsliced bread returned for a while during World War II due to metal shortages for the war effort that resulted in the unavailability of blades for the slicing machines.
During the 1940s Continental Baking began adding vitamins and minerals to Wonder Bread as part of a government-sponsored program of enriching white bread. This development is credited with greatly reducing the incidence of the diseases beriberi and pellagra. In the 1950s, Wonder Bread further expanded advertising of its nutrient enrichments. The company sponsored Howdy Doody with host Buffalo Bob Smith telling the audience, "Wonder Bread builds strong bodies 8 ways. Look for the red, yellow and blue balloons printed on the wrapper." By the 1960s Wonder Bread was advertised with the slogan "Helps build strong bodies 12 ways," referring to the number of added nutrients. In 1986, the lower-calorie Wonder Light bread was introduced.
In 1995, Continental Baking was bought by Interstate Bakeries Corporation. In 2000, a California jury in a racial discrimination suit against Interstate Bakeries Corp. awarded twenty plaintiffs $121 million, the second-largest award in U.S. legal history involving a private company accused of such wrongdoing. In 2004, Interstate Bakeries declared bankruptcy, putting the future of Wonder Bread in some doubt.
On August 28, 2007, it was announced that Interstate Bakeries would end production of Wonder Bread in the Southern California market, leading to a loss of 1,300 jobs. This is due to a decline in sales, as Southern Californians in particular are partial to whole-grain breads and "premium" loaves.
Produced 6 days a week, consumers can determine on which day the loaf of bread was baked by the different colored bag ties: Blue = Monday, Green = Tuesday, Orange = Wednesday, Red = Thursday, White = Friday, Yellow = Saturday.
Interview: Susan Seligson discusses Wonder Bread's place in history following the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of its parent company
Sep 22, 2004; ROBERT SIEGEL All Things Considered (NPR) 09-22-2004 Interview: Susan Seligson discusses Wonder Bread's place in history...