The Long, Sweet Love Affair Between Cops and Doughnuts

Police officers have been associated with doughnuts so long that it’s become an easy cliche. Of course, that cliche is based on reality, and even cops occasionally have fun with the stereotype. There are plenty of practical reasons for law enforcement officers to hang out at doughnut shop and take advantage of the offerings, but the connection goes back further than you might think.   

Stare harder into the hole, though, and the cop-doughnut relationship isn’t just a marriage of convenience—it’s deeper than that. In fact, we’ve officially stuffed the protecting-and-serving citizens of our country with sugary pastries since at least World War I, when the Salvation Army sent female volunteers to France to cook doughnuts and bring them to the front. The originator of this tradition, a young ensign named Helen Purviance, knelt before a potbelly stove to make the first batch in a frying pan. “There was also a prayer in my heart that somehow this home touch would do more for those who ate the doughnuts than satisfy a physical hunger,” she said later. For a while, U.S. soldiers were actually called “doughboys,” and though they may have originally gotten this nickname some other way, the millions of doughnuts certainly didn’t hurt.

The history of doughnuts is entwined with the history of urban (and eventually, rural) police work. Altlas Obscura looks at the connection between police and doughnuts in depth.

(Image credit: Flickr user Alexis Gravel)

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