When you push a shopping cart down the baking goods aisle at the supermarket, you might notice Duncan Hines cake mixes. The popular product line is the offshoot of a pioneering salesman who introduced it in the mid-20th Century.
Duncan Hines was born on March 26, 1880 to a Confederate war veteran and his wife in Bowling Green, Kentucky. When Hines was still a young boy, his mother died, so he was raised by a grandmother. Following Hines’ public school education, he attended Bowling Green Business University. Afterwards, Hines worked for Wells Fargo until he settled in Chicago, Illinois as a travelling salesman.
Hines was on the road most of the time, so he had to eat in restaurants during his travels. Because eating out was quite risky in the early 20th Century, Hines kept a list of the better eating establishments he encountered. Eventually friends, colleagues, and clients asked for his recommendations. This happened so often that Hines knew he had to publish a guidebook. In 1936, the first edition of Adventures in Good Eating was printed.
Duncan Hines had strict standards and practiced good business ethics. He never accepted advertising nor free meals in return for any reviews. Furthermore, any restaurant that hoped for a review had to allow their kitchens to be open for public inspection by any patron. Because of this requirement, restaurants were motivated to modernize their kitchens and improve their cleanliness. In effect, Hines’ Adventures in Good Eating was the forerunner of today’s Michelin Restaurant Guide and Yelp!
Hines’ restaurant guidebook was a best seller so he kept it current with frequent updates. Two years later, Hines printed Lodging for a Night. Then, in 1939, his cookbook, Adventures in Good Cooking came out. In the 1940s and early 1950s, Hines penned a syndicated newspaper column.
In 1952, Hines introduced his name brand bread via the Durkee Bakery Company of Homer, New York. The following year he sold his name rights and his restaurant book title to Roy Park in order to establish Hines-Park Foods. That same year, Hines sold his cake mix license to Nebraska Consolidated Mills of Omaha. The Nebraska business developed and marketed the very first Duncan Hines boxed cake mixes in the 1950s.
The Nebraska company sold the cake mix division to Procter & Gamble in 1957. The Duncan Hines brand name is now owned by Pinnacle Foods of New Jersey.
Duncan Hines succumbed to lung cancer on March 15, 1959 and was buried at Bowling Green, Kentucky.