Orville Redenbacher: Everything You Didn't Know About The Popcorn King

By Karen Harris
Orville Redenbacher in 1986. (George Rose/Getty Images)

The unassuming bow-tied face you see all across the snack aisle of your local grocery store was the undisputed popcorn king of the 20th century. Since 1970, Orville Redenbacher parlayed his 4-H experience and charming, down-home persona into a movie night empire that still endures today.

Becoming Orville Redenbacher

Orville Redenbacher was born on July 16, 1907 in the small Hoosier town of Brazil, Indiana. His parents, William and Julia Dierdorff Redenbacher, along with most of their neighbors, were corn farmers, and as a typical Midwestern farm kid, Redenbacher participated in his local 4-H club and the county fair. When he was 12 years old, he started earning extra money by selling popcorn to folks around town.

After graduating in the top 5% of his class at Brazil High School in 1924, Redenbacher enrolled in Purdue University to major in agronomy. His college days were quite busy: He was a member of a fraternity for agriculture students called Alpha Gamma Rho, the university's all-American marching band, and the track team. He also wrote for the school newspaper, the Purdue Exponent. After he graduated in 1928, he took a job as the farm bureau extension agent for Vigo County, but through it all, Redenbacher kept his hands in the dirt.