It’s National Donut Day at The American Museum!

May 25, 2013 - Zoe Dennington

Saturday 8 June, 12 noon to 5 pm

National Donut Day started in 1938as a fundraiser for Chicago’s Salvation Army.  Their goal was to help the needy during the Great Depression, and to honour The Salvation Army “Lassies” who had served donuts to soldiers during World War I and would continue to do so when American troops were sent to Europe to fight in World War II.

On Saturday 8 June the American Museum is celebrating Donut Day with a World War II-themed event for the whole family.  Visitors are invited to come along in 1940s dress, sample a free donut and find out more about the history of this unusual American tradition.  Re-enactors from Home Front History will take over the grounds of the American Museum and portray wartime characters including Red Cross volunteers and American Army personnel.  Visitors should keep their eyes peeled for General Omar Bradley, the US Army General who commanded all the US ground forces invading Germany from the West during the Second World War.  There will also be military vehicles of the period on display.

1940s dance specialists Hoppin’ Mad will be on hand to teach visitors of all ages to Lindy Hop.  Dance workshops, performances and demonstrations will take place throughout the afternoon.  No experience necessary!

Admission to the event is included in the Gardens Only admission ticket:

Adult £5.50; over 60s and students £4.50; child (5-16) £3.50

The American Museum in Britain, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011, aims to inform its visitors about the cultural history of the United States to strengthen relations between the two countries.  It contains over 15,000 items devoted to the decorative arts of America: fancy gowns and Shaker furniture, an extensive collection of native folk art, important holdings of early maps charting the discovery and exploration of the Americas, and one of the largest and finest quilt collections in the entire world.

For further information and images, please contact:

Sue Bond Public Relations

Tel. +44 (0)1359 271085, E-mail, Website

Notes to Editors

Soon after the US entry into World War I in 1917, The Salvation Army sent a fact-finding mission to France.  The mission concluded that the needs of US enlisted men could be met by canteens/social centres termed “huts” that could serve baked goods, issue writing supplies and stamps, and provide a clothes-mending service.  Typically, six staff members per hut would include four female volunteers who could “mother” the boys.  These huts were established by The Salvation Army in the United States near army training centres.  About 250 Salvation Army volunteers went to France.  Because of the difficulties of providing freshly baked goods from huts established in abandoned buildings near the front lines, two Salvation Army volunteers, Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance, came up with the idea of providing donuts.  These are reported to have been an “instant hit”, and “soon many soldiers were visiting The Salvation Army huts”.  Margaret Sheldon wrote of one particularly busy day: “Today I made 22 pies, 300 donuts, and 700 cups of coffee”.  In Chicago, National Donut Day is still a fundraiser for The Salvation Army.

In World War II the American Red Cross was asked by the US Armed Forces to provide recreational services to the servicemen in the various theatres of operation.  In Great Britain, the Red Cross began setting up service clubs in London and towns near army installations.  Shortly thereafter, aero clubs were set up on airbases.  Because of the pay differential between American servicemen and those from other countries, the army asked the Red Cross to make nominal charges for food and lodging.  In addition to these clubs, ‘clubmobiles’ were devised by Harvey D. Gibson (Red Cross Commissioner to Great Britain).  Stationed in towns near US Army bases, these mobile service clubs were initially remodelled London Green Line buses but in 1944 GMC trucks were also converted into clubmobiles.  Each clubmobile contained a kitchen with a built-in donut machine and primus stove.  Coffee and donuts were served through a large flap in the side of the kitchen area.  There was also typically a lounge space with benches that converted into bunks.  A victrola with loud speakers often played popular music and paperback books, cigarettes, candy and gum were available.  Most clubmobiles were staffed by three American women who had to be aged between 25 and 35, with some college education and work experience and also be ‘physically hardy’, sociable and attractive.  Clubmobiles served troops in England, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany until May 1945.

During the Korean War the Red Cross again introduced a similar programme.  As during the First and Second World Wars, this recreational programme provided clubs, canteens and mobile units that offered entertainment, coffee and donuts.  These units travelled to remote locations to provide light refreshments, performances, skits, games and quizzes related to life at home.  This programme became known as the SRAO (Supplemental Recreational Activities Overseas) and lasted for 20 years under the management of the Red Cross.  Hundreds of Donut Dollies also served in Vietnam in the 1960s.