As backyard grilling season starts, Americans will consume seven billion hot dogs. Yes, you read that right 7,000,000,000! That is just between Memorial and Labor Days. That is 818 hotdogs per second. On the Fourth of July alone, we will scarf down 150 million.
In the 1800s, many German immigrants came to the New World, bringing along with them their own culinary traditions. It is believed that the very first hot dog – once called ‘dachshund sausages’ – was sold by a German immigrant out of a food cart in New York in the 1860s.
Around 1870, a German immigrant by the name of Charles Feltman opened the first hot dog stand on Coney Island. He sold over 3,600 frankfurters (in a bun) that year.
In 1880, a sausage vendor in St. Louis who gave white gloves to customers to hold their hot sausages ran out of gloves; he began giving out the hot links inside a white bun instead.
By 1893, the hot dog was a favorite baseball park treat. Some believe this is owed to Chris Von de Ahe, the owner of the St. Louis Browns and a local bar, who introduced hot dogs to pair with his beer; others claim it was Harry Stevens, a concessionaire at the New York Giants baseball stadium, who actually popularized the ‘red hots’ at sporting games.
In 1916, Nathan Handwerker – a Polish immigrant and employee of Feltman’s – opened a hot dog stand of his own, selling them for half the price of his competitor; Feltman was eventually forced to close up shop.
By the 1920s, Nathan’s Famous was just that: famous. His dogs became known nationwide. With the word of the hot dog making its way from east to west, it became widespread in American culture: it appeared at backyard BBQs and Fourth of July celebrations, even making its way onto a White House menu in 1939. To discuss how to address issues with the Nazis, King George VI of England and Queen Elizabeth made the first royal visit to the US.
FDR and the first lady hosted a picnic, where Eleanor decided to serve America’s hot dog. Having never tried one before, the Queen asked, ‘How do you eat this?‘
That same year, the West Coast responded with its own hot dog stand: Paul and Betty Pink opened the famous Pink’s in Los Angeles.