Today marks the 107th birthday of Orville Redenbacher.
BEST KNOWN FOR: Popular popcorn salesman, Orville Redenbacher got his start selling kernels from the back of his car. He’s now recognized as the face of Orville Redenbacher Popcorn.
Redenbacher worked as a Vigo County Farm Bureau Extension agent in Terre Haute, Indiana and at Princeton Farms in Princeton, Indiana. He also ran a very successful fertilizer company and became quite wealthy. Since childhood, Redenbacher had had a single obsession: creating the perfect popping corn. As an adult, he dedicated all his free time to developing a new strain of popping corn. He eventually settled on a type and went into business with Charlie Bowman.
The two named their new hybrid corn RedBow, but were persuaded to change the name by an advertising agency. The result, Orville Redenbacher Popcorn, struck gold. At first, Redenbacher sold the kernels from the back of his car. Around 1972, however, Redenbacher began appearing in television commercials, as himself, hawking his new popcorn. He even appeared on the television show To Tell the Truth where he stumped panelists such as Kitty Carlisle Hart, Peggy Cass and Joe Garagiola.
Initially bought by Hunt-Wesson Foods in 1976, Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn, through a series of business buy-outs, settled under the umbrella of giant ConAgra. Redenbacher continued to appear in television commercials, sometimes with his grandson, Gary. Immediately recognizable by his white hair, bow tie and glasses, Redenbacher became a beloved pitchman. Consumers were confused as to whether or not he was an actor, so Redenbacher appeared on television talk shows to clear up the confusion.
Orville Redenbacher died in Coronado, California, on September 19, 1995. He had suffered a heart attack while in his Jacuzzi and drowned. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.