White balloon bread goes back to the 1910s, when it was promoted as a sanitary, standardized alternative to the weevil-ridden, sawdust-filled loaves sold by neighborhood bakers. The Boys didn't just make that image up out of whole cloth -- pure-food crusaders in the 1910s turned up case after case of adulterated flour being used in unregulated bakeries. The neighborhood baker wasn't always a jolly Chef Brockett type -- he often had more than a touch of larceny in his soul, and the conscience of a block of wood, which he shaved bits off of to fill up his flour bin, and newspaper coverage of such cases did much to create the market for mass-produced bread. Wonder was the first nationally-marketed brand of bread, starting in the early twenties, and Continental Baking introduced sliced "Wonder-Cut" bread nationally in 1930. The product was heavily advertised on radio as soon as network broadcasting became viable, and everyone within reach of a receiver knew the "Song Of The Happy Wonder Bakers:" "Yo ho, yo ho, yo ho! We are the bakers who make the dough! And bake the bread in an oven slow! And work for the Continental! We are the bakers in spotless white! Whose pans are polished and shining bright! Who bake the bread that is always right! Hu-rrah for the Wonder Bakers! Yo ho! Yo ho! Yo hooooooooo!" (Once you get the tune in your head it's impossible to forget.) By the end of the thirties pre-sliced bread was sold by all the major bakeries -- you could get store brand unsliced bread at the A&P as a discount item, but the majority of bread sold in the last years before the war was pre-sliced. Pre-sliced bread briefly was banned during the war, but bread consumption dropped so sharply after the ban that nutritionists lobbied to have the ban reversed after just two months. But as clean and sanitary as the bread was, it was already under fire by the consumers' rights movement for its lack of nutritive value, leading to federal legislation in 1941 requiring all flour sold in interstate commerce to be enriched with specified quantities of vitamins and minerals. Effectively, from this time forward all balloon bread was enriched bread, just like that sold today. The main differences since then, other than the increased use of preservatives to lengthen shelf life, are largely cosmetic -- the size and shape of loaves, the use of butter on top, the use of rougher flour to give a more "natural" look. As for me, I was raised on Nissen's Old Home bread, baked in Brewer, Maine -- the brand and the loaf that was understood to be the generic form of "bread" in our neighborhood. We went to the factory for a class trip in the second grade, and were each given a complimentary loaf to take home, which I ate on the bus. Wonder was around, but it was for the rich kids. We didn't have any ethnic neighborhoods where I lived, but in the Francophone neighborhoods of Augusta and Lewiston authentic Quebecois bread was popular. We never had it, except on special days at school lunch, when we'd get a single heavily buttered slice of "French" bread.