Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2012 Issue

What Do Newsweek and Twinkies Have in Common?

Htwinkies

The iconic Twinkies.

Food for the soul? No, that's not it. Unless you have spent the last few weeks hiding under a rock, you undoubtedly know that both will cease to exist as we have known them. Newsweek, the venerable weekly news magazine, was founded in 1933 as an alternative to Time. It has spent most of the past 80 years as number 2, but still a large circulation, successful alternative. However, the past few years have been rocky – declining circulation, sales to new ownership, and mergers dotting the way. Ultimately, they were but a delaying tactic. Newsweek's story is the same as that of so many other newspapers and magazines. Free, instant news from the internet stole their audience. Paper and ink could not compete with electronic impulses. Newsweek will continue in a different form. No more paper and ink, it will no longer appear on newsstands, no longer show up in your mailbox. It will, instead, become a website only. Why there is a need for a weekly review of the news website in a day when people want news the moment it happens is unclear, but we wish them well. Presumably, they will at least offer a more thorough presentation.

The end of Newsweek was a brief story. Most heard about it, but if anyone rushed out to the newsstand to pick up some last copies, it did not make the news wires. It was nice to have known you, goodbye. The Twinkies story was more momentous. People did fly to their grocers to pick up last available packages of these favorites, and the other snack cakes made by the dying Hostess Brands. Newsweek was respected, Twinkies are an icon.

The demise of Twinkies is a bit more complicated a story. They were invented three years before Newsweek, and they and the stable of Hostess cakes have filled grocers' shelves from coast to coast for generations. Changing tastes, and particularly more focus on healthy foods, hurt their popularity, but their parent bakery's bankruptcies - it is now on its second – costly reorganization, debts, Wall Street ownership, and an unwillingness by some workers to accept further wage cuts, signaled their end. They will not be replaced by digital versions, nor by carrots either, no matter what nutritionists tell us. Rights to their brands will likely be bought by someone else, who will then bake “new” Twinkies. Whether they will be the same is anyone's guess. Replicating the astonishing list of ingredients won't be easy.

It is that list of ingredients, along with the iconic name, that made Twinkies such a symbol of 20th century America. It is also what makes this story appropriate for a book website. Five years ago, I reviewed the book Twinkie, Deconstructed, by Steve Ettlinger, for this website. Click here for the review. The author tracked down the myriad of strange sounding ingredients and what role each played in creating a Twinkie. Suffice it to say, a single Twinkie has more ingredients then a typical seven-course dinner, and most of them are unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce.

The strange ingredients led to much bad press for the Twinkie. It may have been unfair. The ingredients in a Twinkie, like fresh fruits and vegetables, arise from the good earth. The only difference is, instead of being grown, they are mined. Some people are troubled by this.

While Twinkies were the star, Hostess provided many other varieties of snack cakes, and delicious as they were, I would only put Twinkies in the middle. Superior, in my estimation, were the Suzy Q's, with the greatest quantity of Hostess's chemically wondrous “creme” filling, their cupcakes with the squiggly lines on top (among the ingredients in those squiggly lines is pig fat), and greatest of all, nature's perfect food, the Sno Ball. An unscientific lifelong survey tells me that 90% of the public detests these pink and white round combinations of coconut, marshmallow, chocolate cake, and, of course, “creme.” For the other 10%, they are the most wonderful things ever created. Count me in the 10%.

Going down with the Hostess cakes is another classic American brand owned by its corporate parent – Wonder Bread. Probably every young person of my generation ate sandwiches made with Wonder Bread everyday for their entire youth, such was its popularity. Wonder Bread was the whitest of white breads, thoroughly bleached of anything that might conceivably be good for you. Somehow, it still “built strong bodies 12 ways,” but nutritionally certainly wasn't one of those twelve ways. I can't imagine what they were.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Published Half Plate Ambrotype of a North Carolina Confederate Officer. $2,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two 19th Century Books Pertaining to Canada's Red River Settlement. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Two Books With Fore-Edge Paintings of British Architectual Landmarks. $400 to $600
    <b>Leland Little: Important Fall Auction. September 22, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987), "Torte a la Dobosch" from <i>Wild Raspberries</i>. $1,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990), <i>Pop Shop II,</i> One Plate screenprint in colors, on wove paper, 1998. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Leland Little, Sep. 22:</b> Thomas Rowlandson (British, 1756-1827), Twenty-Two Prints from the <i>Tours of Dr. Syntax</i>. $500 to $1,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

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