Tuesday, July 9

If I Had a Doughnut I'd Give You the Hole

 Image= Camden Public Library
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1872, a man from Maine was given a patent (#128,783 if you must know) on a device to standardize and automate the production of a unique food product invented by another Maine man (25 years earlier). The automation allowed the product to become so successful that today well over billions of dollars worth are sold in the U.S. each year.

The man who was awarded the patent was a guy named John F. Blondel of Thomaston, ME, and he was a fine guy indeed. But the real genius was the earlier guy....a certain Hanson Crockett Gregory born in Clam Cove, Maine (no smart aleck...that's not where Jessica Fletcher lives).

Anyway...Hanson Gregory would have eventually been famous even without his discovery. He was such a good sailor; he captained a cargo ship before his 19th birthday. By age 20, that he had conducted such heroic sea rescues in violent storm-tossed seas that he was given an award by Queen Isabella of Spain. And his sea exploits continued until he died in 1921 at ago 90.

But history (or at least historians) chose to best remember Hanson Gregory not for what he did at sea but rather for what he did in the kitchen (at age 15 no less). Back in the year 1847, Hanson Gregory invented the doughnut...(Okay! Okay! Hold it down! I know what you're thinking..."I read this dope everyday and now he's trying to tell me some guy in 1847 invented doughnuts when I know that doughnuts are over 3000 years old....in fact I had a 2000 year old doughnut last Thursday.")

While you're wrong about how long doughnuts have been around (it's more like 500 years), I will concede Gregory didn't invent the doughnut...he invented the hole in the doughnut. Yup, the hole! Prior to Hanson Gregory, doughnuts were dough - nuts (often walnut sized lumps of sugar dough fried in oil...have you ever had a Zeppole for St. Joseph's Day?).

Anyway, young Hanson is sitting in the kitchen at age 15 and says to mom..."Gee the middle of the doughnut never seems to cook right!" So he cuts the doughy part out of the center with a fork. So mom says a mom thing like..."What am I supposed to do....throw the middle away all the time just because you think it's not cooked!" Then young Gregory says a smart-ass kid thing like..."No ma! You cut the middle out before
you cook it" and then he takes the fork and cuts a hole in the middle of the dough.

The rest is history.....and dollar signs.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

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