Even before Columbus discovered Arawak and Carib Indians using popcorn for decorations and food in the West Indies in 1492...
Even before Cortez found the Aztecs in Mexico adorned in popcorn necklaces and ceremonial headdresses in 1519...
Even before the French explorers in the Great Lakes region watched Iroquois popping corn in pottery crocks with heated sand...
Popcorn was growing in the Americas and providing pleasurable eating for the natives.
And, popcorn has remained a favorite for centuries.
It is believed that the first use of wild and early cultivated corn was popping.
The oldest ears of popcorn ever found were discovered in the Bat Cave of [Catron County] west central New Mexico in 1948 and 1950. Ranging from smaller than a penny to about 2 inches, the oldest Bat Cave ears are about 4,000 years old.
Popcorn was integral to early 16th century Aztec Indian ceremonies. Bernardino de Sahagun writes: "And also a number of young women danced, having so vowed, a popcorn dance. As thick as tassels of maize were their popcorn garlands. And these they placed upon (the girls') heads."
In 1519, Cortes got his first sight of popcorn when he invaded Mexico and came into contact with the Aztecs. Popcorn was an important food for the Aztec Indians, who also used popcorn as decoration for ceremonial headdresses, necklaces and ornaments on statues of their gods, including Tlaloc, the god of rain and fertility.
Native Americans would bring popcorn "snacks" to meetings with the English colonists as a token of goodwill during peace negotiations. At the first Thanksgiving Feast at Plymouth, Massachusetts, Quadequina, brother of the Wampanoag chief Massasoit, brought a deerskin bag of popped corn to the celebration as a gift.
Colonial housewives served popcorn with sugar and cream for breakfast - the first "puffed" breakfast cereal eaten by Europeans. Some colonists popped corn using a cylinder of thin sheet-iron that revolved on an axle in front of the fireplace...
Popcorn was very popular from the 1890s until the Great Depression.
Street vendors used to follow crowds around, pushing steam or gas-powered poppers through fairs, parks and expositions.
During the Depression, popcorn at 5 or 10 cents a bag was one of the few luxuries down-and-out families could afford.
While other businesses failed, the popcorn business thrived. An Oklahoma banker who went broke when his bank failed bought a popcorn machine and started a business in a small store near a theater. After a couple years, his popcorn business made enough money to buy back three of the farms he'd lost.
During World War II, sugar was sent overseas for U.S. troops, which meant there wasn't much sugar left in the States to make candy. Thanks to this unusual situation, Americans ate three times as much popcorn as usual.
Popcorn went into a slump during the early 1950s, when television became popular. Attendance at movie theaters dropped and, with it, popcorn consumption. When the public began eating popcorn at home, the new relationship between television and popcorn led to a resurge in popularity.
Microwave popcorn - The very first use of microwave heating in the 1940s - Has already accounted for $240 million in annual U.S. popcorn sales in the 1990s.
Americans today consume 17.3 billion quarts of popped popcorn each year.
The average American eats about 68 quarts.