There is some debate amongst historians about the origin of bagels. There are numerous etiologies of the word bagel. In Yiddish, it was beygel, from the Middle High German bouc and Old High German boug, both meaning a ring or bracelet. Another possible origin is from the German word bügel, for a round loaf of bread.
Some historians credit a Viennese baker for creating the bagel to commemorate the victory of Polish King Jan III Sobieski over the Turks in 1683.
The bread was formed into the shape of a buegel or stirrup, because the liberated Austrians had clung to the king's stirrups as he rode by.
Author Leo Rosten notes in The Joys of Yiddish that the first printed mention of the word bagel is in the Community Regulations of Cracow for 1610, which stated that the item was given as a gift to women in childbirth.
Some cultures regard the circular shape as the continuous life cycle and good luck.
The art of bagel-making used to be a closely-guarded secret. The International Beigel Bakers' Union was founded in New York City in 1907 (now disbanded), with the regulations permitting only sons of members as apprentices.
In 1927, Polish baker Harry Lender came to New Haven, Connecticut, USA, and founded the first bagel factory outside New York City. His company is credited with being the nation's first frozen bagel manufacturer and the first to put bagels in supermarkets, thus spreading baglemania to the masses.
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Bagel Photo © 2008 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.
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