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Feast Your Eyes: On Doughnuts Today

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The following is a  guest post for the Feast Your Eyes series by Marilyn Ibach, Reference Specialist, Prints and Photographs Division.

The latest installment in the Feast Your Eyes series features a perennial favorite: the doughnut. The constant in these images of doughnuts is their appeal – seen in the smiling faces of soldiers, society ladies and beauty queens, and dare we say it – bears?

“Did you say doughnuts?” Everyone loves doughnuts. Even this bear!

Girl and bear cub. No. 2, “Did you say doughnuts?” Photo from Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection, between 1900 and 1916.

This photo proves one can see strange things in early 1900s Alaska, where photographers Frank and Frances Carpenter ventured. Both sentimental, and a bit scary.

This George M. Richards poster for the 1918 United War Work Campaign shows a soldier who is quite enthusiastic about the comforts provided by the Salvation Army. Since the days of World War I, when the Doughnut “lassies” fried doughnuts – sometimes in soldiers’ metal helmets! – on the front line in France, the doughnut has become associated with the Salvation Army and its social services.

Oh, boy! That’s the girl! The Salvation Army lassie–keep her on the job. Poster by George M. Richards, 1918.

Yes, there were even doughnut eating contests. This one was sponsored by the Salvation Army in 1922. Four boys – no hands! – lean over a table. Is the big drum on the platform used to announce the winner?

Doughnut eating contest. Photo by National Photo Company Collection, 1922 May 20.

Does it count if it is not a real doughnut? What appear to be tires covered with painted spots to resemble doughnuts are being rolled by these well-dressed society women in the President’s Park (see the White House in the distance) as part of a contest captured by the Washington D.C. photography firm of Harris & Ewing.

Salvation Army doughnut race. Photo by Harris & Ewing, 1922 May 20.

Who knew that you could be a doughnut queen? And, that doughnuts could be worn as a crown?

Diane Scholen, left, and Pat Kizeminski, right (runners-up) place doughnut crown on Nancy Templeton, National Doughnut Queen. Photo by Fred Palumbo, 1952.

The doughnut continues to be honored by a National Doughnut Day, which was begun in Chicago by the Salvation Army in 1938. A new beauty contest was born that lasted into the 1950s.

The unpretentious doughnut has an all-around appeal: at breakfast, with  coffee (“joe”),  as a snack. In all its variety – doughnut holes, crullers, fritters, Long Johns, cream- and jelly-filled, this fried dough treat remains an American favorite.

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