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. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from December 23, 2004
“Keep Your Eye Upon the Donut” (Optimist’s Creed)
The Mayflower coffee and donut shops (1930s-1970s) used this "Optimist's Creed" as its motto. The poem pre-dates the Mayflower.

15 April 1904, New York (NY) Sun, pg. 6, col. 5:
Their Points of View.
'Twixt optimist and pessimist
The difference is droll;
The optimist the doughnut sees -
The pessimist the hole.

14 August 1924, Shreveport (LA) Times, pg. 2, col. 4 ad:
"As you ramble through life, Brother
Whatever be your goal,
Keep your eyes upon the Doughnut
And not upon the hole"
(Peyton Drug Company. -- ed.)

13 January 1929, Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, pg. 6, col. 6:
Sign in Quarrier street restaurant. Advice for those who drink coffee and eat "sinkers."

"As you ramble through Life, Brother,
Whatever be your goal.
Keep your eye upon the doughnut,
And not upon the hole."

2 October 1930, Progress Review (La Porte City, Iowa), pg. 1, col. 6:
Have you tried McBride's Doughnuts? They contain Youma whole wheat flour. As you ramble on through Life, Brother, whatever be your Goal, keep your eye upon the Doughnut and not upon the hole.

21 December 1930, New York (NY) Times, pg. 48:

Small-Hole Cake Is by Far
the Best for Dunking
One Declares

To the Editor of The New York Times:
In conclusion I quote the following gem of philosophy, which not only discloses a truly Aristotelian understanding but also relegates the hole to its rightful place:

As you ramble on through life, brother,
Whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the doughnut
And not upon the hole.

New York, Dec. 16, 1930.

27 October 1931, Modesto (CA) News-Herald, pg. 7, col. 4 ad:
"As you ramble on through life, brother,
Whatever be your goal, keep your
Eye upon the doughnut and not upon the hole."
San Joaquin Baking Co.

12 October 1953, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. 2:
"Remember the doughnut shop that once was at Broadway and 8th St.? On the outside of the building this little ditty: "As you journey on through life, brother, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." - L. F. Kunstman, Los Angeles.

20 January 1972, Christian Science Monitor (Boston, MA), pg. 10:
Doughnuts: the hole story
Way back in 1932, FDR and Herbert Hoover added a homey touch to their campaigns by eating doughnuts at whistle-stop rallies. WIth the U.S. in the depths of a depression, both candidates, by coincidence, worked the "Optimists' Creed" into their speeches on several occasions...

As you ramble on thru life, brother,
Whatever be your goal,
Keep your eye upon the doughnut,
And not upon the hole!

6 May 1981, New York (NY) Times, pg. C4:
How Doughnuts Won America
When I was a child we always had boxes of doughnuts from the Mayflower coffee shops my grandfather had started. The doughnuts wore icing costumes as pink as ballet tutus, as green as leprechauns, and they were delicious.

On the box was a quaint insignia of two men in medieval jester's outfits, back to back, looking out at the doughnuts they held, one fat, the othe thin. Old-style print between them said: "As you ramble on through life, brother,/ Whatever be your goal,/ Keep your eye upon the doughnut,/ And not upon the hole." This poem, found in an old book, was my grandfather's philosophy.

8 April 1992, New York (NY) Times, pg. C14:
Bygone Food, Chock Full o' Memories

On the other hand, most fans of the Mayflower shops best remember whole doughnuts, not only because of the company's slogan: "As you ramble through life, keep your eye on the doughnut and not on the hole." The texture, the marriage of soft and crisp - have the Mayflower doughnuts ever been bettered? All kinds of people think not.

28 February 1999, New York (NY) Times, pg. CY2:
Eyes on the Doughnut

Q. Many years ago, after ice skating in Central Park, my parents would take my brother, my sister and me to a little coffee shop on the southeast corner of 59th Street and Fifth Avenue. On the wall were these words: As you ramble on through life, brother,/Whatever be your goal,/Keep your eye upon the doughnut,/And not upon the hole. Why?

A. You were in a Mayflower Doughnut shop, one of the last in the city, actually, and that bit of doggerel was the personal motto of the founder, Adolph Levitt. Known as the Optimist's Creed, the words were printed on each box of doughnuts sold in the Mayflower shops, where they were framed by two cartoon jesters, one frowning at a thin doughnut with a large hole, the other grinning at a plump one with almost no hole at all.

Mr. Levitt, an immigrant from Russia, first saw the anonymous verse in a picture frame he bought in a dime store, according to his granddaughter, Sally Levitt Seinberg.
...in 1931 he opened the first Mayflower doughnut shop. (...) Mayflower shops, all bearing the Optimist's Creed, dotted the city for decades, but had all but disappeared by the 1970's.

Goods and Services IC 030. US 046. G & S: DOUGHNUTS. FIRST USE: 19490125. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 19490125
Design Search Code 020116 020117 020701 020906 080109 240102 240103
Serial Number 71676326
Filing Date November 9, 1954
Current Filing Basis 1A
Original Filing Basis 1A
Registration Number 0617266
Registration Date December 6, 1955
Attorney of Record NEIL M ZIPKIN
Type of Mark TRADEMARK
Affidavit Text SECT 15.
Renewal 2ND RENEWAL 19970206
Live/Dead Indicator LIVE

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Thursday, December 23, 2004 • Permalink

Mayflower Donut shops were also in other cities.  we had one in Rochester when I was a kid (40s-50s).  I remember the apparent maxfield parrish Logo on the menus with the two sayings, one smiling figue eyeing the donut, and another sad one (back to back) eyeing a thin ring representing the hole.  Best part was the donut makingmachine in the window where one watched the dough plop into the grease, abd get moved along, flipped at the 50 yard libe, and the at the end going up a ramp to drain off.  Mom always took us ther around Christmas for a sit down lunch of pancakes/waffles.

Posted by Tom Smith  on  07/18  at  10:11 AM

Not sure to whom or how this posts, but I was very glad to find the info on the Mayflower Donut shop. My dad used to take me to one (must have been, although I’d forgotten the name) in White Plains, NY. I have remembered the poem for more than 50 years, and was thinking of using it in a publication and a story about the trips to the donut shop. If I remember correctly, there was also a place called the Treasure House, where I used to have The Tommy Tucker plate (turkey?) and for finishing my meal, I went to the Treasure Chest to pick a toy. How do I give proper credit?

Posted by D Emeigh  on  08/09  at  07:46 AM

Do you know where to find images that go with this?  I saw one in a doughnut store 50 years ago and would really like to find it again.

Posted by ebsowle  on  05/16  at  02:30 PM

Adolph Levitt was my mothers’ uncle and my father, Norman M. Dimen, A.I.A., was the architect for Donut Corp. of America and designed the Mayflower Coffee Shops and production facilities. There was a coffee shop in D.C. built in 1953 and a donut mix production facility in Jessup, MD. The latter was built in 1967.

On a wall in the NYC executive offices a 7 foot high rendition of this creed and graphic was displayed. Each letter and element was attached to and stood out from the wall.

I have a tie clasp with this design in miniature as well as some DCA multi-colored pencils.

Posted by Edward Dimen  on  05/21  at  04:55 PM

>>>If I remember correctly, there was also a place called the Treasure House, where I used to have The Tommy Tucker plate (turkey?) and for finishing my meal, I went to the Treasure Chest to pick a toy. How do I give proper credit?
Posted by D Emeigh on 08/09 at 07:46 AM<<<

There was a restaurant on Mamaroneck Avenue at the corner of Post Road in the 1950’s called John Ebersols which had a treasure chest for those who “finished their vegetables.” John Ebersols was about three blocks from the Mayflower Donut Shop on the corner of Quarropas Street and Court Street.

The Mayflower Donut Shop had a graphic behind the counter showing a little elf-like man pointing to a big dunks.

I remember all this but still can’t recall what I had for breakfast today. wink


Posted by Gary Gladstone  on  06/29  at  04:09 PM

I remember the Mayflower Coffee Shop at 59th St. and 5th Ave. well. I was in there a number of times in 1963. I miss all the old-time long-gone restaurants, coffee shops and cafeterias of NY and it’s often hard to find info about them.  I’ll name a few. The place with the conveyer-belt on West 57th, Rikers I believe, a chain called something like Ridgly’s, there was one on Sheridan Square. Well, that’s two.

Posted by William Cahill  on  07/23  at  08:14 AM

Yup, I remember the Treasure House.  Those were the days…

Posted by Executive Offices  on  08/06  at  09:03 AM

In the ‘50’s My father brought home boxes of doughnuts from the Mayflower shop in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Fifty years later I remeber the logo, and include it in my recitation of fundamental truths.  But then, I am an optimist.

Posted by Tom Erickson  on  08/14  at  06:15 PM

I use to work after school at the shop on dearborn ave in Chicago, it was near the Shurbert Theatre.  I remember being mesmorized by the donut machine putting out one right after the other, the smell permeating the air.  Shoppers would be enticed to stop for cup of coffee and would almost always grap a dozen to take home.  I still have a coffee mug with the logo on it.

Posted by Betty Nix (Thompson)  on  09/12  at  12:37 PM

Hello William,

I found a wonderful picture of Marilyn Monroe in her car in front of te “Mayflower Coffee Shop” NY. But I donĀ“t know which one it is. AT thir time there two Shops in NY:
777 5th Ave. Corner 59th Street and 1540 Broadway at 45th Street.

Can you help or other peoples here?

Link to the picture:

Posted by Cora  on  02/04  at  09:02 AM

I grew up in Cleveland Ohio and remember the Mayflower restaurant downtown. My dad used to take us there as a treat. I was infatuated with the cups they had. The design on the cup was the same as described in another post, “quaint insignia of two men in medieval jester’s outfits, back to back, looking out at the doughnuts they held, etc.’ My dad knew how much I loved those cups because they had a pedistal base and reminded me of a cup a lady would use. We didn’t have much money back then but my dad managed to scrape enough together to buy me one from the restaurant.  That was over 50 years ago. I still have that cup, in perfect condition. I still have the memories that surround it.

Posted by Kathleen Bramwell  on  02/26  at  02:35 PM

Image here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sashamd/4456918707/

Posted by smd  on  03/23  at  11:18 AM

50’s at Penn Station Train Waiting Area NYC

Posted by Wes Wood  on  07/17  at  08:02 AM

I worked for my dad at Dempsey & Carroll at 556 Madison Ave., back in the late 50s. One of my jobs, at 17-years old, was to go over to Lexington & 57th, get the coffee and also pick up their Whole-Wheat donuts; the best donut I ever had...to date!!
By golly, they were good days!  ...and GOOD donuts!!

John Diefenbach
Mason, NH

Posted by John A Diefenbach  on  07/22  at  05:54 PM

I am so delighted to discover this site!  The Mayflower Credo has been my watchword all of my life, impressed first upon me by my father. We often stayed at the Statler Hiltons in NYC and WDC where I was entranced with the credo and the donut holes.  I have used this credo as the introduction to every new employee who comes into the management of my company, and it is often referred to when there is concern about going astray.  To me it was always a credo of focus, remaining true to what is the most important. 

I was explaining this at a lunch meeting in Amsterdam a few years ago, and a Dutch television producer heard the story.  He asked if he could record me telling the story, which of course I did.  He was the first person who I ever heard refer to the credo as a credo of optimism!  It was very important to me as it deepens what was already a treasure.  The credo was then used as the subject for an entire theatre piece and TV production in Amsterdam, a series called “Lives in the City.”

I have one Mayflower coffee mug with the credo and I treasure it.  If any others are available I would love to buy them.

Posted by Gary Wasserman  on  07/24  at  06:49 AM

There was a Mayflower coffee shop in Oakland, California on Broadway in the 1940’s - 1950’s. The doughnut machine was in the front window and you could see the yummy doughnuts floating in the oil.

At the shop’s entrance was a “Keep your eye upon the doughnut” sign. I would like to make a reproduction of that sign to hang in my wood shop. Does anyone know where I could find a picture or photo of that sign?

Posted by Richard Smith  on  09/17  at  01:03 PM

Here’s the URL for a print version of the Optimists Creed sign which included, “...keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole.”


Remember this?


Posted by Gary Gladstone  on  09/17  at  09:30 PM

Many thanks to you Gary. I haven’t laid eyes on one of those signs for years and no idea the following they had.

I copied the image from the site you gave. I really appreciate your help. Again, many, many thanks.

Posted by Richard Smith  on  09/18  at  11:03 AM

Does anyone know who the artist was who created the wonderful visual artowork to go with the credo?  Thank you.

Posted by Hal Ottaway  on  10/31  at  05:12 PM

Thanks so much for this.  I just bought a couple of pedestal mugs for a Christmas gift that have the medieval design on them along with the motto.  I loved them immediately, but had no idea about the history behind the saying.

Posted by Molly  on  12/03  at  06:32 PM

I grew up in New Rochelle NY and the Mayflower coffee shop was located right across the street from my school and church.  The donut machine was in the front window and I can still picture the donuts on the conveyor belt, the wonderful smell of the donuts, and of course how delicious the still warm donuts were.

Posted by Susan Skiff  on  03/09  at  07:33 PM

I lived in Chicago for a year in 1968.On my day off I would go to the Mayflower on Dearborn.I loved it there the doughnuts and the coffee were amazing. I brought my Dad a mug with the logo on it.I still have it It brings back wonderful memories

Posted by susan willocks  on  03/12  at  09:41 PM

I remember the poem from the Big Doughnut shop on Manchester Blvd in Los Angeles (Inglewood), CA in the 50’s. There was a graphic of a medieval type guy looking at a huge doughtnut that was mostly hole. He was giving to viewer a surprised look.  It was and is an amazing place with that huge doughnut on top. It had dual drive-up windows on each side. Ahead of the times again...that’s California. People still line up all down the sidewalk for the doughnuts and drive up as well....especially on Sunday mornings!

Posted by Kathleen Murphy  on  03/14  at  11:41 PM

I am 72-yrs. old and when as a young boy; my father would buy a Sunday Los Angeles newspaper...not sure the publication. On the top was a figure identified as ‘Puck’ along with an inscription, “keep your eye upon the donut and not upon the hole”. Seems that would put the time period in the late ‘40’s. Maybe someone else has such memory as to an earlier time. I believe (but not sure) the paper was the Los Angeles Examiner.

Posted by Ron Moore  on  05/14  at  02:02 PM

In 1949, my girl friend (now wife)and I would to go to the movies, and follow up with coffee and donuts at the Mayflower Donut Shop on Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA

Posted by Joe Daley  on  08/12  at  12:43 AM

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