Antique Popcorn Poppers

It didn't surprise me to see the popcorn popper that my Mom used when I was a kid listed as an antique popcorn popper

Stove top popcorn popper my mom usedStove top popcorn popper my mom used in the 1950's and 1960's

But imagine my surprise when I saw my current hot air popcorn popper listed as an antique popcorn popper! Now that makes me feel old.

My hot air popcorn popperMy current hot air popcorn popper--works great!

Commercial Antique Popcorn Poppers

Popcorn and popcorn poppers have been around literally for centuries. That's why they're called antique popcorn poppers!

Some of the earliest poppers in the United States were invented for commercial use.

Mass consumption of popcorn took off around the 1890s. A Chicago entrepreneur, Charles Cretors, is credited with building the first popcorn-popping machine.

horse-drawn commercial popcorn standEarly hose-drawn commercial popcorn stand

Cretors was a candy-store owner. He purchased a commercially made peanut roaster so he could offer freshly roasted nuts at his shop. But he was unhappy with the quality of the machine, and began tinkering with it. A few years later, Cretors had designed an entirely new machine that was powered by steam. He used his new machine for both nut roasting and popcorn popping. The steam ensured all kernels would be heated evenly, for the maximum number of popped kernels. This enabled users to pop the corn directly in the desired seasonings. By 1900, Cretors introduced a horse-drawn popcorn wagon. Now he could move his popcorn popper on the streets and follow the crowds.

One of the earliest patents for popcorn poppers was filed on April 8, 1921 by William L. Brown. The publication date was June 12, 1923, and was entitled, “Electrically-heated display cabinet.” The purpose was to keep edibles (peanuts, chestnuts, popcorn) heated to a uniform temperature until they were sold.

Commercial popper 1930'sSelling popcorn from commercial popper around 1930s

On December 20, 1947, Mr. Samuel Newburger applied for a patent in the United States, for a “popcorn warming device.” His invention enabled heating and serving popcorn in places such as theater, auditoriums, baseball parks, and other places of public assembly.

Throughout the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, people are still applying for patents for various popcorn popping and warming devices.

For more information about patents for commercial popcorn poppers check out US Patents.


Popcorn Poppers for Home Use

One of the “first” popcorn poppers was invented by the Iroquois around the 1600’s. They popped tough corn kernels in pottery jars filled with heated sand.

We know that by the mid-1800s, families ate popcorn as a late-night snack in front of the fireplace, at picnics, and other social events.

Early basket-type popcorn popperEarly basket-style popcorn popper used over open flame

Blacksmiths invented crude popcorn poppers for use over open flames like in a fire place. These popcorn poppers were small mesh baskets with a handle. To pop large amounts of popcorn, some of these poppers measured eight feet across.

The question is, which came first? Did the blacksmith invent the large popcorn popper and then the social activities occurred? Or did the social activities necessitate the invention of the large popcorn poppers?

Commercial popcorn poppers were much more popular than home use machines until the late 1800s. Then poppers were scaled down and invented for home use.

Stove top models were developed and used in the late 1800s through the 1900s. The cook had to turn the handle with one hand and shake the popper with the other. Took coordination.

Stove top popcorn popperStove top popcorn popper

Electric popcorn poppers for home use were invented in the early 1900s. This is the type we used (illegally) in college in the early 1960s.

Electric popcorn popperElectric popcorn popper

One of the first patents for a hot air popcorn popper for home use was filed June 16, 1978 by National Presto Industries, Inc. The publication date was May 8, 1979. Check out some antique popcorn poppers and that same hot air popper which is now considered an antique!

Early style hot air popperEarly style hot air popper

The advent of the microwave led to microwave popcorn. More recently, microwave popcorn poppers have come on the scene.

What type of popcorn popper do you use at home?

If you are interested in purchasing an antique popcorn popper, check out Esty.