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Duncan Hines

How a Traveling Salesman Became the Most Trusted Name in Food

Louis Hatchett. foreword by Michael and Jane Stern

Publication Year: 2014

Duncan Hines (1880--1959) may be best known for the cake mixes, baked goods, and bread products that bear his name, but most people forget that he was a real person and not just a fictitious figure invented for the brand. America's pioneer restaurant critic, Hines discovered his passion while working as a traveling salesman during the 1920s and 1930s -- a time when food standards were poorly enforced and safety was a constant concern. He traveled across America discovering restaurants and offering his recommendations to readers in his best-selling compilation Adventures in Good Eating (1935). The success of this work and of his subsequent publications led Hines to manufacture the extremely popular food products that we still enjoy today.

In Duncan Hines, author Louis Hatchett explores the story of the man, from his humble beginnings in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to his lucrative licensing deal with Proctor & Gamble. Following the successful debut of his restaurant guide, Hines published his first cookbook, Adventures in Good Cooking (1939), at the age of 59 and followed it with The Dessert Book (1955). These culinary classics included recipes from many of the establishments he visited on his travels, favorites handed down through his family for generations, and new dishes that contained unusual ingredients for the era. Many of the recipes served as inspiration for mixes that eventually became available under the Duncan Hines brand.

This authoritative biography is a comprehensive account of the life and legacy of a savvy businessman, American icon, and an often-overlooked culinary pioneer whose love of good food led to his name becoming a grocery shelf favorite. Hatchett offers insightful commentary into the man behind the cake mix boxes and how he paved the way for many others like him.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xii

No one had ever written a biography of Duncan Hines before, so I needed a lot of help. Fortunately, a number of people rallied to my cause; I apologize to anyone whom I have omitted in the following list. The most important person to this project was Duncan Hines's great niece, Cora Jane Spiller, who not only gave me her valuable time but who...

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pp. xiii-xxviii

Today, everyone’s a restaurant critic. In 1936, when Duncan Hines first published Adventures in Good Eating, he defined the job. Into a nation where eating on the road could be a genuine health hazard and where the few city guides were puffery financed by the restaurants they reviewed, Hines blazed a trail of honesty, reliability, and, most important of...

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pp. 1-3

Mention the name "Duncan Hines" to Americans under fifty-five today and the image their minds will undoubtedly conjure is a cake mix package. No one can blame them if they fail to recognize the significance of the man for whom the cake mix is named. Was Duncan Hines named for two men, one named Duncan and the...

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Chapter One: Bowling Green

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pp. 4-17

There is a cartoon from the 1940s that, at one time, was every restaurant owner's nightmare. The scene is a dining room of a fancy four-star restaurant. A waiter has accidentally spilled an entire tray of food onto the head and lap of a nicely-attired customer. The customer, neatly dressed in his evening tuxedo, is...

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Chapter Two: Out West

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pp. 18-26

Late in 1898 Duncan Hines's health began to fail. He had developed "a slight wheeze" and later discovered he was suffering from asthma. "The cure for all respiratory ailments was, at that time, thought to be a move to a dry, mountainous area." After a conference with his father it was decided he should move out west...

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Chapter Three: Florence

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pp. 27-32

Though only a relief man with Wells Fargo, Hines's gregarious personality enabled him to meet the "right" people in Cheyenne society. In 1902, Hines was invited by one of his friends, Bob Carey, son of the former U S Senator, to spend his vacation with him on his father's enormous cattle...

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Chapter Four: Chicago

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pp. 33-47

Duncan Hines and Florence Chaffin married on 27 September 1905,106 at Fort Slocum in New Rochelle, New York, in Col. Richard H. Wilson's quarters.107 Florence's older sister, Grace, wrote a few years after Duncan and Florence were wed: "The biggest event of our stay [in New Rochelle] was... [Florence's]...

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Chapter Five: Leave Me Alone or I'll Publish a Book!

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pp. 48-55

As people across America were tacking up their January 1936 calendars, Hines kept receiving more letters from people who wanted a copy of his restaurant list. "We got hundreds of requests for cards from people we had never heard of," he later recalled. "It made me realize that we had done something that had never before...

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Chapter Six: The Dinner Detectives

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pp. 56-63

With each passing week the postcards Hines had provided for his readers poured into his office in growing numbers, each giving him new restaurant leads to investigate. The task of trying to organize this mass of information eventually became overwhelming. By early 1937 Hines realized he had to rely on others of like taste and...

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Chapter Seven: Florence Hines's Last Year

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pp. 64-82

Sometime in 1937 Florence Hines went to the doctor and was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. A Christian Scientist,210 she sought no surgery for her troubles and accepted her coming demise as part of the natural order of God's world. Evidence shows, however, that the last year of her life was not spent in agony on a...

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Chapter Eight: Those Who Make Us Wish for Hollow Legs

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pp. 83-98

Book publishers knocking on Hines's door was only the beginning. For Duncan Hines the Saturday Evening Post article was his life's seminal event. Overnight he was transformed from a small-time book-publisher into America's most authoritative voice on the best places to eat. In a very short time he was an American celebrity. He...

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Chapter Nine: Back Home Again in Bowling Green

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pp. 99-108

In early December 1938, Duncan Hines sent a note to his secretary, counseling her not to become too depressed over the tremendous amount of work she was suddenly facing. He wrote:

It is possible that we may have the new Lodging [guidebooks] ready by February 15, but I am not yet certain about doing it so...

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Chapter Ten: Life Changes

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pp. 109-121

Lodging for a Night, first released in 1938, was an outgrowth of Adventures in Good Eating. This guidebook, while not as popular as its predecessor, was just as vital. It was prepared in response to his readers' many requests that there be a companion volume to Adventures in Good Eating. T. C. Dedman, owner of the Beaumont...

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Chapter Eleven: A Few Pet Peeves

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pp. 122-139

The nation's media organs continued to give Hines's restaurant guide very favorable reviews. One Chicago columnist wrote that he had seen a "notable change" in American restaurants-for the better. Some of this, he believed, "must be credited to Mr. Duncan Hines, whose book Adventures in Good Eating seems to be carried...

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Chapter Twelve: The War Years

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pp. 140-151

As Americans adjusted to a war economy a few short months after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Hines published the 1942 edition of Adventures in Good Eating. With the nation in domestic chaos, he was not sure how well the book would do financially. He expected the worst. What happened at...

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Chapter Thirteen: Clara

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pp. 152-163

When Emelie left Hines, she let him fend for himself. As had been the case after Florence's death, without a woman about the house he was rendered somewhat helpless, and his family knew it. To compensate for his loss, someone from his family—Porter or his children—went to his house almost every evening he was in town...

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Chapter Fourteen: Let's Watch Him Eat

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pp. 164-178

Hines had a considerable influence on the fortunes of many establishments offering lodging to travelers. His files contained many letters from proprietors whose businesses had literally been saved from bankruptcy thanks to a listing in Lodging for a Night. One elderly architect who invested his life's savings in a...

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Chapter Fifteen: Enter Roy Park

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pp. 179-197

Over the years Hines had turned down hundreds of schemes promising to make him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. If only he would willingly allow his name to be used to endorse this or that product, he was told, fabulous riches were his for the asking. He readily retorted to such blandishments that he was already...

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Chapter Sixteen: The World of Duncan Hines

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pp. 198-204

In September 1949 Hines and Clara took another extensive dining tour of New York City. With his guidebook's sales office in New York becoming increasingly busy, the two made a convenient excuse to visit it and indulge themselves in that city's extensive restaurant cuisine. As usual, they lodged in the Waldorf-Astoria...

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Chapter Seventeen: The Office Life

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pp. 205-221

By 1951 Duncan Hines had, as the cliché goes, "too many irons in the fire." When he turned seventy-one in March, he knew he was not immortal. He no doubt wondered what Clara's future would hold should he suddenly pass away. With this thought hanging about the periphery of his consciousness, he began to probe into...

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Chapter Eighteen: Passing the Torch

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pp. 222-234

One of the many companies licensed to sell Duncan Hines products was Nebraska Consolidated Mills, Inc. The company was primarily a flour milling operation with little experience in consumer marketing. That quickly changed. Under the able leadership of Allan Mactier, the company's ambitious 32-year-old...

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Chapter Nineteen: Duncan Hines Goes to Europe

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pp. 235-248

In the spring of 1954 Hines and Clara went to Europe for the first time, accompanied by their close friend, Nelle Palmer, the operator of the Lowell Inn in Stillwater, Minnesota.643 It was a "just for fun" trip, Hines told reporters as he prepared for his excursion,644 adding that he was not going to spend his time hanging around...

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Chapter Twenty: We Dedicate This Box . . .

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pp. 249-259

In 1955 the Duncan Hines Institute published two volumes. The first was Duncan Hines' Dessert Book, a collection of Hines's favorite after-dinner recipes; it was followed later in the year by the ever-so-slightly autobiographical Duncan Hines' Food Odyssey.690 The Dessert Book was a standard paperback book. As was...

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Chapter Twenty-One: Aftermath

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pp. 260-266

Duncan Hines's body remained at his home until about an hour before his funeral. The funeral services commenced at 2:00 P.M. on 17 March 1959, at the Christ Episcopal Church in Bowling Green.733 After the service had been performed, he was laid to rest next to his siblings in Bowling Green's Fairview...


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pp. 267-298


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pp. 299-318


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pp. 319-325

E-ISBN-13: 9780813144849
E-ISBN-10: 0813144841
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813144597

Page Count: 354
Publication Year: 2014