Sunday, May 06, 2007

Who killed Bob and Quienno?

In 1991, Wendell, Bob, Quienno were riding high. Their cereal, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, was a massive hit, selling millions of boxes and bringing them fame and fortune beyond their wildest dreams. But before long, it all came crashing down around them.

The following year would be the last time Bob and Quienno ever appeared in a commercial. Wendell remained the spokesperson, but his fellow bakers were never heard from again. What happened to them remains one of the greatest mysteries in the history of fortified cereal. Rumors flew -- about budget cutbacks, drug addictions, disputes over the morality of selling the horrendous reduced-sugar version, even racially-motivated murder.

The answer, it turns out, is contained in my Constitutional Law book. In 1905, New York passed law that limited the hours bakers could work each week to 60. The law was aimed at protecting bakers from omnipresent flour dust and the resulting respiratory problems and eye infections, not to mention rheumatism and swollen legs from standing all day. One professor even referred to the job of bakers as "among the hardest and most laborious imaginable."

This generated little sympathy from the Supreme Court, which struck down the law on the grounds that it interfered with the newly-invented concept of economic due process (which was subsequently overruled during the Great Depression in order to allow for New Deal legislation).

Why has General Mills kept this a secret from the American people? That question -- like the question of how Cap'n Crunch made an entire batch consisting solely of chocolate donuts -- remains a mystery.

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