Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.
A while back I did a bit of research to see if it was possible for my 1892 heroine to serve a hamburger at her restaurant. When I discovered that May, among other things, is National Hamburger Month (I love my National Observances Calendar!) I thought this would be the perfect time to share some of the history and trivia I discovered during my research.
First off, there have been meat patties, in various forms, for thousands of years. But to get to the origin of what we now think of as the all-American hamburger is more difficult than you might think. During my research I came across a number of different claims for how that wonderful sandwich came about.
One of the earliest claims goes to Canton, Ohio natives Frank and Charles Menches. They were food vendors at the 1885 Erie County Fair. According to the story, when the Menches ran out of their usual fare of pork sausage, out of desperation they substituted ground beef seasoned with coffee and brown sugar as well as other seasonings. The new fare proved to be a hit and they dubbed it the hamburger after the fair’s location in Hamburg, Ohio.
Another claim states the inventor was Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas. It is said he first put a cooked ground beef patty between slices of bread in the late 1880s to accommodate customers who wanted something hearty but portable. According to locals, his claim is well documented. As the story goes, he eventually took his offering to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair where it was a big hit.
Yet another theory proposes that it was the creation of a German cook by the name of Otto Kuasw out of Hamburg, Germany. He created a popular sandwich for sailors that was comprised of a beef patty fried in butter, topped with a fried egg, and served between two buns. The story goes that the sailors who travelled between Hamburg and New York, would request a Hamburg style beef sandwich when dining in American restaurants.
Those claims, however, are disputed by proponents of Louis Lassen of New Haven, Connecticut. Their story is that Lassen created the burger in 1900. The descendants of Lassen consider it a matter of family pride, and they have the Library of Congress backing up their claim.
There are many other very passionate claims about the hamburger’s origins, and to tell the truth, it was likely invented independently across the country by quite a number of individuals. One thing is true – several food vendors sold them during the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and from there it quickly spread across the country.
So the question that prompted my research, could my heroine serve hamburgers at her restaurant – was both yes and no. She wouldn’t be able to serve something called a hamburger, but she could serve a sandwich that has a main component of a beef patty
And here’s a bit of hamburger trivia for you:
- During World War I, because of the food’s tie to the German city of Hamburg, the U.S. Government tried to change its name to the more patriotic-sounding Liberty Sandwiches.
- White Castle, founded in Wichita, Kansas in 1921, holds the record for being the oldest hamburger chain. Their first burger sold for a nickel.
- According to the Oxford English Dictionary, burger first came into use as an abbreviated form of hamburger in 1939
- According to an AP report, in 2003 PETA (an animal rights group) offered officials of Hamburg , NY, $15,000 to change the name of their town to Veggieburg. They declined.
- In 2012, cooks at the Black Bear Casino Resort in Carlton, Minnesota prepared what was then the largest burger on record. It weighed in at just over a ton and then was topped with 52.5 pounds of tomatoes, 50 pounds of lettuce, 19 pounds of pickles, 60 pounds of onions, 40 pounds of cheese and 16.5 pounds of bacon.
In July of 2017 that record was broken when 6 men in Pilsting Germany created a burger that weighed in at a little over 2,566 pounds.
- 50 BILLION burgers are consumed in the United States each year. If that quantity was laid end to end, they would circle the earth over 32 times!
- The average American eats a hamburger 3 times a week.
- Of all sandwiches sold globally, 60% are hamburgers.
- McDonald’s sells 75+ burgers every SECOND.
As for me, my favorite burger is one that is grilled to medium well, topped with pepperjack cheese, bacon and bbq sauce and serve on a toasted sesame seed bun.
So tell me, did any of the above facts surprise you? And do you have a favorite way to have your burger prepared?