In 1847, a Maine ship captain invented the donut as we know it today – with a hole.
On the day the photo below was taken, Capt. Hansen Gregory was living in the next town and telling his cronies how he'd gotten the great inspiration to cut a hole in a donut.
Captain Gregory, 85, lived at the Sailor’s Snug Harbor in Quincy, Mass. His fame as the inventor of the modern donut had spread, and the Washington Post interviewed him in a story published March 26, 1916.
Capt. Gregory told the reporter he discovered the donut hole when he worked as a 16-year-old crewman on a lime-trading schooner:
Now in them days we used to cut the doughnuts into diamond shapes, and also into long strips, bent in half, and then twisted. I don't think we called them donuts then--they was just 'fried cakes' and 'twisters.' "Well, sir, they used to fry all right around the edges, but when you had the edges done the insides was all raw dough. And the twisters used to sop up all the grease just where they bent, and they were tough on the digestion.
He asked himself if a space inside the dough would solve the difficulty – and then came the great inspiration:
I took the cover off the ship's tin pepper box, and—I cut into the middle of that donut the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes!
Capt. Hanson Gregory died in 1921. YOu can visit his grave at the Snug Harbor Cemetery.
The photograph was taken by Lewis Wickes Hine, the social reformer whose photos of very young workers influenced the passage of child labor laws. His caption read, "Exchange Luncheon. Delia Kane, 14 years old. 99 C Street, South Boston. A young waitress."
This story about the donut was updated in 2018.