On July 9, 1872, John F. Bondel of Thomaston, Maine was awarded a patent for the first spring-loaded doughnut cutter featuring a doughnut hole. However, Bondel could not take credit for inventing the doughnut hole. Most food historians believe that doughnuts were brought to America by Dutch immigrants, who made fried dough called olykoek, or oily cakes. These sweet treats, which didn’t have the doughnut’s famous hole, featured nuts in the center that frequently wouldn’t cook. By the mid-1800s, Captain Hanson Crockett Gregory was cutting holes in his mother’s famous doughnuts. Whether to improve cooking or to make the dough go further, the traditional hole-y doughnut we know today was born.
It wasn’t until 1872 that Bondel developed an improved doughnut cutter. Bondel’s cutter allowed for the quick creation of uniform doughnuts. The springs in his cutter also meant that the sticky dough was less likely to stick to the cutter. Gregory and Bondel’s use of the hole increased the surface area of the doughnut, ensuring even cooking when fried.
By the 1920s, inventor and entrepreneur Adolph Levitt developed an automated doughnut machine. Levitt’s machine not only cut the doughnuts into perfect regular circles, but fried them as well. The creation of doughnuts in Levitt’s New York City bakery became a public spectacle, with people coming to look at the pastries being made. While doughnut cutters and machines are more sophisticated today, the engineering work of Bondel in 1872 lead the way for the doughnut to become a mainstay in American culture.
Items in Our Collection
Glazed America: a history of the doughnut by Paul R Mullins
American inventions: a history of curious, extraordinary, and just plain useful patents by Stephen Van Dulken