This Day In History – March 26

On March 26th, 1880, Duncan Hines, hotel and restaurant critic whose name adorns cake mix boxes, was born in Bowling Green. Hines was a traveling salesman for a Chicago printer, and by age 55 in 1935, he had eaten his fair share of both good and bad meals on the road, all across the country during his travels. At this time in the United States, there was no interstate highway system and very few chain restaurants, except for in large, heavily populated areas. Therefore, travelers had to take their chances on getting a good meal at a local restaurant.

Hines and his wife Florence began to assemble a list of several hundred good restaurants around the country, in order to share with their friends. The list became so popular, that Hines published a book entitled Adventures in Good Eating, which documented restaurants and their featured dishes that Hines himself personally recommended. Restaurants that were given a favorable rating were given permission to hang a sign in the window that read, “Recommended by Duncan Hines,” and if a restaurant’s standards dropped, they could be cut from the next edition of the book – for this practice, Hines is known as the first modern food critic.

In 1952, Hines introduced his line of bread to the world through Durkee’s Bakery in New York. In 1953, he sold the right to use his name to Roy H. Park to form Hines-Park Foods, which licensed the name to a number of food businesses. The cake mix license was sold to Nebraska Consolidated Mills in Omaha, which developed and sold the first of the Duncan Hines cake mixes. Four years later, Nebraska Consolidated Mills sold the cake mix business to Proctor and Gamble, who brought the business to a national level and added a series of related products. Hines passed away on March 15, 1959, but his products remain a staple in many American households to this day.

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5 thoughts on “This Day In History – March 26

  1. Does anyone know if any Lexington, Fayette County restaurants were listed in Duncan Hines’ Adventures in Good Eating? or, did any Lex area restaurants post his sign of recommendation in the window?

  2. I’m still trying to find out a definitive answer for you. However, I spoke with one of our volunteers who was a young girl when Duncan Hines was writing and she recalled a sign at a restaurant in Louisville. She said there was one of the same restaurants in Lexington and that it probably had a sign as well. I will try and find the name for you.

    • see the following excerptS from Beyond the Fence:A Culinary View of Historic Lexington, to be published in the Spring of 2010 :

      DUNCAN HINES:

      Adventures in Good Eating for the Discriminating Motorist was published annually from 1936 until 1962. A favorable listing in Mr. Hines’ book became a coveted measure of quality, along with a stamp of approval that was displayed in the deserving restaurant, “Recommended by Duncan Hines.”

      The following excerpt was recorded in Louis Hatchett’s, The Man Behind the Cake Mix:
      “The next day 10 October, 1936, they made a quick day trip to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to visit Hines’ family….. Hines and Florence stopped for the day in Lexington where they consumed supper at the best dining facility in town, the Canary Cottage. There they ate country ham and fried chicken served with homemade rolls and cornsticks.”

      CANARY COTTAGE:

      “the South’s Most Exclusive Soda Luncheonette.”

      During most of the twentieth century, The Canary Cottage was a popular Main Street ‘tea room,’ with other locations in Cincinnati, Louisville, and Indianapolis. Described by Duncan Hines, traveling food critic during a 1936 visit, as “the best dining facility in town,” the Canary Cottage was considered ‘cozy’ with booths and a bar in the back.

      The fried chicken was served in a basket accompanied by a card: ‘Pick it up, Sir, Pick it up, Ma’am, You are at home in the Canary Cottage.’

      Thanks so much for your help!

  3. Canary Cottage! That was it. Unfortunately, the volunteer that I was mentioning had fallen ill and I was never able to discuss it with her. But that was exactly the name of the restaurant.

    Glad you found what you were looking for.

    Natasha

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