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The Twinkie Connection

Find out how the snack cakes got their start in town from a chain-smoking, Twinkie-loving resident of Oak Park and River Forest.

Americans love their Twinkies—the company that creates these everlasting treats claims it sells over 500 million a year.

But no more.

Hostess Brands Inc., the makers of Twinkies, Wonder Break, Ding Dongs and Ho Ho's, will begin the process of selling off these brands in a court in New York on Monday, according to the Huffington Post.

That's good news for Twinkie fans—it means the iconic snack cake will likely live on, as other companies look to purchase the brand for its name recognition and significant sales. 

However, even with all this talk of Twinkies of late, what you might not know is that the snack cakes actually got their start very close to home—in River Forest.

According to the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, the inventor of the Twinkie was none other than James Dewar, of Oak Park and River Forest.

Dewar would have been skeptical of all the recent discussion surrounding the Twinkies dubious health record—he died at 88 years old, a proud chain-smoker who ate three Twinkies with milk before bed. He also credited his sons' athletic abilities with their growing up eating Twinkies. One even managed to play for the Cleveland Browns.

According to the historical society, Dewar invented the treat in 1931 when he was the manager of the Continental Baking Co. plant in River Forest, which was eventually renamed the Hostess Cake Company. He was the guy who got the great idea to fill up shortcake with a creamy white filling.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Dewar got the name for the Twinkie from a billboard for Twinkle Toes Shoes, which he then shorted to simply, Twinkie.

See a timeline of the Twinkie's history in Chicago on the Chicago Tribune website by clicking here.

Share Your Story:

Tell us your Twinkie memories in comments below. When did you eat your first Twinkie? Were they a standard lunch treat in your bag? Anyone remember the first Twinkies in River Forest in the early 30s?

ruth November 20, 2012 at 03:20 AM
I was at navy pier when they celebrated the Twinkies 65 birthday on either April 7 or 9 and they said it was 1930 not 1931.
Mary Schmidt November 20, 2012 at 05:32 AM
My mother used to bring home a big bag of Hostess cakes--Twinkies and Cupcakes--from the store at the factory on Central Ave. in River Forest. She would hide them for special treats. There were six of us kids---someone always found the bag! I do remember that the original recipes for both cakes tasted much better than the current products.
Tom November 20, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Hadn't had one in 20 years and bough some the other day. Didn't know that Polysorbate 60 was a chemical by product from the war which they had to get rid of and it made it into our food supply. From this Sunday's tribune- "But the tasty cakes originally made with milk and eggs had a shelf life of two or three days, Ettlinger said from his home in New York City. By the 1940s, postwar America was pushing hard for consumer convenience and had a huge chemical capacity surplus from the war effort, Ettlinger said. That combination led food scientists to find new uses for, among other chemical concoctions, polysorbate 60. The petroleum-based egg yolk substitute includes a toxic gas used to thicken paint and rocket fuel, Ettlinger said. Polysorbate 60 also happens to be a Twinkie ingredient."
Matthew Hendrickson November 20, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Thanks Mary, maybe they still have some "real" ingredients? From what I understand, before the Twinkie was the Twinkie, these were filled with real strawberries.
Matthew Hendrickson November 20, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Whoa. Thanks for this bit of trivia, Tom!

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