The basis for every patriotic barbeque and pool party, hot dogs, have been around for many years. Although today, they are the staple diet at almost every State Fair and baseball game, hot dogs have earned their place in history as one of the oldest forms of processed foods.
Hot dog type sausages were first mentioned in 9th Century BC in Homer’s Odyssey.
Most people believe that Frankfurt-am-Main in Germany was the birth place of the hot dog. But, others believe that the ‘dachshund sausage’ or ‘little dog sausage’ was actually created by a butcher living in Coburg, Johann Georghehner, during the 1600’s. Legend says that Johann travelled to Frankfurt to sell his sausage to other butchers and markets.
However, in 1987, the city of Frankfurt marked the 500th anniversary of the hot dog in Frankfurt. It is believed that the Frankfurter was created in Frankfurt in 1484, approximately five years before Christopher Columbus had set off to find the new world.
In spite of Frankfurt’s anniversary celebration, the city of Vienna, Austria declared that there city was the birth place of the hot dog. Vienna is also called Wien, which they point out is short for ‘wiener’.
Whether the hot dog came from Vienna or Frankfurt, it eventually made its way into North America via butchers who wanted to have their own claim to fame and popularity in the new world.
There has also been further controversy surrounding who exactly was the first person to serve the hot dog on a roll. One fabled story is that an immigrant to the US, from Germany, sold the sausages along with milk rolls and sauerkraut from his own little push car during the 1860’s in New York City’s Bowery. Eventually, the first Coney Island hot dog stand was opened in 1871 by a German butcher named Charles Feltman. He sold nearly 3,684 dachshund sausages in a milk roll in his first year of business.
In 1893, sausages became the staple diet of baseball games when Chris Von de Ahe introduced them to the major league baseball team that he owned, the St. Louis Browns.
Later, in 1901, the term ‘hot dog’ was born at the New York Polo Grounds. It seems that during one rather cold April day, Harry Stevens, a concessionaire whose company is still in business today, found that he was losing money selling only ice cream and cold sodas. Stevens sent all his salesmen to go out and buy as many dachshund sausages as they could find, as well as an equal number of milk rolls. Within the hour his vendors were selling hot dogs from portable hot water tanks whilst loudly exclaiming: “They’re red hot! Get your dachshund sausages while they’re red hot!”
Tad Dorgan, a sports cartoonist sitting in a nearby press box, who just happened to have been approaching his deadline without a clue on what to draw, overheard the vendors selling their hot sausages. He quickly drew up a cartoon depicting a little barking dachshund sausage huddled inside a warm roll. But, since Dorgan was unable to correctly spell the word ‘dachshund’, he instead opted to write ‘hot dog’. The rest, as they say, is history. Dorgan’s cartoon became an overnight hit and the phrase “hot dog” was born.
Today’s modernized hot-dog-on-a-bun was instituted in 1904 during the St. Louis “Louisiana Purchase Exposition” in 1904 by Anton Feuchtwanger, a Bavarian concessionaire. In order to help his patrons carefully hold their piping hot sausages, Feuchtwanger loaned out white gloves for them to wear. However, the majority of the white gloves were never given back to Feuchtwanger and his supply was starting to run pretty low. It was then that he decided to ask his brother-in-law for help. His brother-in-law was a baker who baked long, soft bread rolls into which the sausages fit perfectly – thereby creating the hot dog bun.
Since then hot dogs have enjoyed a continuing revolution in their flavor. Long thought of as made up of undesirable meat from pigs, today’s hot dogs are cured and cooked sausages that can be found in Chicken, Turkey, Beef as well as a variety of other flavors.
For the health conscious, it is good to know that hot dogs are nutrient rich sources of vitamins, minerals, protein, iron and zinc. The average, 1.6 oz, hot dog has approximately 150 calories, 13 grams of fat, 450 mgs of sodium and about 7 grams of protein.
American’s eat about 60 hot dogs every year, with New Yorkers consuming the most. In 1999, Americans consumed a total of 7 billion hot dogs, roughly 818 hot dogs every second, during the Hot Dog Season.
Photo Credit: Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar