History doesn’t loaf: A bread update

Sliced bread is an invention less than a century old. In the early 1900s, bread loaf weight was a controversial subject.

Sometimes, our Looking backward items raise particular interest for readers and raise eyebrows for Times editors. An item that ran Oct. 26 in the feature is an example.

The historical tidbit, from 100 years ago — Oct. 26, 1921 — said that Watertown “is the first city in the state to have a bread ordinance creating a standard size loaf, as adopted by the city council. Under the new law, bread sold in the city must be of 16, 24 or 32 ounce loaves. “The weight must be marked on the wrapper inconspicuous letters. It is expected the ordinance will be a model for a number of other cities.”

Violators were fined $25 for each violation.

However, on Feb. 10, 1915, the New York Times reported that an ordinance was introduced in the Board of Alderman that proposed “the standard weight of a loaf of bread shall be one pound.” No follow-up on the proposed ordinance was found.

In Watertown, the law was necessary, according to Times files, because a number of bakers were shipping bread into the city that was short from 2 to 4 ounces to the loaf.

A statewide measure had been introduced previously, but was fought by New York City bakers because the law would do away with half-pound and smaller loaves.

For the record, according to the current Code of Federal Regulations enforced by the Food and Drug Administration, “bread is a loaf-sized bakery product that weighs at least ½ pound.”

All of this bread loaf controversy was at a time before a revolution in the creation of bread. Sliced bread was first sold in 1928. It was invented by Iowa native Otto Frederick Rodwedder, a jeweler by day and inventor by night.

Watertown has a legacy of bread baking. That legacy especially continues at Alteri’s Italian American Market on Bradley Street, which opened at its new site in March of 2020. “There have been long lines of walk-in customers waiting for freshly baked bread at Alteri’s Italian American Market, 948 Bradley St., since it opened last week,” the Times reported March 28, 2020.

The Alteri bakery has been known locally for decades for its popular Italian bread. According to its website, master baker Mark S. Alteri is a fourth generation baker. His great grandfather, Gaetano Spaziani, founded Spaziani’s Bakery in 1907, five years after immigrating from Italy to Watertown.

In 1971, Romeo Bakery, opened by Vincent Romeo in 1931 behind his home at 634 Prospect St., was sold to Querino (Augie) Alteri.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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