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Herman Loevenstein and assistants bake a one-ton apple pie in Yakima on October 15, 1927.
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On October 15, 1927, Yakima baker Herman Loevenstein and three assistants create and bake a one-ton apple pie to generate publicity for Yakima during National Apple Week. Female students from Yakima High School's domestic science classes and members of the Camp Fire Girls provide additional assistance and movie newsreel photographers record the event.
The Impulse to Bake Big
The Yakima Morning Herald explained the pie baking impulse:
"By making a pie larger than any ever made before, Yakima and its apples will be advertised in every city in the United States. It will be the biggest advertisement that Yakima apples ever had and millions of people will know of Yakima and its apples who perhaps heretofore have known nothing or very little of this locality" ("Companies Film...").
The pie was baked in an extra large oven constructed for the occasion on the grounds of the Central School. A local tinsmith created the enormous pie pan. Evaporated Fruits, Inc., a Selah company, furnished dried apples and delivered them to the Libby, McNeil, and Libby Cannery in Yakima. Libby, McNeil, and Libby precooked the apple slices. (Some contemporary newspapers include photographs of crowds of women seated on the ground peeling apples to be used for the pie. It is unclear whether these apples actually did end up in the giant pie or whether the apple peeling was staged for the benefit of the newsreel cameras.) Loevenstein, aided by assistants Joe Kinns, J. P. Manaur, Phil Dietzen, directed the action.
The pie crust was rolled out in sections on a long table using a six-foot rolling pin wielded by six of the girls. The Yakima Morning Herald described this as
"an excellent scene for picture purposes ... when the bottom dough was in place several barrels of cooked apples were dumped into the pan while girls with new garden rakes worked the material to a level. Four hundred gallons of apples were required. One hundred pounds of sugar was strewn over the pie by the girls when the filling was completed and Mrs. Thomas Wilson spread two and one-half pounds of cinnamon. When the top crust was in place 20 girls crimped the pastry around the edges of the pan" ("Companies Film ...").
The brick door of the special oven was so heavy it had to be opened using a block and tackle. The pie was transferred to the oven using a windlass, pulleys, and cables. Newspaper accounts state that baking time was one hour, although it is difficult to know how the crust of such an enormous pie could have possibly baked completely in that amount of time.
The Yakima Morning Herald continued, "To add to the spectator aspect of the stunt the pie was hauled out of the oven with a tractor. When the pie came out to rest on the platform built to receive it, the youngsters through prearrangement made a grand rush for the pie while the cameramen busied themselves filming the scene." The pie was sliced with a specially made knife with a four- foot blade. More than 1,000 spectators shared the giant treat.
Baking Big Without A Hitch
Movie audiences around the country saw the resulting newsreel, indelibly linking the name Yakima with apples in the public consciousness. The Yakima Morning Herald reported:
"Baking of the huge apple pie weighing a ton and measuring ten feet across as a publicity stunt for national apple week was carried through Saturday on the old Central school grounds without a hitch. The various processes of making the pie furnished excellent picture features which were eagerly filmed by representatives of four national news reel companies. The cameramen were enthusiastic over the stunt and declared at the close of the affair that the film would be eminently acceptable to their companies and that it would be shown throughout the United States and foreign countries and would be seen by upwards of 125,000,000 persons" ("Companies Film...").
The publicity stunt occurred two weeks before that year's official National Apple Week. This was in order to give the newsreel companies time to develop and distribute the film footage.
The publicity stunt was the brainchild of Rolfe Whitnall, secretary of the Yakima Valley Traffic and Credit Association National Apple Week committee. The Yakima Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event. In addition to their pie-baking duties, during Apple Week the Camp Fire Girls met every train that stopped in Yakima and offered passengers free apple cider.
Valley of the Strong ed. by Joseph C. Brown (Yakima: Westcoast Publishing, 1974), 45; Maurice Helland, They Knew Our Valley (Yakima: M. Helland, 1975), 108; "Companies Film Huge Apple Pie," Yakima Morning Herald, October 16, 1927.
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