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How the Hot Dog Became a Popular American Food Item

How the Hot Dog Became a Popular American Food Item

During the summertime, it’s common to throw some hot dogs on the grill. Hot dogs are popular food items at Fourth of July picnics, baseball games, and other gatherings. On average, Americans consume an estimated seven billion hot dogs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Even though the hot dog is technically a German food item, derived from sausages and bratwursts, it’s become an American favorite through the centuries.

Here’s how the hot dog became one of America’s most popular food items.

Origins of the Hot Dog

The hot dog has a lengthy and interesting history. The origins of the hot dog date back to ancient Rome and emperor Nero. It’s believed that Gaius, Nero’s personal cook, created the first sausages. These sausages would eventually spread all across Europe before debuting in Germany. This is where history gets a bit muddled, as both Frankfurt, Germany and Vienna, Austria claim to be the birthplace of hot dogs, or “wienerwurst.”

Timeline of America’s Picnic Necessity

From being a popular food cart item in the big cities to gracing paper picnic plates everywhere, hot dogs are hot items, especially in the United States. To show how the hot dog earned its popularity in the United States, here’s a timeline of the hot dog craze:

  • Late 1840s: Many German immigrants came to the United States in the late 1840s, bringing with them delicious food items called “dachshund sausages,” which would eventually become modern-day hot dogs. 
  • 1840s-1860s: In New York, German immigrant food vendors began selling hot dogs out of street carts during this time period.
  • 1867: A German immigrant named Charles Feltman started selling hot dogs from a cart on Coney Island in the late 1860s. The stand was so popular that Feltman sold more than 3,600 frankfurters in a bun in his first year. Feltman would also eventually introduce the hand-sliced long hot dog bun.
  • Late 1800s: During this time, hot dogs became known as “red hots” in Maine and Detroit. Many locals in both areas still refer to hot dogs as red hots.
  • 1892: A newspaper in Paterson, New Jersey used the term “hot dog.” This is the earliest known use of the term.  
  • 1893: In 1893, sausages started to become a staple at baseball games. It’s believed a St. Louis bartender and German immigrant named Chris Von de Ahe began this tradition. Notably, Von de Ahe owned the major league baseball team, the St. Louis Browns.
  • 1915: A Jewish immigrant from Poland named Nathan Handwerker began working at Feltman’s hot dog stand in Coney Island, where he invented the hot dog bun slicer. Handwerker received a minimal wage, though was able to save around $300 after working at the stand for a year.
  • 1916: Handwerker used the money he’d made to open a competing establishment called Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs, where he sold hot dogs at a lower cost than Feltman’s stand. This eventually put Feltman out of business, while Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs became world-renowned.
  • 1939: By the 1930s, hot dogs were so popular that President Franklin Roosevelt and first lady Eleanor served them during a picnic in Hyde Park with King George VI of England and the queen. While the decision to serve hot dogs raised some eyebrows, the king reportedly loved them so much he requested a second helping.

Today, you can find hot dogs in every corner of America. You’d be hard-pressed to go through any town in America without finding a restaurant, stand or gas station that doesn’t sell hot dogs!

How Do You Like Your Hot Dog?

Many regions have their own way of topping and cooking hot dogs. For example, a Chicago-style hot dog, or Chicago dog, is served on a poppy seed bun and topped with mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato wedges, pickled sport peppers and celery salt. Other popular regional hot dogs include the Fenway Frank, Kansas City-Style Dog and Cincinnati Cheese Coney.

No matter what you call it or how you dress your hot dog, this food item is a popular one found on many restaurant menus and dinner tables across the country. 

Show Your American Spirit Today

In addition to eating hot dogs and waving your American flag this summer, show your American spirit by wearing patriotic clothing. The Flag Shirt offers a wide array of patriotic clothing you can use to show your American pride. From t-shirts adorned with faces of the American presidents to beach towels featuring red, white, and blue designs, you’ll find the perfect patriotic apparel here!

Visit The Flag Shirt and explore our large selection of patriotic clothing. From American flag polo shirts and button down shirts to patriotic neckties and other accessories, you’ll find any type of American-themed clothing and accessories you’re looking for! Come browse styles for men, women and kids, and show your patriotic spirit in the most stylish way possible.

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