The Grocery Shrink Ray Hit Seattle Bakeries In 1916

Did you think that the Grocery Shrink Ray was a modern phenomenon? It turns out that shrinking down food and hoping that no one notices is a venerable tradition, and was front-page news in Seattle a century ago.

Granted, the front page of a newspaper was a lot more cluttered in 1916, so there was a lot of front-page news. In this case, the newspaper in question is the Seattle Star, a now-defunct daily.

(Library of Congress)

(Library of Congress)

Reader Eric was checking out the news from a century before today when he noticed a familiar-sounding story on the front page.


The important alert for “housewives” was about the price of bread, since unscrupulous bakers were selling smaller loaves for the same price. City weights and measures inspectors were on the job, though:

“[Inspectors] went from bakery to bakery Thursday checking up on the bread situation.

And here is what they found: ten-cent loaves of bread have shrunk from 32 ounces to 22 ounces, and standard 5-cent loaves, that used to weigh 16
ounces, now average 11 ounces.”

Shoppers were warned to check the bottom of each loaf for the actual weight or an official stamp: it was legal to sell smaller loaves as long as the actual weight was put on the label.

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