A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from June 12, 2019
Bear Claw (pastry)

A “bear claw” pastry is usually filled with almond paste and sometimes raisins, and looks somewhat like a bear’s claw. The exact origin of the pastry is unknown, but it appears to have been popularized in California in the 1910s. The Hamburger’s department store in Los Angeles, California, possibly made the first “bear claw” pastries in 1915.

“Filled Bear Claws, Coffee Cake, 5c each” was printed in an advertisement for the Hamburger’s store in the Los Angeles (CA) Daily Times on April 10, 1915. “Bear Claws” was printed in The News-Messenger (Lincoln, CA) on January 28, 1916. “Bear Claws, 5c each” was printed in the Los Angeles (CA) Daily Times on August 5, 1916. “Apple-filled Bear Claws, 5 each” was printed in the Los Angeles (CA) Daily Times on February 10, 1917.

“What is a salmon’s least favorite type of pastry?"/"Bear claws” is a related riddle. “Bear Claw” is also the name of an ice cream flavor.


Wikipedia: Bear claw (pastry)
A bear claw is a sweet, yeast-raised pastry, similar to a Danish, originating in the United States during the mid-1920s. A bear claw is usually filled with almond paste, and sometimes raisins, and often shaped in a semicircle with slices along the curved edge, or rectangular with partial slices along one side. As the dough rises, the sections separate, evoking the shape of a bear’s toes, hence the name.

The name bear claw as used for a pastry is first attested in 1936. The phrase is more common in Western American English, and is included in the U.S. Regional Dialect Survey Results, Question #87, “Do you use the term ‘bear claw’ for a kind of pastry?”

10 April 1915, Los Angeles (CA) Daily Times, pt. 2, pg. 12, col. 2 ad:
Filled Bear Claws, Coffee Cake, 5c each.
(Hamburger’s.—ed.)

28 January 1916, The News-Messenger (Lincoln, CA), pg. 2, col. 1 ad:
Cakes such as Kranz Coffee Cakes—Stricel Coffee Cake—Bear Claws—Pretzels—Coffee Wreath Cakes, with and without Macaroon filling.
(Superior Home Bakery.—ed.)

5 August 1916, Los Angeles (CA) Daily Times, pt. 2, pg. 8, col. 6:
Bear Claws, 5c each.
(Hamburger’s.—ed.)

10 February 1917, Los Angeles (CA) Daily Times, pt. 2, pg. 8, col. 5 ad:
Apple-filled Bear Claws, 5 each.
(Hamburger’s.—ed.)

18 January 1919, Pueblo (CO) Chieftain, pg. 7, col. 2 ad:
Bear Claws, Cream Puffs, Chocolate Eclairs, Apple Turn-Overs, Mocha Tort Cakes, Butter Horns, Cheese Cakes and both cakes and raised Doughnuts.
(The Federal System of Bakeries.—ed.)

9 February 1919, Los Angeles (CA) Sunday Times, pt. 3, pg. 17, col. 1:
Now, tell me, did you ever taste my “race tracks”? Or “bear’s claws”? Well, they are worth a trip to town, as they are especially toothsome coffee cakes, some filled with nuts and almonds! These goodies, and many others, I buy at Young’s Market Company.

17 October 1919, The Arizona Republican (Phoenix, AZ), sec. 2, pg. 2, col. 6 ad:
Bear Claws,
each… 5c
(Bayless Grocery Co.—ed.)

27 January 1920, The Idaho Statesman (Boise, ID), pg. 3, col. 5 ad:
WONDERFUL PASTRIES
Snails, Neckties, Bear Claws, Scotch Buns, Cinnamon Rolls.
(Bake-Rite Bakery.—ed.)

26 June 1920, Los Angeles (CA) Daily Times, pt. 2, pg. 12, col. 7 ad:
Bear Claws, 9c each
(Hamburger’s.—ed.)

20 August 1920, Bay City (MI) Times Tribune, pg. 14, col. 2 ad:
Bear Claws or Butter Horns
(Vaughn’s Bakery.—ed.)

7 October 1920, The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, OR), pg. 14, col. 7 ad:
Pastries, Bear Claws, Snails, Butter Horns, Maple Bars, Nut Squares 10c
("The Coffee Cup” Lunch Rooms.—ed.)

15 October 1920, The Evening Tribune (San Diego, CA), pg. 18, col. 6 ad:
Watch our window for Scones, Doughnuts, Cinnamon Rings, Coffee Cake, Bear Claws, Etc.
(Federal System of Bakeries.—ed.)

3 October 1927, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 6, col. 1 ad:
A delicious assortment of Whole Wheat Snails, Orange Snails, Walnut and Raisin Butterhorns, Bear Paws, Danish Pastry, Raspberry and Custard Snails.
6 for 25c
(Lesser’s Washington Market.—ed.)

27 March 1928, Albany (OR) Democrat-Herald, pg. 2, col. 4 ad:
BEAR CLAWS
A pastry
Per dozen...30c
CURRAN’S BAKERY

4 May 1928, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 11, col. 1 ad:
BUTTERHORNS, PRETZELS, SNAILS, BEAR CLAWS, DANISH PASTRY; Assorted
6 for 25c
(Whitthorne & Swan.—ed.)

Google Books
What’s the Good Word?
By William Safire
New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers
1983
Pg. 93:
A jelly doughnut and a jelly roll, a turnover and a pocketbook, a Bismarck and a bear claw?

Google Books
American Regional Dialects:
A Word Geography

By Craig M. Carver
Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press
1987
Pg. 269:
A sweet pastry
danish (pastry): North
bear claw: West
maple bar: Northwest
long-john, bismarck: Upper Midwest
Pg. 292:
bear claw ( = pastry usually made with raisins and chopped nuts)

Google Books
Newsweek
Volume 127
1996
Pg. 75:
“It’s like when I was stuck in traffic right in front of a Shipley’s Donuts and there was a guy waiting to merge and he had a big ole bear-claw pastry in his hand. My mouth was watering.”

Google Books
QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins
By Robert Hendrickson
New York, NY: Facts on File
1998
Pg. 58:
bear paw. A popular pastry made with nuts and raisins that roughly suggests a bear’s paw in shape; also called a bear claw. It appears to have originated in California in about 1940.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Wednesday, June 12, 2019 • Permalink