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Burlap Jolly Time Popcorn Sack

Date: c. 1940


Description: Printed on this burlap sack is another brand name most Sioux Cityans are familiar with: Jolly Time Pop Corn, produced by the American Pop Corn Company, the oldest popcorn company in the United States. It was started in 1914 in the basement of Cloid H. Smith, who wanted to find a profitable way to sell his farm’s popcorn and also improve the packaging standards of popcorn in the day. Popcorn in the early 1900s was sold in a cracker barrel, and in shipping the kernels lost the necessary moisture required for popping. In the 1920s Smith came up with a two-fold solution: one was a newly-designed crib or storehouse that was specifically designed to retain moisture. The second solution came in 1926 when they partnered with Chicago’s American Can Company and started selling popcorn in a vacuum-sealed can, keeping the moisture in even on the grocery shelf. Sales exploded for the company’s revolutionary packaging and for the increased demand for snack foods as the radio and TV craze was hitting the nation. These cans displayed Jolly Time’s motto printed on the labels: “Guaranteed to Pop.”


By the late 1950s The American Pop Corn Company also began selling not only to consumers but to the newly developed cinemas. Because cinemas bought popcorn in large quantities and it was often popped immediately by newly developed electric poppers, popcorn was shipped often in cost-effective sacks, like the one shown here. This sack was made to hold 100 pounds of popcorn, which gives an indication of the high demand of the Jolly Time product. The company faced difficulties when the 1953 Floyd River flood severely hurt production, but they bounced back quickly due to the high demand. From 1961 to 1964 the company was a major financier of a project to re-channel the river to ensure a similar disaster would never happen again.


In 1983 the first Jolly Time microwave popcorn appeared on the shelves. The microwave product was designed to hold oil, withstand heat, and keep the seal intact while letting steam escape. The convenience of microwave popcorn boosted the company’s success even further. The company faced more difficulties in the 1990s when a media crisis spread untrue rumors that Jolly Time microwave popcorn caused gastrointestinal diseases. The microwave popcorn market was also becoming saturated, which also hurt sales. To combat these the company developed new products, like the Blast-O-Butter Ultimate Movie Theatre Pop Corn, and smarter marketing strategies. Today the fifth generation of the Smith family still continues to manage and own one of the most successful and profitable Sioux City businesses.


Donor: Donald Kingery


On display

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