There are two answers to why doughnuts have holes, a real answer and a popular mythical answer.
Let’s do them both.
The mythical answers include one popularized in Plymouth, Massachusetts, which claimed that an Indian shot an arrow through a window and punched a hole through oil cake dough.
Another myth involves a Maine sea captain named Hanson Gregory, who needed his hands free while steering through a storm.
He impaled the fried cake he was eating on one of the spokes of his wheel and decided the invention was so practical that the ship’s cook should make the holes on purpose from then on.
An alternative version of the story has it that Gregory was 15 years old when he suggested adding the hole to his mother as she made oil cakes.
Downtown Rockport, Maine, has a bronze plaque commemorating Gregory.
The real answer is that a hole in the center of fried baked goods solves the problem of uncooked, doughy centers.
The Pennsylvania Dutch discovered this method, but so did southwestern Native American tribes centuries earlier: petrified doughnuts, or at least fried cakes with holes in them, have been discovered among their artifacts.