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The History Of The Hot Dog

History of the Hot Dog

Can You Say Sausage?

The history of the hot dog spans  far back in cultural history, way before it became an American culinary icon. It all started out with the sausage, and when you think about it, hot dogs are indeed sausages. The term deriving from the Latin term salsus for salted, was adopted into the Middle English term sausige and the French term saussiche which eventually in our English language was and is transcribed as sausage. The German term for sausage is wurst and easily explains why various sausages have the word wurst in them. Funny thing though, nothing is considered a hot dog, not even a frankfurter unless a bun is added!

Historical Origins Revealed

Sausage HistoryThe first sausages recorded date back to ancient Greece and Rome in the  700’s BC where it is mentioned in writings of the making of sausages where roasted animal intestines were stuffed into stomach linings for feasts. In those days well into the present, salt was used as a preservative to keep meats from spoiling which makes complete sense why the term sausage would derive from the Latin term “salt”. In days before refrigeration, curing meat for long term storage was a necessity for survival. Making sausages were a great way of not only keeping a food supply handy for long storage, but also a way to utilize as much of animal without waste adding an additional food surplus for early civilizations. It is important to note though that sausages have been around before recorded history! SausagesA sausage is basically various/selected salted meats, organs, or blood ground and stuffed into an intestinal lining formed in a cylinder shape. A hot dog is much the same with the exception of the sizes a hot dog may come in as well as the meat being pureed opposed to ground as in traditional sausages. Even the skinless hot dogs are first cooked in a lining known as a casing, usually synthetic, then removed afterwords before the packaging process.

Coming to America

German ImmigrantsIn American history, sausages first started seeing their first appearances with the arrival of immigrants, mainly from Germany in the early 1800’s. German immigrants sold their frankfurters from carts as early as the 1860’s in New York City along with rolls and kraut. The popularity of street vended sausages would only grow into an American icon for future generations into the present of America’s culinary culture.

Who Invented The Hot Dog Link?

Austria VS GermanyThe frankfurter from Germany is celebrated as being over 500 years old. The town of Frankfurt claims that their frankfurter sausage dates back to 1484. It wasn’t until 1852 however that The Butcher’s Guild of Frankfurt, Germany introduced the odd shaped sausage and gave it a name that represented their town. In 1805 however, 47 years prior to Frankfurt’s naming of the frankfurter, the people of Vienna, Austria were calling the same sausage type wiener ,essentially wien, which is the German pronunciation for Vienna. The master sausage maker accredited for the wiener apparently learned his craft in Frankfurt then returned to Vienna naming his creation “wiener-frankfurter” but was more commonly recognized in the region by the locals as the wienerwurst.

The Mystery of Who Bun It … Solved!

History of the Hot Dog BunSome Truth Mixed With Myth: It wasn’t until 1880, nearly 20 years after sausage popularity had grown in the United States that a German sausage peddler would come into the scene and change hot dog history as we know it. Antoine Feuchtwanger had found a solution for his customers seeking to enjoy a freshly cooked sausage … gloves. He would let the customers put on a white glove while eating in front of his cart so as to not burn their hands. There was one problem, many customers often took off with the gloves and this proved costly to this St. Louis vendor. Being the brother-in-law of a baker and under his wife’s suggestion, he had buns made and split so sausages could be held without burning customers. The bun was born and now not a single hot dog is ever served without being accompanied by a bun. He called his product back then “red hots” instead of hot dogs.

The Truth: German immigrants had been eating their sausages in their own homeland Germany far before they ever came to America. In the 1860’s in New York City’s Bowery, German peddlers sold sausages with milk rolls on the streets commonly. So can one person be attributed to this handy method of consuming a hot frankfurter sausage without a plate? No. Sure, somebody probably did come up with it first, but it was probably in a small German cottage a long time ago and just caught on. We do have a mighty contender down below in the “hot dog stands” section. Check it out.

They “Mustard” Done Something to My Hot Dog

Frenchs Mustard Hot DogEver wondered where and when the  hot dog and mustard trend started? Well it is said that the first hot dog to be slathered with mustard was in 1904 and provided by the R.T. French Company at the St. Louis World Fair. It was a huge hit and obviously has continued to be a hit ever since. Very few hot dog connoisseurs can imagine a hot dog without mustard. The R.T. French Company is now French’s mustard. Next time you pick up an old fashioned dog and see a bottle of French’s Mustard, you know your getting an authentic dog!

Behind The Famous “Hot Dog” Name

Dachshund Wiener DogSome Truth Mixed With Myth: Whatever you want to call these small sausages, the actual term “hot dog” is believed to be in reference to the Frankfurt term “dachshund sausage”  due to the resemblance to the dachshund canine species. This term would travel with the immigrants coming to the new promise land (America) and be eventually tailored to the name “hot dog”. It didn’t happen right away though … it wouldn’t become popular slang until 1901 when a sports cartoonist named Tad Dorgan would hear the term “red hot dachshund sausages” as sausage peddlers tried to sell their product. He ended up drawing a cartoon of an  image of a dachshund dog in a bun covered in mustard. He couldn’t spell the word dachshund so he captioned it instead with “Get Your Hot Dogs”.

Sad Truth: The term “hot dog” was coined by Yale college students in the 1890’s and quickly spread throughout many other colleges in the same decade via college magazines. How did this term get coined? Hold your stomachs. It was because there was a time in American history where the hot dog sausage actually contained dog meat in them! You heard that right, dog meat. Now,this was not commonplace in the sausage making community, but a few were. You see, cheap and rather scandalous butchers would actually hire dog killers who would roam the streets with clubs killing canines and then sell it to the very knowledgeable butchers who would in turn hide it in the sausages. It was cheaper than pork or cow. These Yale students were aware of the sadistic and disgusting practice of their time, perhaps even some of them at one point being consumer victims themselves. It was rumored more than actual fact though and hot dogs became more of a rebellious type of snack that students would devour in devilish humor from the sausage food cart that catered at Yale humorously called “The Kennel Club”, but not due to the rumors but rather the school mascot, the Bulldog.

Sports Goes to the Dogs

St. Louis BrownsIt was in 1893 that the hot dog got a big boost in popularity due to sports. Baseball would usher the sausage into the limelight as the snack/meal for all sporting events Nationwide. It was at the St. Lois Missouri Browns Ballpark that hot dogs would be first served at a ball game. The trend took off from there and quickly spread across the country. Today there isn’t a ballpark without a hot dog vendor during a sports event, not even little league!

The First Hot Dog Stands in America

First Hot Dog StandIt was in Coney Island, NY 1867 where a German baker by the name of Charles Feltman started up probably the first hot dog stand in not only New York history, but American history. In order to help sell his baked goods, Feltman came up with the gimmick of adding  a hot sausage in between his baked rolls for 10 cents. His “sausage sandwiches” were a hit and made Coney Island history, if not American history. He went on to also convert his delivery pie wagons into roll storage and sausage boilers and took to the streets vending directly from his coal fired carts. Many have accredited Charles Feltman as being the founder of the hot dog in a bun. This may be the case, it most undoubtedly will be debated.

Nathan's Hot DogsFeltman would further go on into hot dog history after his restaurant employed a polish immigrant by the name of Nathan Handwerker in 1916. Nathan’s job was to split buns at Feltman’s restaurant, but Nathan would soon tire of this job and go on to undermine his own boss and start his own hot dog stand. Instead of charging 10 cents for a hot dog, Nathan charged only 5 cents and thus grew his own popularity on Coney Island and became near crippling competition. To this day Nathan’s restaurant continues to serve hot dogs from that stand as well as has their hot dogs sold Nationwide in supermarkets. Every 4th of July Nathan’s throws their world famous annual hot dog eating contest where history continues to be made with Guinness World Records in hot dog consumption competitions.

The Chicago Dog Is Born

Fluky's Chicago Dog HistoryIt was in Chicago 1929 during the depression era that the Chicago Dog was born. It didn’t start out with such a proud name though. Originally called the “Depression Sandwich” by the Jewish owner of Fluky’s, Abe Drexler, the all beef dog was topped with lettuce, tomato, pickle relish, dill pickle, mustard, onion, and hot peppers. Since then the lettuce has been removed from the famous recipe, but the legend continues. I don’t know a single person that doesn’t visit Chicago without grabbing a good ole fashioned Chicago Dog.

One Chili Afternoon

Chili Hot DogIt was in 1918 that Greek influence would once come full circle into the history of the hot dog. This particular bean-less chili, a Greek influenced dish, would top a frankfurter in a bun and forever hold it’s place in America’s heart as a fast food favorite. This hot dog style was initially marketed as the Texas Hot Wiener by a man named Peter  Koufougeorgas in Altoona, Pennsylvania and in Paterson, New Jersey. Chili in itself was not invented by Peter, but his signature chili paved the way to the flavor of the chili dog we are all accustomed to now. True American chili origins do point more towards Texas, hence the original chili dog name The Texas Hot Wiener.

Hot Dogs Go to the Birds

Chicken Hot DogsWhile hot dogs originally consisted of pork and/or beef there were attempts at making other types of frankfurters. The cultural popularity of the hot dog would bring in a whole new era of failure and success. One such introduction was the chicken frank, however when it was originally  introduced in 1951 it was rejected by consumers and would not resurface for years to come until Foster’s Farms in the 1980’s reintroduced it into the market as a healthier alternative to conventional hot dogs. Turkey meat and chicken meat would both see a spike in popularity and to this day are a popular consumer product.

One weird attempt that would not make history in alternative meat hot dogs was the Tuna Hot Dog introduced in 1949 and would be reintroduced throughout the years with little to no success. Known commonly via the first promoters as the Friday Frank, the  industry was at an attempt at marketing it’s fish product as Ham of the Sea as an alternative to pork. That culinary invention currently “sleeps with the fishes”. 😉

Peace, Love, and Veggie Dogs

Vegetarian Hot DogsIn 1939 a psychiatrist (George Harding) who believed that body must feed the mind started up a company in pursuit of healing the body through vegetarian diets. His company, Worthington Loma Lunda , would try to change the tide in American diets by creating the fist vegetarian hot dog in 1949 using spun soy fiber. While it may have not been an instant hit Nationwide then, many companies have emerged since offering vegetarian frankfurters and their consumption has continued to see growth among health conscious consumers worldwide. As a matter of fact, many ball parks have been making recent headlines as they adopt this particular frankfurter as an alternative for their baseball fans.


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