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September 21, 2015

How Much Have Doughnuts Changed Through the Years?

Have donut holes gotten smaller down through the years? This compelling vintage chart says yes!

Donuts have a somewhat labyrinthine -- and, at times, shady -- past. From when they arrived in America, doughnuts have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps -- and, thanks to a rather ragtag bunch of characters, they are now one of the most iconic American pastries. In fact, Smithsonian notes that “in its democratic ethods, its optimism, and its assorted origins, [the doughnut] does seem rather quintessentially American.”

Over the course of a couple of decades, our nation's donuts holes dramatically decreased in size. The very shape of the donut changed, in just two decades, from a ring of dough to the pinched dough vessel we know today.

But then you see this undated chart, and it doesn't seem so crazy anymore:

(Image: Smithsonian Collection)

Part of the Smithsonian's Sally L. Steinberg Collection of Doughnut Ephemera, the chart presents a theory long held by donut truthers: that donut hole size has gradually shrunk over the years.

So does the theory hold true? Has donut hole size changed, as the chart argues? Part of the problem might be that dunking donuts, occasionally still in use today, skew the sample. These donuts are thinner and have wider holes, so even today there are donuts that look like the ones from 1927 on the chart. The chartist has passion, but he might not have a lock on the facts.

Still, there's some decent evidence that should intrigue donut morphologists. In 1955, these sugared donuts were photographed, and their holes are positively puny:

(Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

But let's go back to the past. The year is 1918. A nation at war uses donuts to raise money and promote men at war, and so-called "Doughnut Girls" bring them to soldiers, occasionally on the battlefield. And one poster shows donuts as they were. The size of this man's donut hole may give you chills, because it's gigantic.

(Image: Library of Congress)

To be clear, it's easy to find examples of donut holes of all sizes across different time periods, but there's a definite trend toward smaller donut holes.

(via Vox)



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