Mr. Popcorn By Sue Eckhoff, Grundy County Heritage Museum
November 22, 2012
Who can go to the movie and pass on the popcorn? Certainly not anybody I know, for that’s half the fun of going to the movie! The man who made the movies more fun is Cloid H. Smith, who built the world’s largest popcorn business, right here in Iowa. Cloid Smith was born in 1871. By his early 20’s, he managed his own drugstore, where he invented and manufactured several veterinary medicines, and his own hand lotion distributed under the label of “Huskers Lotion.” After a brief oil well fiasco, Cloid established a telephone exchange in Odebolt, Iowa, and then merged it with others, finally selling to Bell Telephone Company. With some of his profit he bought some land, where the tenant grew a few acres of pop corn. The tenant sold his crop for less than Cloid thought it should be, and the resulting argument ended with Cloid being told if he didn’t like the way the tenant did business, he should go into the popcorn business himself. So he did. His first year’s crop, 75,000 pounds of popcorn was sold under the first brand name ever for popcorn, Jolly Time. Phenomenal growth followed. Jolly Time was the first to advertise in national magazines, the first being Good Housekeeping in 1925. After they tested Jolly Time they promptly awarded it with the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. The American Popcorn Company was also the first to advertise on radio and television. Realizing popcorn needed to contain a set amount of moisture to pop properly, Cloid went to the American Can Company with a request for an airtight can that would keep the popcorn in perfect condition until it was used In 1934 Cloid hosted the company’s 25th Anniversary. He told the audience they were privileged to be shown the company’s first corn shelling equipment. He then held up his own two hands, the same two hands that built quite a company out of popcorn. Right here in Iowa!
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