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 Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from February 17, 2009
Pretzel (Soft Pretzel)

Entry in progress—B.P.

Wikipedia: Pretzel
Pretzels are either soft or hard. Hard pretzels have evolved into a variety of shapes from knotted loops to straight “pretzel sticks” (called “Salzstangen” in German, Ropi in Hungarian). The pretzel dough is made from wheat flour, water, sugar and yeast, sprinkled with coarse salt. Pretzels are typically salted and glazed with lye. Pretzels can be found in a variety of shapes and sizes. Traditional soft pretzels are about the size of a hand. Most hard pretzels are only 2-3 mm thick. Hard pretzels which are 0.8-1.5 cm thick are called Bavarian pretzels.

In the United States pretzels are a popular snack, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania being the center of pretzel history and production. One U. S. pretzel variety is “yogurt-covered pretzels” (or “ghost-face"), with a thin coating of yogurt. Hard pretzels are also available with a sweet candy coating of chocolate, strawberry and other flavors. Chocolate-covered hard pretzels are very popular, especially around Christmas time. Other serving possibilities include pretzels dipped in mustard.

In Germany pretzels are common in Southern Germany (Swabia, Baden and Bavaria), and Switzerland, where they are often sliced horizontally, buttered and sold as “Butterbrezel”. In Bavaria they eat pretzels for breakfast, with Weisswurst sausage. In Hungary they are called “perec”. Big soft salty unglazed pretzels arrive every morning to the bakery shops together with the freshly baked bread, and are sold fresh in almost every bakery shop. They are popular pastriespoopn meals, eaten alone or together with yoghurt or milk. Tiny hard glazed pretzels and pretzel sticks are sold in packages as snacks.
History of the American Pretzel
Cities in the United States like Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York are also famous for their soft pretzels and the state of Pennsylvania is a core area for hard pretzel history and production. The annual United States pretzel industry is worth over $550 million. The average American consumes about 1.5 pounds (0.7 kg) of pretzels per year. Southeastern Pennsylvania, with its large German population, is considered the birthplace of the American pretzel industry and many pretzel bakers are still located in the area. The average Philadelphian consumes about twelve times more pretzels than the national average.

1700 - The soft pretzel was part of the southern German and Swiss German tradition. The large immigrant population became the thrifty Pennsylvania Dutch culture. The pretzels popularity spread and, in time, many handmade pretzel bakeries dotted the Pennsylvania Dutch landscape.

1861 - Sturgis bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania, becomes the first commercial pretzel bakery in the US in 1850. Long wooden paddles, also known as “peels,” were used by the baker and his helper to place the pretzels on a stationary stone or brick hearth in the oven. A wider “peel” was then used to remove the pretzels from the oven.

1884 - Bachman pretzel bakery founded in Reading, Pennsylvania.

1885 - Among the German population of Cincinnati, Ohio, the spelling “bretzel” is used. It is an Americanization of the pronunciation of the German word “brezel.” City business directories during the 1880s have a classification for “Bretzel Bakeries”, but not for “Pretzel Bakeries.”

1889 - The Anderson Pretzel Factory, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, calls itself the world’s largest (65 tons daily). They have made pretzels by hand from 1889 to 1955 when machines were added.

1909 - Snyder’s of Hanover founded in Hanover, Pennsylvania.

1922 - Federal Baking Company South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was founded by Italian American Edmund Nacchio who followed his mother Maria Nacchio’s bakery pretzels that she began baking in 1922. It was continued by the various family members for four generations until it was sold to J&J Snack foods in the year 2000. Federal Baking lays claim for being the oldest baking soft pretzels in the city and made a major impact on the popular culture of Philadelphia comfort foods. This soft pretzel became synonymous with the Philadelphia soft pretzels. It was often slathered with yellow mustard estimated at a quart for each 200 pretzels sold. Street vendors for 80 years sold them on street corners in wooden glass enclosed cases or employed young boys to make extra cash who walked through the streets carrying baskets loaded with soft hot pretzels yelling aloud the phrase ’Fresh Pret-zels’ It became a staple Philadelphia food for snacking at school, at work or home and considered by most to be a quick meal

1935 -The modern age of pretzel making began when the Reading Pretzel Machinery Company first introduced the automatic pretzel twisting machine. Prior to that, most commercial pretzels were actually shaped by a cracker-cutting machine, then placed on baking pans and put into the baking ovens by hand.

1946 -Tom Sturgis Pretzel Company founded by Marriot D. “Tom” Sturgis, grandson to Julius. The first bakery was located on Grape Street in Reading, where the current Reading Area Community College is located. The giant pretzel in the front of the building serving as a landmark.

1948 - At the bicentennial of the city, there were at least 15 pretzel bakeries in the Reading/Berks area. The key to the City of Reading even has a pretzel on it

1960 - By 1960, total pretzel sales reached $92 million. In the mid-60’s, pretzels were the fourth most popular snack in the US and the number one snack with beer. Pretzel technology moved from machine-twisting to die-cut production.

1963 -Largest pretzel of its time was baked: It was 40 lbs, 5-feet across baked by Joseph Nacchio of Federal Baking, Philadelphia, PA. The largest pretzel in the movies at 20 lb., 4’ pretzel shown in the 1963 movie “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World” by the same baker.

1978 -First machine produced soft pretzel. Federal Baking Company used the original 1922 recipe but the last hand-twisted pretzel was made in 1978. Labor became too expensive and workers too hard to find. Machines were designed and at 7 pretzels a second, nearly 60,000 are extruded and baked daily. There was no change in taste or texture. The pretzel were of the same dimensions but denser and heavier (three and a half to four ounces) than the hand-twists sampled, and bears the unmistakable grainy machine surface. It also baked longer and hotter at 12 minutes. A wholewheat soft pretzel was attempted but harder to work in the machine and was discontinued.

1993 - The Pretzel Museum opens in Philadelphia by members of the Nacchio family dynasty to highlight the area’s preference for their more unique more rectangle shaped styled pretzels being baked soft and unlike the dominant more circular hard pretzels produced in western Pennsylvania. Champion hand pretzel twister Helen Hoff demonstrated producing 57 pretzels per minute at this first museum.

2003 - Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell declares April 26th “National Pretzel Day” to acknowledge the importance of the pretzel to the state’s history and economy. Congress declared it in 1983, but stopped the “commemorative day” practice in 1998. Pennsylvania produces 80% of the nation’s pretzels.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
[< German Bretzel kind of bread roll, made from a thin length of dough twisted into a knot and coated with brine before baking (now usually Brezel; Old High German as brzila, Middle High German brzel, przel, przile) < post-classical Latin bracellus kind of cake or biscuit (12th cent.), shortened < an unattested post-classical Latin form *brachiatellus (compare post-classical Latin bracidelli (plural) bakery items (in an undated glossary)) < classical Latin brachitus, bracchitus BRACHIATE adj. (compare post-classical Latin braciatus (noun) kind of cake eaten on monastic holidays (11th cent.)) + -ellus -ELLUS suffix; so called on account of the resemblance to folded arms. Compare Italian bracciello a kind of cake, simnel, or biscuit (1598 in Florio).

Compare (< post-classical Latin *brachiatellus) Old High German brzitella, Old Occitan bressadel, brassadel kind of ring-shaped cake (1480; Occitan braçadèl type of cake made with eggs, cake in the shape of a braid), Italian bracciatello kind of ring-shaped cake (second half of the 15th cent., also as bracciatella).

The English form with initial p- probably represents a perception of the unaspirated pronunciation of b- in regional German (south.).]

A usually salted thin length of bread, characteristically cooked in the shape of a knot; (now usually) a small, crisp version of this, typically studded with coarse salt and eaten as a snack.
[c1824-38 G. FURMAN Antiquities Long Island (1874) 261 Our honest, good-natured Dutch ancestors, who in their time were satisfied with the Oly Cookes, Pretzies, [etc.].]
1831 Ohio Repository 23 Dec. 8/6 (advt.) Fresh rusks, light cakes, and sugar pretzels.
1856 Spirit of Age (Sacramento, Calif.) 27 Mar. 3/1 ‘What is the German diet?’ ‘Sourkrout, pretzels, plutworst, and lager beer.’
1857 C. KINGSLEY Two Years Ago III. ix. 271 After him came..like in Struwelpeter, Caspar, bretzel in hand.
1897 Outing 30 134/1 She brought me some pretzels and a stein that she said her mother brought from the fatherland.
1932 E. WILSON Devil take Hindmost vii. 45 The pretzel man with his basket and the roast-chestnut man have come out again.
1968 MRS. L. B. JOHNSON White House Diary 7 Feb. (1970) 627 Little round tables with cokes and pizza, peanuts and pretzels.
1975 New Yorker 31 Mar. 29/2 She dumps an armful of immense pretzel stick cuttings into the pail.
2004 Tallahassee (Florida) Democrat (Nexis) 23 Aug. A4 George Bush was wounded as commander in chief by falling off the couch while eating a pretzel.

From the clippings files in Temple University is this letter:

A. R. Hofheinz
8330 Cottage Street
Phila. 36, Penna.
Mr. Theo Wilson
Bulletin Staff

Dear Sir:
I have just read your very interesting article about the 90th Brithday of
the Pretzel.  I thought you might be interested to know that the first
pretzel baked in Philadelphia was in 1837 by a man named Frederick Trefz at
703-705 New Market Street, in the Northern Liberties.  “Old TImers” will, no
doubt, remember that Bakery.  I, myself, worked there from 1897 to 1900, for
the successor to Mr. Trefz, whose name was Philip Becker.  He took the bakery
over in 1850.  He told me several times that the said Mr. Trefz baked both
soft and hard (or cracker pretzels) pretzels from the beginning.
I also know that soft and hard petzels were baked in Reading in the 1850’s
by two men named Mayer.
Originally pretzels were baked in the Southwestern part of Germany.
I trust this little information may be of some interest to you.

Yours truly,
A. R. Hofheinz

The Rural and Domestic Life of Germany
By William Howitt
Philadelphia, PA: Carey and Hart
Pg. 43, col. 2:
At Fastnacht, or carnival, they make what they call Fassen-bretzel, or Fasching-pratzel.  It is like a serpent with two heads rolled into a circle; which is eaten in families during that time, and is a sort of unleavened bread.

18 September 1858, pg. 959.
This is a story of Baron Frederick Von Oertel, who sold “Bretzels” in St. Louis and was well known as “Bretzel Fritz.” In part:
“His pride was thoroughly broken down, and for a livelihood the Baron actually took to selling ‘bretzels,’ a kind of pastry in much favor with the Germans.  He continued at this paltry but honest business for sixteen or eighteen years, and gained the appellation of ‘Bretzel Fritz.’”
This 1858 story dates before the Sturgis Pretzel Factory of 1861.  But “Bretzel Fritz” was selling them in St. Louis for SIXTEEN OR EIGHTEEN YEARS?  This story, from a St. Louis newspaper, had no reason to lie at this early a date.  Is Sturgis sunk?

Crippin, William G. (1820-1863)
Pg. 232:  ..."der krout and der pretzel.”

1 September 1857, NEW YORK TIMES, pg. 1:
Without taking into account the babies in arms, or the little children who could bite _bretzel_ and sip lage bier, there were twenty thousand people…

3 January 1895, NEW YORK TIMES, pg. 6 (From Dayton, Ohio):
Each day 100 loaves of bread and one barrel of pretzels, with mustard, are given away as a free lunch, while sandwiches containing 10 cents worth of cheese are disposed of for half that amount.

30 January 1959, NEW YORK TIMES, pg. 52:
SOFT wholesale pretzel busn, for sale, terrific buy, gd location EV 1-4531.

28 December 1960, NEW YORK TIMES, pg. 30:
_Pretzels Ride New Wave_
_Of Popularity in Subway_
(...) The stands are operated by the Metropolitan Soft Pretzel Corporation, two of whose executives--Sam Schwartz and Herbert Koppleman--first thought of selling pretzels from stands in front of a major chain store in Westbury, L.I., in 1956.  Until then, the items were hawked by street peddlers from baskets with tall poles.  Sales were limited even when candy stores sold them, too.
(...) Mr. Knobler suggests toasting the pretzels and then topping them with smooth cheese or mustard.  The latter is a favorite combination in Philadelphia, where the pretzel first achieved popularity in this country.

25 June 1961, NEW YORK TIMES, pg. SM52:
The pretzel has even crept into our slang: French horns are sometimes called “pretzels” by their players, and a “pretzel bender” can mean a musician who plays one, a wrestler, or a man who drinks too much.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (2) Comments • Tuesday, February 17, 2009 • Permalink