The Alto-Hartley Hot Dog Blog
There are more stories than you can imagine about the origins of the hot dog, how they became popular in America, when the bun was introduced, and who is responsible. Some of these stories seem to match up, others are in contradiction to one another, and some are just humorous.
In honor of National Hot Dog Day, we decided to take some time to explore the interesting origins of the hot dog, and here’s what we found:
FRANKFURTERS ORIGINATED IN FRANKFURT
This is 100 percent true. According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (NHDSC), it is said the frankfurter was developed in Frankfurt in 1487, five years before Columbus discovered the New World. It was originally an all-pork sausage, with some putting its origins back in the 13th century, when they were given to people during imperial coronations. Over time and across German-speaking Europe, these sausages had different names. In Vienna, for example, the term “wiener” was used to prove their claim as the birthplace of the hot dog.
THE BIG TAKEAWAY: Hot dogs originated in Europe. They likely emerged at the same time with different nationalities having different claims and even slightly different recipes and serving styles.
THESE SAUSAGES CROSSED THE POND
Which story do you want to believe?
A) A German immigrant named Feuchtwanger moved to the Midwest from Frankfurt and began selling hot dogs on the streets of St. Louis. He provided gloves so customers wouldn’t burn their hands on the hot sausage but eventually lost money when those gloves were not returned. His wife urged him to sell them on buns. Other stories have Feuchtwanger originally selling hot dogs at the World’s Fair, some say in 1893 in Chicago while others say 1904 in St. Louis. A sorted history indeed.
B) A German immigrant named Charles Feltman first sold hot dogs on The Bowery in New York City. The year was 1860, and he served them with milk rolls and sauerkraut out of a push cart. Later, in 1871, he opened a stand in Coney Island selling 3,684 “dachshund sausages” in his first year of business.
THE BIG TAKEAWAY: It seems almost certain hot dogs came to the United States from German immigrants. Two of the immigration stories are listed above, but there are likely more out there. The choice is yours.
THE NAMING OF HOT DOGS
The first thing to know is why we call them “hot dogs,” and this history might very well be linked to America’s favorite past time. By as early as 1893, hot dogs were standard foods found at baseball games across the country, though it’s believed the first to serve them were in St. Louis.
Later, in 1901, some say the term “hot dog” was coined at the New York Polo Grounds on a cold April day. With vendors selling sausages out of hot water tanks, they would yell, “Get your dachshund sausages while they’re red hot!” A famous New York City sports reporter watched the scene and drew a cartoon depicting it. As legend goes, instead of spelling out “dachshund,” he wrote out “hot dog” instead because he was unsure of the spelling. The cartoon, though, has yet to be found.
Others point to college magazines where the word began appearing in the 1890s. At Yale, “dog wagons” sold hot dogs to students living in dorms, and the name was likely a joke as to what kind of meat was used to make them. Knowing Germans called them “dachshund sausages,” the joke likely grew.
THE BIG TAKEAWAY: We don’t even know where to begin on this one.
THE MODERNIZATION OF THE HOT DOG
Today we have famous 4th of July events on Coney Island. We have the ironically Greek-inspired Cincinnati chili cheese coney dogs. We have the famous Chicago dogs you can “drag through the garden.” Just about every part of the country has evolved their version of the hot dog.
According to the NHDSC’s full guide for hot dog etiquette, there are a few things to consider:
* A hot dog should be consumed in five bites.
* Put toppings on the dog, not the bun.
* Utensils should never touch a hot dog. Use your hands.
* Use ketchup on your hot dog up until the age of 18. After that, it’s childish.
* There’s never a bad time to eat a hot dog.
THE BIG TAKEAWAY: Who are we to say how you should eat your dog. Go out there and eat what you want. You do you. What we will say, though, is a high quality hot dog involves high quality preparation techniques, and that translates to the right kind of equipment.