Chicago has quite the legacy. It is known for the Great Chicago Fire, record breaking brutal winters, a river that flows backwards, important historical strikes, advancements in transportation and city life, and multiple professional athletic teams. But perhaps the most important, yet unknown history of Chicago surrounds the invention of the Twinkie. Some may argue that Chicago cannot claim this momentous achievement because the Twinkie was first created in Schiller Park, a suburb about 19 miles out from the center of the city. While this point is debatable, the impact Twinkies have had, both within and outside of Chicago since their creation on April 6, 1930 is not. Over 500 million Twinkies are sold each day, and April 6 of each year is officially known within the U.S. as National Hostess Twinkie Day. Twinkies hold such a power over citizens of the U.S. that when Hostess went into bankruptcy in 2012, forcing the country to live Twinkie-less, it was on the news for weeks. One long year after the bankruptcy, Twinkies hit the shelves once again when Hostess was bought at 410 million dollars by Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co., which saw the strong demand for the classic snack as worth capitalizing on.
The Twinkies that we know and love today are not the same as the original ones created by James Alexander Dewar, who was working for the Continental Banking Company at the time of his game-changing epiphany. The baker saw a use for the shortbread pans the company commonly utilized during strawberry season. The pans, which typically sat idle when strawberries shortcakes could not be made, were put to good use. Dewar created a banana filling and used the shortbread pans to form the outside breading of the Twinkie. Banana filling was used until World War II, when bananas became scarce due to limited imports, and a vanilla filling was substituted permanently. While other fillings have made brief debuts, the vanilla Twinkie filling has remained a constant staple in the sugary dessert world. Not only has the flavor changed slightly over time, but the name of the classic stack has as well. When first created, Twinkies were referred to as “Shortcake Fingers,” referencing the way in which they were made and looked. The name then became “Twinkie Fingers” and eventually adapted into “Twinkie.” Some say that the name was inspired by an advertisement for a shoe company called Twinkle Toe Shoes, which was outside of the baking company Dewar worked for.
Although many people do not like Twinkies, the creator was always a big fan of his own work. In a 1980 interview with the Associated Press, the 83-year-old proudly remarked, “I eat Twinkies every day and smoke a pack and a half of cigarettes.” He also claimed that his weight and well-being hadn’t faltered in the slightest due to his Twinkie eating habits. Although Dewar died in 1985, many believe he would be proud of the impact his invention has on the U.S. today. The classic snack continues to live on through massive sales, media, and nostalgia.