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Pillsbury History

“Bicep Doughboy” image was born in July of 1981!

Friends,

Although it is a bit anticlimactic, we now know that the recently found “Bicep Doughboy” image was born in July of 1981. We successfully contacted the panel manufacturer (Automated Display Incorporated) after finding the panel model and serial numbers. The panel was created by the ADI team under contract from Pillsbury. The Pillsbury Company provided the Bicep Doughboy image for integration into the panel graphic. Clearly, the image was included as a symbol of pride in manufacturing at the Springfield plant. It speaks well to the company culture that existed. The image embodies everything we have heard from former Pillsbury employees…the Springfield plant was a great place to work, and many fond memories still exist.

Sooo…What does this mean for the doughboy origination story that has spawned from this research? Was the original doughboy created here in Springfield by an employee at the plant in the late 1950’s? Well, it is still quite plausible that Wynn “Wilky” Wilkins created the original doughboy image here in Springfield.

The circumstantial evidence is strong. Wynn worked at the Springfield plant as a teen then served in the Navy during WWII. He returned to work at Pillsbury in 1946, had art schooling, and is listed in the 1955 Springfield Safety Circle published at the local plant as “artist”. He clearly had the training and talent. There are many examples of his works. His best friend, Jim “Jaws” Shrake, told many people that Wynn was the originator and is said to have tried to convince Wynn to take credit for it. Several former employees at the plant also believe that Wynn was the originator.

What is missing here? Wynn not taking credit is missing. He was a salaried supervisor by the late 1950’s and may have felt that it was simply a part of his job. Afterall, he produced many images during his time at Pillsbury. It wasn’t until later, in 1965, that the doughboy became a big hit in advertising. Wynn left employment at Pillsbury in late 1962 or early 1963. He had moved on to other things by 1965. He passed away in 2010.

What else is missing? A signed and dated Wynn “Wilky” Wilkins doughboy image. We don’t yet have a doughboy image that can be tied to Wynn directly. Is there one (or more) that exists? Maybe. His descendants have not been able to find one. Former employees at the Springfield plant kept many of his cartoon images but there are no doughboys included.

So where does this leave us? We will continue looking for a doughboy image that can be tied directly to Wynn Wilkins. There is still a chance that there is one (or more) out there. We will also document former employee stories. It is hard to know where these will lead. The history here is fascinating.

We must also note that another former employee has been researched as a possible originator of the doughboy. George Colin was tagged in conversations early in our research. He worked at the Springfield Pillsbury plant from 1948 to 1975 and went on to become a well-known folk artist. His life story is well recorded. His existing family was contacted. They had no evidence, images or stories, from George Colin to support his being the doughboy originator.

Thanks for being a part of the Pillsbury Project,

MPF Research Team

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Yes, Wynn Wilkins is presumed to be the artist for the “Springfield Pillsbury Ship” image on the Springfield Safety Circle. It is easy to imagine that the doughboy with his sailor scarf was a crew member on that ship. Wynn and his best friend Jim both served in the Navy during WWII.

We have a good supply of Pillsbury timecards (2000) found in the plant office storeroom.
The “Bicep Doughboy” was found on a control panel door in the bakery mix portion of the former Springfield Pillsbury plant in early December 2022.