Hot dogs are arguably the most American food out there. In 2019 alone, at least 250 million Americans consumed frankfurters. On top of this, they’re always served during important dates like Independence Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day—in fact, these are all considered peak hot dog seasons. They’re also the go-to foods at major league ballparks.
However, sausages aren’t as “all-American” as we think they are. Their origins actually point back to across the Atlantic, and this is something we’ll share with you in the next few sections!
The First Hot Dogs
Did you know that the first reference to sausages was mentioned in Homer’s “Odyssey”? This dates back to the 9th century B.C., which is why these are believed to be one of the first processed foods to be made.
Aside from this account, there are many stories about who first put bread and sausage together. It seems that the original hot dog or “frankfurter” was created in the town of Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. However, some hot dog historians argue that the sausage culture actually has no specific town of origin.
When it comes to serving sausage on bread, there’s one man believed to have started the trend: a German butcher named Johann Georghehner. After inventing it in the late 1600s, he brought it with him to Vienna and sold it there. This could be the reason why Vienna also claims to have served up the first hot dog—referring to sausage served in a roll or other form of bread.
The Arrival of Hot Dogs in the US
German immigrants were believed to have brought hot dogs to the US in the mid-1800s. What’s interesting is that the Germans have a particular culture in eating sausages; they consumed these from butcher shops and at home. They also ate them at beer gardens. When they came to the states, they set up these beer gardens and shared this culture with the Americans.
Americans preferred to eat on the go, even during these early years. Aside from that, they are naturally sandwich-lovers. Because of all these factors, they warmly accepted such a culture as it easily fits their lifestyle. They were also enamored with the German’s idea of eating sausages on the street.
Shortly after hot dogs were introduced to the Americans, selling them in carts became the next big thing.
Birth of the American Hot Dog Bun
It was Charles Feltman who is credited for developing a hand-sliced, elongated bun and changing the way Americans eat hot dogs for good.
Feltman was a German immigrant who arrived in New York in 1856. Legends say he came up with the idea of putting a sausage on a roll so he won’t have to provide silverware and plates to customers. His restaurant in Coney Island then sold millions of ten-cent hot dogs a year.
On top of that, historians say that the cart sold around 4,000 hot dogs during the first summer. It eventually grew into a large restaurant that served roughly five million customers per year in the 1920s. From 4,000, they sold as much as 40,000 hot dogs a day!
Thanks to Feltman’s humble hot dog cart, these sausages took the national spotlight and became the food many Americans across the states enjoy.
Hot dogs have a long and interesting history. While they may not have an American origin as we thought they would, what’s more important is that we have succeeded in making it our own. The way we prepare, serve, and enjoy hot dogs today is uniquely ours.
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