The History of Donuts

by Courtney Carlson

 The history of the donut is blurry because no single person is credited with the invention, but there were a few memorable milestones that helped us get to know the donuts we love today. While archeologists found fossilized donuts in prehistoric Indigenous settlements, this article will only cover the history of the modern donut. And before you come after us for our spelling, yes we know it’s technically “doughnut” but “donut” just looks so much better.

The Dutch are mostly credited for bringing donuts to early New York, and these donuts were hole-less. The first hole donut was rumored to have been created by Captain Hanson Gregory in the mid-19th century. There were rumors of him puncturing a donut on a ship wheel to steer with both hands, but Gregory claims he used the top of a round tin pepper box to make the first hole. In 1920, the first ever donut machine was invented by Adolph Levitt from Russia. This machine created 80 donuts per hour, and the machine kept them consistent. 

Donuts from Glazed and Confused in Syracuse. Photo by Courtney Carlson.

Donuts did not become popular until World War II, when female morale boosters delivered donuts called “Donut Dollies” to soldiers. The Salvation Army founded National Donut Day in honor of Donut Dollies, which is still celebrated annually on the first Friday of June. In regards to donut chains, the two most popular U.S. chains got their start following the war. Krispy Kreme donuts were first sold in 1937 to grocery stores in North Carolina. A small chain of stores existed during the ‘40s and ‘50s, but Krispy Kreme also built a mix plant to make all of their donuts consistent. Dunkin’ Donuts opened in 1948 and was originally called “Open Kettle.” The name changed in 1950, and the first franchise opened in 1955.

The history of donuts is not entirely clear, but these delicious fried treats keep evolving. If you are in the mood for some tasty donuts around Syracuse, we recommend Glazed & Confused for a more gourmet, specialty donut and Harrison Bakery if you are craving a tasty, homemade classic.

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