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Brown Bobby: 1925

Washington, D.C., circa 1925. "F.W. Grand store." So, the greaseless donut: Boon or abomination? Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

Washington, D.C., circa 1925. "F.W. Grand store." So, the greaseless donut: Boon or abomination? Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Little Pup

Looks like a chalkware Boston Terrier figure in the window display, too. They were a very popular breed at the time.

The Conspirac-E

Hmm, I work at a Kumon centre and just the other day I told a kid that the spelling "potatoe" was wrong, and I made them erase the "e" . . .

Now I kinda feel bad. Oh well, it's not 1925 anymore!

Hindsight Rebuttal

In response to an earlier comment, if they'd taken the E from POTATOE and put it in the BUTTFR, they'd have BUTTFER. Of course, this could have been a good thing, as inquisitive customers would inevitably raise the question, "What's a buttfer?" Then the bored-looking proprietor could have used his idle time coming up with the perfect punchline.

Special Recipe No. 1

Brown Bobby Special Recipe No. 1 (makes 2½ dozen)

2 Cups Sugar, 1 Cup Lard (cream well)
3 Eggs, 2 Cups Buttermilk (beaten together)
1 Tsp each of Salt and Soda
2 Tsp each of Baking Powder and Nutmeg
4 Cups of flour.

Beat the whole mixture thoroughly.

The hot molds are then filled with the mixture using a pastry bag and baked approximately 3 minutes. Removal is done by lifting a corner of the Brown Bobby with the edge of a knife and placing on a wire rack to cool.

So my granddad was right

Donuts really were two for a nickel!!


"Greaseless doughnut"? Ranks right up there with other classic oxymorons such as "Military Intelligence", "Honest Politician", etc. Sorry, couldn't resist.

Rattle and roll

Those round objects handing from the long pole next door look to be baby rattles. The rattles slip around the baby's wrist with the large hoop at the end.

Ooh baby

In her "memory box," my mother has some ivorene crib decorations very much like the ones in your closeup.

Give a hoot...

Say, what's that trash to the right of the Brown Bobby booth? Looks like a lady's pic.

[A hair net wrapper! - Dave]

Hindsight is 20/20

If they had just taken the E from POTATOE and put it in the BUTTFR, all this controversy could have been avoided. Maybe on the next trip back in time this could be remedied, and ... Dan Quayle's ancestors could be separated, therefore putting an end to any repeat?

Hand lettered signs

The standing signs in the windows are very well done. Before computers, painted graphics were a true art form. This guy had a nice stroke and style.

The "e" on the end

My third grade spellers spelled spuds singular as "potatoe," and plural as "potatoes." Potato singular started appearing regularly during WWII, but the old plural spelling has stayed on. During that time several newspapers used "progressive spelling," with "fone" instead of either phone or telephone. Saving ink and paper, but it supposedly led to that classic sendup of spelling reform, "Meihem n ce Klasrum."

The necktie is poorly knotted, since the fashion was for the front to be slightly longer than the tail. In fact, for food service people the fashion was either a bow, an extremely short tie that could not get in a customer's gravy, or a tie long enough to tuck under the belt buckle. No tie? Not done, the sanitary inspectors were afraid cooks or waiters' molting chest hairs would contaminate the food.


I've never heard of Brown Bobby doughnuts but there's a local place called the Spudnut Shop that makes doughnuts out of potato (or potatoe) flour (not flower). Spudnuts were once quite popular at least in the midwest and west; there's still a few places around. They are hands down the most popular doughnuts in my area.

Point of Sale

There is a Coca-Cola display below and to the right of the doughnut lady that shows a good looking woman sitting at a soda fountain, imbibing. You've got to hand it to Coke -- they were and are masters of advertising.

Tie Tail

In a great number of old pictures, men are seen with the tail of the tie substantially lower than the wider tie front.

Why is that? Accepted style? Some other reason?

Perhaps in the days of vests, tie tying was not such a precise matter as it is today. Today, the tip of the tie needs to be pretty much mid-belt buckle, or you are shunned by society.

That guy looks infinitely more bored than any other depicted person in the history of Shorpy. Pay more attention to your tie, Sir!

I'm drooling

Just looking at all those luscious triangles!

Faraway gaze

Looks like the guy in the store is dreaming about those greasy doughnuts across the street. And who set up the menu board - Dan Quayle?

Exonerate Dan Quail

Both times the word "Potatoe" appears in this menu ad, it is spelled with an "e" at the end. As a kid, I remember reading my grandmother's old, old books and magazines and the word usually did have an "e" at the end. Still, the public rode D.Q.'s back for ages (and still does) for that simple act of adding the e. And I would also like to say that I feel a kinship with the doughnut advertised as I am also crispy, flaky and greaseless. And it's a doughnut, NOT a donut! And you darn kids get off of my lawn!

[And then there's Dan Quayle, who also had an e at the end. - Dave]

Brown Bobbies were around for quite a while!

My father had the Brown Bobby franchise in the Silver Spring, Maryland, area in the late 1940s, long before I was born. They were baked, triangular and very popular. I think Dad decided the doughnut biz wasn't for him after a couple of months.

All about Brown Bobby...

All you need to know about Brown Bobby, including recipes, is right here.


Fellow at the left appears to have doubts about the whole affair. She's sitting behind what look like a row of waffle makers; I'd guess that was the appeal of the "greaseless donut"?

Bobby, Brown

Looks like the doughnuts are more like a waffle than a traditional deep fat fried doughnut. However, 25 cents is a darn good price for the Roast Beef lunch, and a quarter for a dozen doughnuts probably isn't that bad, either.

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