When I conducted my research on the evolutionary aspects of the NY pizza style, while sitting behind my keyboard in Texas, I was looking mostly for broad strokes and timelines. From time to time, I summarized what I had learned in various posts, including:
Reply 3 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,11816.msg109739/topicseen.html#msg109739
Reply 2 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,8789.msg76171/topicseen.html#msg76171
Reply 12 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,10441.msg92369/topicseen.html#msg92369
Reply 44 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,13347.msg133246/topicseen.html#msg133246
One of the posts that got me thinking about these matters is the post by our esteemed member Ron Molinaro (ilpizzaiolo) at Reply 3 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,1053.msg9384/topicseen.html#msg9384
where Ron discussed changes that took place with dough formulations when deck ovens started to be used by pizza operators. Kelly is correct that the deck oven was invented in the mid-1940s (see the historical blurb at the Bakers Pride website at http://www.bakerspride.com/about.asp
). What isn't clear, as Kelly also noted, is when pizza operators really started to use such ovens to make the NY style pizza. It almost seems like the old pizza masters with their coal-fired ovens ruled the roost for many years before deck ovens, and what we now know as the NY street style pizza, caught on and went on to completely overtake the coal-fired pizza business in terms of volume, a condition which persists to this day even with the expansion of the old pizza names like Grimaldi's, Patsy's, John's and even DiFara's.
It also isn't clear when pizza operators went to commercial refrigeration to make cold fermented doughs. I did a fair amount of research using the Google news archive search feature and, as best I can tell, it wasn't until about the 1970s where I started to find reports of cold fermenting of doughs in a commercial environment. The use of cold fermentation seemed to nicely complement the use of deck ovens, with many of the benefits mentioned in Reply 3 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,11816.msg109739/topicseen.html#msg109739.
For the development of flours over the years, I found a lot of useful information of a historical and chronological nature at the General Mills website at http://www.gmflour.com/gmflour/ourheritage.aspx.
I also used the Google news archive search feature to find out when NYC pizza operators went to high-gluten flour. As best I can tell, it was perhaps sometime in the 1970s. Prior to that time, high-gluten flour was used mainly to make bagels. So, arguably the NYC bagle industry may be given credit or blame for the NY style pizza that is now made with high-gluten flour. It is also important to keep in mind that over the years millers and plant biologists were not just standing still. New varieties of wheat grains were developed with better features, characteristics and performance than their predecessor varieties. Today's all-purpose flour bears little relationship other than name to the all-purpose flours that existed at the turn of the 20th century. It is also not clear when Dom DeMarco first started to use 00 flours. When I first heard about 00 flours back in 2003 or thereabouts, there were only a couple of brands of 00 flour at the retail level although I am sure that there were more choices at the foodservice level.
Kelly also made reference to increased demand for pizza when soldiers returned home after WWII. One of the interesting tidbits that I read somewhere is that active dry yeast (ADY) was developed at least in part to cater to that demand. In fact, Tom Lehmann once noted (at http://thinktank.pmq.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=7527&p=50956&hilit=#p50956
) that ADY was developed for home use, not commercial use. A key feature for that yeast is that it had to be rehydrated in warm water before using. By so doing, home bakers stood a much better chance of succeeding with their baked goods. At that time, pizza operators used only fresh yeast. Instant dry yeast (IDY) wasn't developed until sometime in the 1970s.
Speaking about pizza in evolutionary terms seems quite natural. There were major inventions that, when adopted commercially, changed the entire NY pizza industry. Yet, there were perhaps aspects of foot dragging, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", which discouraged change, or old habits that died hard that made change resistant.
EDIT (4/3/14): For the Wayback Machine version of the above GM link, see http://web.archive.org/web/20100105084108/http://www.gmflour.com/gmflour/ourheritage.aspx