Photo by Jeremy M. Lange. Photo illustration by JP Trostle.

Twelve billion times a year, a disc of vanilla cream is stamped between two chocolate wafers to produce the Oreo, the world's most popular manufactured cookie.

An American staple since 1912, the Oreo has a flavor that contrasts sweet cream and crisp chocolate cookies. Its texture is marked by a distinct decorative pattern: a small, circular border hatched with short, shallow lines and an interior ringed with four-leaf clovers. But the cookie, 491 billion of which have sold worldwide, still leaves some details in question.

"Who Made that Oreo Emboss?" read a recent headline on a New York Times blog.

"Bill, Chapel Hill, NC," answered: "My father is William A. Turnier. He worked for the entire 49 years of his working life at Nabisco. In 19[52] he was assigned the task of producing a new design for the Oreo."

It turns out Bill Turnier of Chapel Hill really is the son of the man who, by nearly all accounts, designed the modern Oreo. To many, Bill Turnier's comment wasn't breaking news. Cookie and design enthusiasts have long credited William A. Turnier as the cookie's artist—and no one else has publicly emerged to claim the title—but they've done so without knowing many details about his life.

Bill Turnier has those details—stories and memories of his dad, a former mail boy-turned-design guru who also put his imprint on the Nutter Butter and the Milk-Bone. And he has the proof: High above a closet door in Turnier's tidy brick home in east Chapel Hill hangs a framed copy of the blueprint for the Oreo's most enduring design, unchanged for nearly 60 years. In the corner, the printed name: "W.A. Turnier."

*Read on in the Indy Week.

AuthorEmily Wallace