Odebolt - Popcorn Center of the World

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Overview of Odebolt showing popcorn offices in center


History of Sac County, Iowa;  1914, B. F. Bowen & company, Inc., Indianapolis, IN

Let it be known that Odebolt is situated within the most famous popcorn center of the entire world. But few persons who purchase a sack of popcorn at a street corner or of an urchin at the train, ever stop to think where all this product comes from. It does not thrive in many sections of the world, and it is mostly grown in the Western states, with the largest acreage growing on Iowa soil, with Sac county as its center, and Odebolt the shipping point from which the major portion of it comes. Field and garden seeds and popcorn are the two greatest industries of the town- of Odebolt. This county has just the right soil and climate to give the best results in pop- corn production. Others nearby may be as good, but here the business has been successfully carried on for a number of years so satisfactorily that dealers and buyers seek no further in making their selection of corn. There is a great difference in popcorn, some being unfit for market and unfit for use. The dealers who handle this commodity at Odebolt have come to know just how to cure or keep this corn in a suitable condition to have the "best popping results," as they term it.

Recent writers who have looked into this industry state that nowhere in all the world is there as much popcorn bought, housed and shipped as from the town of Odebolt, Sac county, Iowa. It goes onto the world's market by the hundredweight and not, as other corn, by the bushel. An average yield per acre is two thousand five hundred pounds and the price per hundred pounds is about one dollar and twenty-five cents, while the expense of cultivating it is about the same as field corn, the cost of harvesting is fully three times as much. Many farmers have separate cribs and keep their corn over until the following season. Much money has been made from this simple crop. Some seasons, when the supply has been short and the demand large, the prices have reached as high as four dollars per hundred pounds, while at other seasons it has sold for much less than half that amount. The loss in cobs and shrinkage is about twenty-eight per cent. At two dollars and fifty cents per hundred, an acre of land will produce popcorn to the value of forty-three dollars and seventy-five cents. The corn is either grown in drills or check- rows. Planters are the same as for field corn and from fi\'e to eight grains are used for seed. In 1912 the Trans-Mississippi Grain Company bought popcorn at Odebolt, Arthur. Early and Battle Creek. The Odebolt crop averaged about three hundred and fifty pounds per acre, more than at any other of these points. It is said by experts that the most successful locality to produce this crop in all the corn-growing belt is within a radius of about fifteen miles of Odebolt.

Among the earliest dealers and growers of this crop was the firm of Reuber & Bruce. Mr. Reuber commenced it about 1893. This firm now ships popcorn from coast to coast and from Canada to the far-off Gulf of Mexico. Shipments are made in car-load lots and in packages of a few pounds sent through the mails. All corn is graded and tested before it is sent out to customers.

Three other firms also handle popcorn in Odebolt. The Dickerson Company, of Minneapolis, are exclusively engaged in this line of business, except that they usually carry a side-line of general garden and field seeds.

Then there is the "Cracker-jack" and the "Checker-package" people, who come to Odebolt to purchase their supply of popcorn. At Arthur, near here, these companies recently erected popcorn elevators of their own. So great a demand is there for good corn that competition is sharp among the dealers at Odebolt, and therefore the farmer who raises it gets best possible prices. Not only do these firms secure the crop grown here, but also much from Nebraska, South Dakota and even up in Minnesota.

A use recently discovered for popcorn is that of making soft chocolate candies. It is used as a flour, which, as a mixture in this class of candy, causes it to stand up as no other ingredient will make it. Before ground, the corn is nicely popped. Candy firms are now buying this in carload lots. For this, and other reasons, the popcorn trade is annually increasing with immense possibilities for the near future.

Farmers have made good money at raising popcorn. One man, a few years ago, in this section, cleared ninety dollars an acre on a forty-acre tract. One industrious young man leased a farm of one hundred and sixty acres, agreeing to pay one thousand eight hundred dollars rental in cash. He commenced without tool or teams, bought all on time, and the first year planted forty-five acres of popcorn; the second increased his field to sixty-five acres, making a total of three thousand five hundred dollars in the two years.


In 1938, three nationally-known popcorn companies do a large business here: 
J. L. Bruce Popcorn Co., Albert Dickinson Popcorn Co., F. W. Rueckheim & Bro. (Cracker Jack)



Millions of Pounds Shipped to All Parts of the Globe
 Source: "Fifty Years of Progress"; The Odebolt Chronicle, 
Vol. 51, Number 31, Thursday, August 25, 1938

Odebolt has long been known as "the popcorn center of the world." It was many years ago when the fist popcorn was grown in this locality but it is generally known that it was George G. Colton who introduced the new crop. Mr. Colton lived for some time on th e Cook ranch, and later on a farm north of town.

In June 1885, according to the Odebolt Reporter, he had 175 acres of popcorn. He had been raising the crop for several years at that time.

As more and more farmers in this territory began to plant popcorn, buyers discovered that the quality of the corn from Odebolt was better than any they were able to buy elsewhere. They encouraged its production, as a result, and at one time there was more of the corn raised within a 15-mile radius of Odebolt than in the rest of the world put together.

Millions of pounds were shipped from Odebolt elevators each year, going to all parts of the world.

While this territory no longer produces more than half of the world's supply, it is still "the popcorn center of the world." Other areas have been found to be suitable for popcorn growing, but this locality still holds the leadership. The 1937 assessors' reports show that Sac County led all other Iowa counties last year with 7,102 acres, while Ida County was second with 4,780 acres. Since Ida leads the world in popcorn production, there is no doubt but that this is still the world's center.

Read about various popcorn companies that have done business in Odebolt.

[Albert Dickinson Co.]     [American Pop Corn Co.]     [The Cracker Jack Co.]

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