In the spring of 1950, a small donut shop in Quincy changed its name from Open Kettle to Dunkin’ Donuts. Over the next seven decades, Dunkin’ grew into a multi-billion dollar brand, with more than 11,000 stores worldwide.
UMass Boston History Professor Bonnie Miller helped tell the story of how founder Bill Rosenberg transformed Dunkin’ Donuts into one of the world’s largest coffee and bakery chains in a recent episode of The History’s hit documentary series Channel The food that built America.
The episode, titled “Do or Donut”, focuses on the rise of Dunkin’ and Krispy Kreme and the rivalry born of their fame, using dramatic recreations and commentary from historians, chefs and titans of the food industry. It aired on March 13 and can be streamed on the History Channel website.
Miller said the History Channel producers were looking for a Boston-area food historian to provide expert commentary on the episode.
“They took me to their studios in Newark, New Jersey and filmed a three hour interview with me. It was an exciting experience,” she said.
Miller teaches AMST/HIST 285L: Food in American Culture Course, examining the history of food in the United States from the colonial era to the present day. Students learn about the fast food industry, its influence, global tastes and business practices.
A class session dives deep into the history of coffee, examining various aspects of the history of coffee, from its beginnings related to trade, cultural diffusion and the rise of slavery to the politics, the environment and health. impacts of coffee production in the last century.
“We’re looking at a case study, for example, on the history of Colombian coffee and its political, economic and social impacts there,” she said. “We also look at global coffee production and talk about its global environmental impacts. Finally, we talk about the rise of coffee chains and how it has transformed coffee drinking patterns in the United States.
While Miller focuses more on Starbucks history than Dunkin’ Donuts in the classroom, the New England chain finds a way to enter the conversation.
“Inevitably, students have a brief debate over which channel is better, but what’s clear is that we have a student body that loves to buy coffee!” she said. “There’s a lot of local and on-campus pride for the DD brand.”