18th Century Poppers
Exploring Paraguay during the 18th century, Felix de Azara told of a kind of popcorn with kernels on the tassel which, when "it is boiled in fat or oil, the grains burst without becoming detached, and there results a superb bouquet fit to adorn a lady's hair at night without anyone knowing what it was. I have often eaten these burst grains and found them very good."
19th Century Poppers
During the early nineteenth century Americans tried several methods of popping popcorn. Some threw kernels in hot ashes, stirred, and sifted out the popped corn. Others tried cooking popcorn in kettles filled with fat, lard or butter. A more popular method was cooking popcorn over an open fire in a wire box with a long wooden handle.
Charles Cretors, founder of C. Cretors and Company in Chicago, introduced the world's first mobile popcorn machine at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Scientific American reported: "This machine...was designed with the idea of moving it about to any location where the operator would be likely to do a good business. The apparatus, which is light and strong, and weighing but 400 or 500 pounds, can be drawn readily by a boy or by a small pony to any picnic ground, fair, political rally, etc. and to many other places where a good business could be done for a day or two."
20th Century Poppers
Percy Spencer, Raytheon Manufacturing Corporation, figured out how to mass-produce magnetrons which were being used to generate microwaves for use in World War II. Looking for post-war applications of Raytheon technology, Spencer spurred the development of the microwave oven in 1946. Popcorn was key to many of Spencer's experiments. In fact, most microwave ovens today have a “Popcorn” button.
In the early 1980's, microwave popcorn was born into the popcorn family and home popcorn consumption increased by tens of thousands of pounds in the years following.