The hole in the doughnut is often credited to Hanson Crockett Gregory, a 19th century New England sailor.
Gregory’s mother Elizabeth regularly made doughnuts for him and his crew to enjoy at sea. (They were called twisters and fried cakes, then.)
Their centers were never fully cooked, leading Gregory to eat raw dough.
According to one story, Gregory decided to fix the issue by removing the doughnuts’ center. He told a newspaper in 1916 that he had
He told a newspaper in 1916 that he had invented the hole in 1847:
Well, I says to myself, “Why wouldn’t a space inside solve the difficulty?” I thought at first I’d take one of the strips and roll it around, then I got an inspiration, a great inspiration.
I took the cover off the ship’s tin pepper box, and — I cut into the middle of that doughnut the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes!”
Another story has Gregory coming up with the idea when a doughnut he was eating was impaled on a spike in the wheel.
The wheel of his vessel, The Donati, was actually found to have a large ring of grease around its spoke.
Yet another claims that after losing six crewmen who were unable to stay afloat because of too much stodgy dough, Gregory ordered the cook to remove the center of each fried cake.
This story looked more plausible when rocklike objects dredged from Camden harbor were found to be petrified doughnut remnants.
Afterward, Ringed doughnuts became known as “life preservers” by crewmen.
When Gregory returned home, he shared the discovery with his mother.
Before you know it, the innovation was scattered to the four winds.
With a tinge of regret, Gregory said:
“Well, I never took out a patent on it; I don’t suppose Peary could patent the north pole or Columbus patent America”
The Great Doughnut Debate
In 1941 a debate was held at the Astor Hotel to find out if there were any holes in this story.
Captain Gregory’s great-grandnephew defended the family honor.
The opposing side was led by Chief High Eagle of the Wampanoag tribe.
The Native American tale involved a distant ancestor in search of a puritan’s doughnut.
Whatever his motivation, he apparently shot an arrow that pierced the fry cake she held, creating the first hole.
The woman fled, but on returning to the boiling vat, discovered the first ringed doughnut afloat on the surface.
The august men of the National Dunking Association voted for Gregory.
Happy Doughnut Day.