July is National Hot Dog Month, a comfort food served in 95% of homes in the U.S. (June 23rd is National Hot Dog Day.)
According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, Americans purchase 350 million pounds of hot dogs at retail stores—9 billion hot dogs!
The actual number of hot dogs consumed by Americans is much larger, incorporating those purchased from street vendors, at sporting events, state fairs, carnivals, etc. The Council estimates Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs a year, more than twice the retail sales figures.
That computes to about 70 hot dogs per person each year; which sounds like a lot but is just 6 hot dogs a month.
The hot dog traces its lineage to the 15th-century Viennese sausage, or wienerwurst in German; hence, wiener.
In the 17th century, Johann Georghehner, a butcher from the German city of Coburg in Bavaria, is credited with inventing the “dachshund” or “little dog” sausage—a slimmer version of wienerwurst. He brought it to Frankfurt, hence, frankfurter. Yet, it was still a sausage eaten German-style, with a knife and fork—no roll.
The hot dog, a slender sausage in a roll, was undeniably an American invention. The attribution is accorded to a German immigrant named Charles Feltman, who began selling sausages in rolls at a stand in Coney Island in 1871.
The 1893 World Exposition in Chicago marked the debut of the hot dog vendor. According to National Hot Dog and Sausage Council, around this time that the hot dog first made its first appearance at a ballpark, at a St. Louis Browns game. The first published mention of the term “hot dog” as a food appeared in print in a September 1893 issue of The Knoxville Journal. However, it was well established prior to then.
As the legend goes, frankfurters were dubbed the “hot dog” by a cartoonist who observed a vendor selling the “hot dascshund sausages” during a baseball game at New York City’s Polo Grounds. Concessionaires walked through the stands shouting, “Get your red-hot dachshund sausages.”
In 1906, Tad Dorgan, a cartoonist for a Hearst newspaper, was inspired by the scene and sketched a cartoon with a real dachshund dog, smeared with mustard, in a roll. Supposedly, Dorgan could not spell the name of the dog and instead wrote, “Get your hot dogs” for a caption.
However, Dorgan’s cartoon has never been located. and some hot dog historians suggest the “dachshund” sausages were being called hot dogs on college campuses in the 1890s.
“Little dog” sausages became standard fare at ballparks in 1893 when St. Louis bar owner and German immigrant Chris Von de Ahe, who owned the St. Louis Browns baseball team, began to serve them there…and started a tradition.
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