Bagel History

In 1610,  the community of Cracow Poland, states that "beygls" will be given as gifts to women in childbirth.

History of the Bagel: The Hole Story
According to legend, the world's first bagel was produced in 1783 as a tribute to Jan Sobieski, King of Poland. The king, a renowned horseman, had just saved the people of Austria from an onslaught by Turkish invaders. In gratitude, a local baker shaped yeast dough into the shape of stirrup to honor him and called it the Austrian word for stirrup, beugel. The roll soon became a hit throughout Eastern Europe. Over time, its shape evolved into a circle with a hole in the center and its named was converted to its modern form, bagel.

1683 -- According to legend the first bagels rolled into the world in 1683 when a Viennese baker wanted to pay tribute to Jan Sobieski, the King of Poland. King Jan had just saved the people of Austria from an onslaught of Turkish invaders. The King was a great horseman, and the baker decided to shape the yeast dough into an uneven circle resembling a stirrup (or 'beugal'). (Other German variations of the word are: 'beigel', meaning 'ring', and 'bugel', meaning bracelet.)

1872 -- Cream cheese is invented. In 1880, Philadelphia Cream Cheese was started, and in 1920, Breakstone Cream Cheese

1880's -- Thousands of Eastern European Jews immigrated to the United States. They brought with them a desire for bagels. Soon bagels became closely associated with New York and Chicago, both cities with large Jewish populations.

1907 -- A union just for bagel bakers is formed, the International Bakers Union, joining together 300 bakers. Only sons of union members could be apprenticed to learn the secrets of bagel baking in order to safeguard the culinary art.

1935 -- The first Bagel Boss opened, bringing high quality New York bagels to Long Island.

1960s -- Bagel production skyrocketed as machines capable of producing 200 to 400 bagels per hour were popularized.

1987 -- Bagels made their way into mainstream America, sold around the country in grocery stores and listed as standard items on fast food menus.

1988 -- Americans were eating an average of one bagel per month.

1993 -- America's consumption of bagels doubled to an average of one bagel every two weeks

The history of the bagel, the familiar breakfast food that only looks like a doughnut

A common breakfast among commuters, bagels stand alone as the only bread that is boiled before it is baked, providing chewiness instead of brittle crumbs. Yeast dough is shaped into rings, allowed to rise, then briefly tossed into vigorously boiling water for a few seconds. Then it is baked, where the prior boiling creates a chewy texture. Those that like a bit of gloss on the crust can brush them with sugar water, the traditional method, or egg, a more modern method abhorred by purists.

The origin of the bagel is up for debate, although it seems to have early taken a foothold in Poland. The first printed mention occurs in Krakow, in 1610 in a list of community regulations that stipulate that bagels are to be given to pregnant women. (Interestingly, given the bagel's association as a 'Jewish' food, there is no mention of religion in this regulation-apparently Christian women ate bagels as well). Others support the theory that an Austrian baker created a stirrup (or 'beugal') made out of dough to give to the King of Poland in 1683, in thanks for his help in defeating the Turks, and in honor of his great horsemanship. (Other German variations of the word are: 'beigel', meaning 'ring', and 'bugel', meaning bracelet.)

Despite being popular in Europe among the Jewish residents, it is in America that the bagel becomes widely popular, especially in Chicago and New York. The next bagel breakthrough came in 1872, with the making of cream cheese. In 1880, Philadelphia Cream Cheese was started, and in 1920, Breakstone Cream Cheese. In 1907, a union just for bagel bakers is formed, the International Bakers Union, joining together 300 bakers. Despite New York City's claims for having the best bagels, residents of Montreal would disagree, citing their wood-fired ovens and honey flavored boiling water makes for a superior product.

Polish émigré Harry Lender opens up Lender's Beigel Bakery in 1927 in West Haven, Connecticut. His primary customers are Jewish delicatessens in New York. His sons, Murray and Marvin take over the business as adults, and specialize in the flash-frozen bagel, allowing Americans nationwide to enjoy this previously ethnic and urban food. In 1984, having grown to 600 employees, they will be bought out by Kraft. H. Lender and Sons restaurants in Connecticut now receive the benefit of the true Lender's bagel.

As the bread has spread across the nation, so have variations. Where once they were served plain, or in such traditions flavors as pumpernickel, onion, or sesame seed, they are now available as apple, blueberry, spinach, the very non-kosher ham and cheese, or the incomprehensible 'everything'.

Why have they become so popular? Ease of eating, a greater degree of portability than toast, and a more satisfying chew than ordinary sandwich bread. Plain, they offer a non-sweet alternative to doughnuts (man, was I disappointed in my first bagel-what a terrible doughnut!) Their heartiness makes them more filling than a croissant, and without any type of topping (i.e. cream cheese, butter, or jelly), they are a reasonable 200 calories.

A North American Debut

When the Eastern European Jewish immigrants arrived in North America at the turn of the century, they brought the bagel with them. Many settled in Canada, giving cities like Toronto and Montreal their reputation for having superb bagels. The American bagel industry established formal roots in New York between 1910 and 1915 with the formation of Bagel Bakers Local #338. This exclusive group of 300 craftsmen with "bagels in their blood" limited its members to sons of its members. At the time, it was probably easier to get into medical school than to get an apprenticeship in one of the 36 union bagel shops in New York City and New Jersey.

Professional bagel baking required know-how and backbreaking labor. Bagel makers' sons apprenticed for months to learn the trade. Men were paid by the piece and usually worked in teams of four. Two made the bagels, one baked, and a "kettleman" was in charge of boiling the bagels. The men earned 19 cents a box, and each box typically contained 64 bagels. It was not unusual for a team to make a hundred boxes a night.

With the rising of the yeast in countless bakeries, the popularity of the bagel rose far beyond the boundaries of ethnic neighborhoods. In the late 1950's and 1960's, bakers from New York and New Jersey began moving to other parts of the country. One such veteran who opened a bagel bakery in a suburb of Washington, D.C., in 1966, remembers his skeptical landlord nervously questioning, "Who's gonna spend seven cents for one of those things?"

Prepackaged bagels first became available in grocery stores in the 1950's. With the introduction of frozen bagels in the 1960's, consumers had access to bagels even if they didn't live near a bagel bakery.

Bagel-making machines, a boon to commercial bakers, were also introduced in the early 1960's. The machines form bagels by extruding the dough through the ring shape. Inventor Dan Thompson says, "I was born to invent a bagel machine. My father was thinking about a bagel-making machine when I was conceived." That may not be far from the truth, because Dan's father had a wholesale bakery in Winnipeg, Canada, and was already working on a bagel-making machine back in 1926. But it was far too complicated, too slow, and too costly to manufacture and wasn't commercially feasible.

There were as many as fifty unsuccessful attempts to produce a bagel-making machine in the early twentieth century. The Thompson Bagel Machine Corporation developed the first viable model, despite "doubting Thompsons" who insisted that no machine would ever replace the human hand in forming bagels. Most of the early machines were leased by bakers who paid by the dozen on the time meter. Now most are purchased. Popular with "Mom and Pop" bagel bakeries is the single-bank Thompson model with a dough divider that forms 175 dozen (2,100) bagels an hour. Large-scale production companies use multiples of the double-bank machine, each of which produces 400 dozen (4,800) bagels hourly.

  The Father of the Bagel was probably an unknown Viennese baker, who wanted to pay tribute to the King of Poland. In 1683, King Jan had just saved the people of Austria from an onslaught of Turkish invaders. As the King was an avid and accomplished horseman, the baker decided to shape the yeast dough into an uneven circle resembling a stirrup.

     Purists tend to favour this theory for two reasons. First, the traditional hand-rolled bagel  remains less than perfect in shape. Instead of the symmetry of a doughnut, good bagels skew into a "stirrup-like" shape. Second, the Austrian word for "stirrup" is beugel.

     The Canadian history of the bagel is much clearer. When Vincenzo Piazza brought the "Montreal-style" bagel to Ottawa in 1984, he was the first to have a wood-burning oven and hand-rolled bagels. It takes a roller over three months of training to reach the necessary speed of rolling 40 bagels every three minutes.

     Over the years, the "traditional" bagel flavours, sesame seed, poppy seed, and plain, have been joined by almost a dozen other varieties, from cinnamon and raisin to Muesli. But the essence of the bagel remains the same, and fresh, hot bagels have become a daily staple for thousands of people in the Ottawa region.

What is a bagel? Well, it's essentially a bread roll with a hole in it. However, it's the texture that makes it distinct. The outside is usually brown and slightly crispy. Once you bite inside, it's usually dense, chewy and doughy.

These bready bites come in a variety of flavours and are often topped with seeds baked onto the outer crust. Legend has it that the bagel originated in Vienna , Austria . The story goes that in 1683 a (probably) Jewish baker wanted to thank the king of Poland for protecting his countrymen from Turkish invaders and celebrate victory in the Battle of Vienna. In order to do this he made a special bread roll in the shape of a riding stirrup, known as a 'Steigbügel' in German. However, another theory is that the bagel originated in Krakow Poland sometime earlier. There are historical references to women being given 'beygls' as a gift during childbirth. Bagels are still used by mothers as teething rings today.
The bagels popularity in Eastern Europe spread and eventually these bread rolls made their way to Russia where they were sold on strings and viewed as a symbol of good luck.

At the turn of the 20th century,Eastern Europe immigrants began pouring into North America and with them brought their recipes for bagels. Many settled in Canada and in 1919 Isabel Shlafman opened the first bagel bakery in Montreal in a lane just of the street which was at that time known as 'The Main'. Today this street is Saint-Lawrence Boulevard .

The bagels were rolled by hand and baked in a wood-fired oven, as they still are today in the bakery's present location on which lent the bakery its name. The Original Fairmount Bakery officially opened for business in this spot in 1949 in what was a converted cottage housing the family above the shop. The family still runs the business today.

The bakery is open 24 hours and seven days a week. There are often queues out the door as customers line up to purchase the fresh bagel in flavours as diverse as sun-dried tomato and chocolate chip. Also on sale is a selection of accompaniments such as smoked salmon, tzaziki and cream cheese. Bagelicious!

Bagels for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner in Montreal, Canada

The History of Bagels

1880s -- Hundreds of thousands of Eastern European Jews emigrated to America, bringing with them a love for bagels. New York City vendors used the bagel's hole-in-the-middle shape to their merchandising advantage by threading them onto dowels and selling them on street corners throughout the city.

1907 -- The International Bagel Bakers Union was founded in New York City. Only sons of union members could be apprenticed to learn the secrets of bagel baking in order to safeguard the culinary art.

1927 -- Polish baker Harry Lender opened the first bagel plant outside New York City in New Haven, Conn. The bagel's popularity began to spread in the United States.

1960s -- Bagel production skyrocketed as machines capable of producing 200 to 400 bagels per hour were popularized and the tradition of hand-forming bagels virtually vanished.

1987 -- Bagels made their way into mainstream America, sold around the country in grocery stores and listed as standard items on fast food menus.

1988 -- Americans were eating an average of one bagel per month.

1993 -- American bagel consumption doubled to an average of one bagel every two weeks.

1997 -- Schnucks' Nancy Anne Bakery introduced 17 bagels reformulated to match the special tastes and texture desires of Midwesterners, along with six cream cheese spreads, four types of bagel melts and eight bagel sandwiches.


Other Interesting Bagel Facts

Bagel Recipes The Largest Bagel   Bagels: The Hole Story More Bagel History  How To Make A Bagel
Jewish Humor
Jewish Stories
Schmooze News
Israeli History in a Nutshell
Home/Principle
Information Page
All Things Jewish
Jewish Communities of the World
Site Designed and Maintained by
Haruth Communications
click HERE to add a site to this page