Captain Hanson Gregory, Inventor of the Doughnut?

By Carla Charter

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CAMDEN, ME.-There are many mysteries of life to ponder. Some are large, others not so much. If you are pondering on the question of exactly who invented the donut, maybe while having your morning coffee and doughnut, we may have your answer or at least one version of it.

According to the Camden legend the inventor of the ever-popular breakfast pastry may be a schooner captain named Hanson Gregory, according to Ken Gross, Assistant Director of the Camden Public Library and Director of their Historical Center. As the legend goes, Gregory enjoyed eating gobs of fried dough. (Who doesn’t?)  However, there was a problem. The fried dough gobs never seemed to get cooked all the way through, often leaving an gooey middle.

The legend continues that one day in 1847, while captaining his schooner, Captain Gregory stored his latest piece of fried dough on a spoke of his wheel, thus pushing out the middle of the confection. This it is said was the first doughnut in North America.

Other versions of the same legend vary slightly. One states that as a small boy, Gregory watched his mother fry doughnuts and complain that she could not get them done in the middle. The young boy then reportedly replied, “Ma why don’t you put a whole in the middle?” She did and was happy with the results.

Yet another version of the tale states that as a young captain, Maine’s youngest in fact, Hanson Gregory was distressed because he lost six of his men overboard in a storm. It is said that the men went straight to the bottom after eating soggy doughnuts. Doughnuts have been referred to as sinkers.

Another town who also lays claim to the invention of the doughnut is Nauset on Cape Cod Massachusetts. There it is said a Nauset Native American shot an arrow through a pilgrim woman’s fried cakes.  This friendly debate over who created the donut, according to Gross, even led to a debate on the topic at the 1960’s World’s Fair.

Whatever the story, in 1947, on the 100th anniversary of Gregory’s invention a plaque honoring him and his invention was placed in his hometown of nearby Glen Cove.  Gross said legend or not, there is still a lot of interest by many in Gregory and his breakfast invention that we all still enjoy today.


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