When America joined the war in Europe in 1917, the Salvation Army sent troops to the front lines—most of them volunteers. Some of them were women, nicknamed Sallies because they were from the SALvation Army.
Sallies helped the soldiers write letters to loved ones back on the home front, mended clothes, played games, and engaged in conversation that helped the boys talk about their feelings. Men must have been pretty excited about that since talking about feelings is something they do so well.
They Just Want Something Sweet
Apparently one of the topics in many of these conversations involved the lack of dessert. After a hard day of trench warfare and poison gas, the soldiers just wanted something a little sweet.
Sallies Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon to the rescue. Supplies were tight so their options were limited. But since they were in France, a country where the status of baked goods falls only slightly behind wine, Helen and Margaret were able to get their hands on flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and canned milk.
They used wine bottles as rolling pins to roll out the dough, because the only things more abundant in France than berets and poodles are wine bottles. The clever Sallies used lamp globes to cut the doughnuts and the tops of coffee percolators to cut out the holes.
One at a time, the doughnuts went into the oil in a cast iron skillet over a wood fire. The Sallies managed to serve up a whopping seven doughnuts at a time and by the end of their first day, they’d passed out 150 sweet treats to the boys in uniform.
Word about the doughnuts spread as fast as the aroma of bread frying in oil. Margaret and Helen had to figure out how to crank up the output. They wooed other Sallies from less important tasks like rolling bandages and tending the wounded, and enlisted them in the doughnut making.
One Million Doughnuts for Doughboys
The additional volunteers used Amy helmets as frying pans to speed production, and eventually the Sallies were serving 9,000 doughnuts a day—all on the front lines, in miserable weather, while under enemy fire.
The women traded in the Sallies moniker for the name Doughnut Dollies or Doughnut Lassies since that was practically a fulltime job. The New York Times reported that by the end of the war, Helen and Margaret had served up about 1,000,000 doughnuts for the Doughboys.
When the war was over, and the doughnut craze came home with the veterans.
National Doughnut Day Is Born in Chicago
Twenty years later, after thousands of Americans had been hit hard by the Great Depression, the Salvation Army in Chicago came up with a fundraiser to supplement the Christmas-time belling ringing. What better way than to capitalize on their affiliation with doughnuts? National Doughnut Day on the first Friday in June was born. Thanks to Americans’ affinity for fried bread and sugar, the Salvation Army raises a lot of dough to help support the services they offer to those in need—doughnuts (of course), warm meals, and a little preachin’ on the side.
The Great War defeated the Kaiser and brought America into a new millennium. The world was temporarily safe again--temporarily. And thanks to the ingenuity of Margaret Sheldon and Helen Purviance we have Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme.
Make doughnuts, not war.