Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Doughboy

Posted by Elyse Bruce on December 6, 2010

Because of excellent marketing, most people think of the Pillsbury Doughboy when they hear the term doughboy.  

When you go back a decade to January 31, 2000 the New York Post published an article about the Pillsbury Doughboy aka Poppin’ Fresh, the blue-eyed, smiling icon since 1965 that sports a scarf and chef’s hat for attire.  The brouhaha was over the fact that the Doughboy was appearing in newer commercials with a decidedly darker complexion.  It was all just a tempest in a teacup, however, as it was explained that his new colour more accurately reflected the colour of unbaked dough.

This wasn’t the first time the Doughboy had found himself at the centre of attention wherein the media was concerned. Back in 1991, Time Magazine reported that when Sunshine Biscuits unveiled their mascot, Drox, Poppin’ Fresh and Pillsbury didn’t take kindly to the competition’s “two legged, puffy white voiced character”  and launched a successful lawsuit against Drox and his team.  

The L.A. Times carried a story on February 18, 1988 that reported:

According to a Pillsbury spokesperson, a night clerk at the hotel, Ruth Ann Sparacio, looked up just in time to see a man carrying the Jolly Green Giant out the front door. Yelling “Stop,” she and the hotel’s assistant manager Bob Masserio hotfooted it out the door after the “kidnapper” who, in turn, dropped the Jolly Green Giant and hopped into a waiting car. Masserio spotted the Doughboy ensconced in the car’s back seat as it pulled away, but failed to get the car’s license number. The Giant’s injuries were sufficiently mild that he was able to return to his entry way post at once.

However, the term “doughboy” has been around since long before Poppin’ Fresh hit the scene. 

In a news article published by the Chicago Tribune on November 10, 1963, readers were treated to an article entitled “From A Doughboy‘s Diary.”  The doughboy recounted stories of his days in the Army which included anecdotes such as:

“There was the day in France — April 16, 1918, to be exact — when the mess hall cooks tried to feed matzo balls instead of bread to the troops of the Rainbow division, and 2,000 Irishmen of the “Fighting 69th” regiment rioted.”

The term, doughboy, then is a term the military has used when referring to its troops.   

In fact, historical documents show that U.S. General James G. Harbord served three years as a doughboy after his enlistment in the Fourth United States Infantry, back in 1889.

Doughboy was first used as a term during the Mexican War in 1846 when the cavalrymen riding on horses called foot soldiers — also known as the infantry — doughboys.  This was because after marching over dusty terrain for any period of time, the foot soldiers looked like they were covered in flour hence they were made of dough ergo they were doughboys.  In time, the term doughboy came to mean all the officers and troops of the American Expenditionary Force, which we know today as the United States Armed Forces.

Doughboy was also used as a nickname in the 1800s.  Creed Taylor fought in the Mexican War as well as at the Battles of San Antonio and San Jacinto.  After his discharge from the army, Creed Taylor married Lavina Spencer, who gave birth to their two sons John Hays (always called Hays) born in 1836 and Phillip G. (always called Doughboy) born in 1837.   Creed, along with his brother, Pinkin, founded the Taylor crime ring, hired gunmen to join them and eventually turned the reins over to Hays and Doughboy once they were old enough to run the family business.

Elsewhere in the world, doughboy was used in military terms in another way.   After the Battle of Talavera during the Peninsular War in Spain back in 1809, a soldier in Lord Wellington’s Rifle Brigade, on the retreat from Talavera, made the following note in his diary:

For bread we took corn from the fields, and having no proper means of winnowing and grinding it, were obliged to rub out the ears between our hands and pound them between stones to make dough, form which wretched practice we christened the place “Dough Boy Hill.”

Contrary to popular misconception, doughboy has never been used to describe an apprentice baker.

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One Response to “Doughboy”

  1. Here’s an oft-forgotten bit of trivia about Poppin’ Fresh: Poppin’ Fresh has a wife, Poppie Fresh, and together, they have two children, Popper and Bun Bun.

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