Technology would create one of the most significant changes in the bagel industry. The Hartford Courant, January 6, 1965, reported on The New York Bagel Bakery, which is owned by the Lender family and alleged to be the world's largest bagel bakery. On January 5, they started the automation of the bagel process with an assembly line that can turn out 120,000 bagels a day. This would revolutionize bagels, allowing the Lenders to create vast quantities of bagels and make them millions.
For a couple amusing bagel items, let's start with an article in The Bridgeport Post, March 13, 1965 (CT) which talks about Shakuntala, an elephant at the Beardsley Park zoo which likes to eat bagels. I never thought an elephant might enjoy a bagel. Does he want lox on it?
The Akron Beacon Journal, April 7, 1965, wrote about the success of Sean Connery as James Bond, discussing all types of 007 merchandise authorized to capitalize on this fame. However, Jay Emmett, the head of 007 promotions, turned down an offer for a 007 Bagel. There aren't any details so we don't know what they would have constituted. A martini-flavored bagel?
Another intriguing bagel article was in the Daily News, April 14, 1965 (NY), which initially noted that New Yorkers eat about 250,000 bagels a day. There was then a description and some information from the East Side Bagel Bakery, which makes the claim the original bagels were pumpernickel. This is the first time I'd seen such a claim so can't speak as to its validity or not. East Side makes a variety of bagels, about 500 dozen a day, including garlic, salt, poppyseed, sesame seed, onion, whole wheat, and pumpernickel. In addition, they make oversized bagels, which are called "bull bagels," for certain restaurants. They even make green bagels for St. Patrick's Day. It was also noted that the average bagel baker makes about $45 a day and can take 2 dozen bagels home each day.
The Weirton Daily Times, April 28, 1965 (WV), provided some information on the Lender's family and their bagel business. Their father, who started the business, worked for a year in New York City before establishing his own bagel bakery in Connecticut, where he delivered his bagels by a gand cart. More recently, before they began the bagel automation process, the Lenders were producing about 72,000 bagels a day, and now they have increased that number to 120,000 bagels with the start of their new assembly line.
The Evening Journal, August 7, 1965 (DE), provided more information on the Lenders, stating they produce a variety of flavored bagels, about 600,000 a week. Back in 1954, they first started placing frozen bagels in supermarkets and a year ago they found automated machinery to mix and shape the dough, which was instituted this year.
By the middle of the 1960s, bagel variety was spreading. The Jewish Post, November 5, 1965, noted that you could now buy frozen or even canned bagels. Plus, bagels came in several different varieties rather than just the traditional white and pumpernickel bagels. The article also included a number of bagel recipes from the "... home economics department of the country’s largest bakers of bagels, the New York Bagel Bakery,..." This is the Lenders' bagel bakery. The recipes included Toasted Bagel Cheesies, Hamburgels (burger on a bagel), Sunshine Bagels, Cinnamon Circles, and Piquant Salmon Broil. Did you know that bagel burgers extended back this far.
Murray Lender, of Lender's Bagels, was trying to make bagel more mainstream, and one way was through new recipe ideas for bagels. In the Santa Cruz Sentinel, November 22, 1965 (CA), he provided a recipe for the Hambageler, basically a cheeseburger on a bagel. The recipe called for a sliced bagel, 1 slice American or Mozzarella cheese, a hamburg patty, and 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce. A simple idea, meant to appeal to non-Jews who knew little about bagels.
The Daily News, November 25, 1965 also reported on news concerning Lender's Bagel. It quoted Murray Lender that "Automation has brought a whole new era to the bagel. They are now made in a startling variety of shapes, sizes and flavors." You can find Lender's bagels that are rye, pumpernickel, egg, onion, garlic, poppy seed and raisin. Of all those varieties, only the raisin appears to be a new variety, started by the Lenders. The rest all have been around for a time. The article also noted automation has allowed for such items as, "There are miniature heart-shaped bagels for Valentine's Day, green bagels for St. Patrick's Day, and square bagels guaranteed not to roll off the table." Murray also said, "The day is here...when we have triple-decker bagels, bagel heroes, bagel burgers, and pizza bagels."
What was the effect of automation on Lender's Bagels? The Chicago Tribune, September 28, 1966 provided some fascinating answers. In 1965, American doubled their consumption of bagels, indicating bagels were making inroads into new markets. As for Lender's Bagels, in 1964, before automation, they produced about 9 million bagels for about $500,000 in sales. In 1965, with automation, those numbers rose to 30 million bagels for over 1 Million in sales. And in the first quarter of 1966, they quadrupled sales from a year earlier. Impressive numbers, more than tripling their output, in their first year of automation. About 60% of their sales are frozen bagels.
To put that into perspective, New York City had 36 of the nation's 50 bagel bakeries. With only 14 bagel bakeries in the rest of the country, it is no wonder that so many people were still unaware of bagels. All together, the bagel bakeries produced about 250,000 bagels a day and 750,000 on weekends. Marvin Lender stated, "No longer do we try to identify the product with lox and cream cheese. Now we try to market it like English muffins or toast. We have people try it toasted with jelly or butter." Marvin also provided some history of the invention of the green bagel. Seven years ago, in 1959, Lender was invited to a St. Patrick's Day party so he brought along some green bagels. They were such a hit that they now produce them each year.
This Week magazine, November 13, 1966 printed an address for Lender's Bagel Bakery, in Connecticut, so you could send away for free recipes including Bagel French toast, Pizza Bagel and Cinnamon Circles.
The Daily News, January 5, 1967 reported that in 1966, Americans consumed 307 million bagels, worth about $20 million. They also described the Grossinger Bagel, which is produced by Murray Lender. "The Grossinger Bagel is a 48-hour bagel. Other bagels get hard after 24 hours. Unlike other bakeries, we use eggs in the Grossinger formula. It makes them more palatable and softer." You don't hear about this bagel nowadays.
In further news from the Daily News, March 12, 1967, it was mentioned that there are now 60 bagel bakeries in the country. It also stated that there are two main types of bagels: Water bagels and egg bagels, as well as varieties including salted, unsalted, sprinkled with garlic or onion chip, white flour, whole wheat, rye, raisin, pumpernickel, and peppered with poppy seed, sesame, or caraway. In addition, the price of a bagel with a shmear of cream cheese and a touch of lox is close to a dollar.
The Daily Press, April 23, 1967 (VA) was very complimentary to Lender's Bagels, noting that they have done a great job. Some of their achievements include softening the bagel, producing 12 flavors, pre-slicing some and freezing some.
More bagel variety is addressed in the Jewish Post, March 17, 1967, as it reported that, "In honor of St. Patrick’s day, Lender’s Bagel Bakery here baked bagels that were green. The package of frozen green bagel bore the slogan, ‘‘Erin go bragh, shalom” on the bag."
Though Miami had bagel bakeries for many years, the Jewish Post, February 9, 1968, reported that Atlanta, Georgia, finally opened a "bagel factory," the only one in the southeast, outside of Miami.
Ever hear of bagels being referred to as "Bulls?" In The Bronxville Review Press & Reporter, March 6, 1969, there was a supermarket advertisement that stated, "Large JUMBO, handmade Bagels are called “Bulls" by New York’s Bagel Makers." The term "bulls" appears to be uncommon nowadays so most people are probably unaware of it.
More Lenders information. The Hartford Courant, May 18, 1969, states that Lenders is the country's largest bagel bakery, making 30 million bagels annually. The number of bagel bakeries in the country had also risen to 150. In 1955, Lenders added shortening, eggs and sugar to their bagel recipe, to make them softer and with a longer shelf life. They also introduced the use of plastic bags, to hold six bagels, which made them easier to introduce to large grocery stores. Though they introduced the frozen bagel in 1963, they didn't promote it much at first because they couldn't make enough bagels. However, the introduction of automation changed that, andante now have 12 different varieties, including raisin. Murray' rule of thumb is that you needed about 100,000 Jews to support a bagel bakery. By introducing their bagels to non-Jews, Murray hoped to open up plenty of opportunities.
Continuing to promote bagels, in the Independent Press-Telegram, August 28, 1969 (CA), Lender's provided a bagel recipe, which did not require eggs but did include boiling. Then, The Pittsburgh Press, November 23, 1969, provided some recipes with bagels, including the Sunshine Bagel (toasted bagel topped by egg), Cinnamon Circles (cinnamon and sugar atop a bagel), and Toasted Bagel Cheesies (cheese and tomato, oregano and parsley atop bagel). The article also mentions that bagels have only 50 calories. It still boggles my mind that bagels ever had this few calories!
The Daily News, January 1, 1970 (NY) had a grocery story ad, noting Freshly Baked Bagels, Hand Made, were 5 cents each, which would be 60 cents for a dozen. The Los Angeles Times, January 2, 1970, had an ad for Chalet Gourmet, offering deli specials, including bagels (water, egg, onion and pumpernickel) for 7 cents each.
Bagel burgers! The St. Louis Jewish Light, January 14, 1970, posted an ad for The Red Brick restaurant, noting their "Juicy Bagel Burger." Bagels in Missouri? Yes, bagels are becoming much more main stream.
The Desert Sun, January 19, 1970, provided a recipe for a Pizza Bagel, "Take a frozen bagel; split it, butter it and top with a slice of mozzarella cheese, 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce, oregano, and a dot of butter. Broil 5 to 8 minutes, serve and eat and ciao!"
More achievement for Lenders! The St. Petersburg Times, March 29, 1970, metaled that Lender's now produces more than 50 million bagels a year and recently made their one billionth bagel. The article also had a bagel recipe.
More recipes for home cooks to make bagels also returned. In three issues of the Jewish Post December 11, 1970, December 25, 1970 and January 15, 1971, they provided various recipes to make bagels at home, apparently spurred on my requests from their readers for such recipes. the Daily Illinois, November 6, 1971 also offered their own version of a bagel recipe. In addition, the Desert Sun, January 16, 1974, provided a recipe to make Beer Bagels, though the recipe didn't specify any particular type of beer. Do any of you remember family members making their own bagels at home during the 1970s?
The Journal-News, April 19, 1972, continued news about the Lenders. In 1971, they sold over 57 million bagels in 8 varieties, including plain, egg, garlic, onion, rye, raisin, pumpernickel, and poppy seed. Their sales exceeded $2 Million and they now sell their bagels in over 30 states. They have also been test marketing a pizza bagel. The article also included a bagel recipe.
Much of this information was supported by an article in the Hartford Courant, September 27, 1972. This article stated that in 1971, they produced over 58 million bagels with sales over $2.25 million. When you consider that only 400 million bagels were consumed in the year, 80% on the East Coast, Lenders has a significant market share. This is in contrast to back in 1955, when their sales were only $55,000. Lenders also conducted a customer survey, concluding that 52% of their customers didn't have Jewish sounding names, indicating that bagels were no longer just a Jewish food item.
The Indianapolis Star, April 15, 1973, stated that the Lenders turned out over 60 million bagels last year, in 8 varieties. The Chicago Tribune, June 14, 1973, printed that the Lenders had introduced frozen bagels in 1955 but that they didn't do well then, and they reintroduced frozen bagels in 1963, when consumers seemed more amenable to the idea. I'll note that frozen bagels actually existed in 1949, so the Lenders weren't the first to offer frozen bagels. Murray Lender was quoted in this article saying, "The beauty of the bagel is that it has warmth, body and personality without being a rich goody. It's appropriate as a dinner roll, for a coffee break, sandwich base, and late evening snack, as well as for breakfast."
Noting an increase in the cost of bagels, the Philadelphia Inquirer, November 11, 1973, published that the price of bagels had risen from 8 cents to 15 cents, while the cost of frozen bagels was about 7 cents.
In what might be a first, the Hartford Courant, January 4, 1982, provided a number of "restaurant" reviews for various hospitals! In a review of Mount Sinai Hospital, it was noted it "does have bagels and cream cheese--and even lox (smoked salmon), if you ask for it discretely." Just FYI, the Manchester Memorial Hospital received the highest rating, 3.5 Stars out of 4.
Finally, The New Mexican, July 20, 1986, wrote a lengthy article titled, First Bagels Roll Into Illinois for Prairie Breakfast. Lender's Bagel Bakery, now owned by Dart & Kraft, Inc., opened a new plant in Mattoon, Illinois, which will now be the largest of their four plants. The new plant will eventually turn out about 2 million bagels a day, making their daily total about 3.75 million. "It is automated, turning 2,000 pound-pieces of dough into balls that are flattened, boiled, baked, sliced, bagged, and frozen for shipment to supermarkets and other outlets." To celebrate the opening, Marvin Lender through a huge bagel breakfast. "We're here to celebrate the world's largest bagel breakfast," said Marvin Lender, president of Lender's Bagel Bakery, whose newest plant on the edge of town is turning out 1 million bagels a day." Many of the people present had never tasted a bagel before and "People then began spreading cream cheese and jelly on the 30,000 bagels,...";
The article also mentioned that bagels have been quickly expanding beyond their traditional markets on the coasts. Retails sales doubled in the last four years, and Americans now eat about 8 million bagels a day. Lender also noted though that 82% of U.S. households still had not yet sampled a bagel.
What a wild ride through the history of water doughnuts!
"In fact, women both sold and baked bagels: the bagel oven was also known as the vayberisher oyvn, or wives’ oven. It was an accepted way of making a living for women,.."
--The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread by Maria Balinska (2008)
(Please note that this is a significantly expanded/revised version of a prior article I wrote on bagel history. It has more than tripled in length.)