18 Nov 2016

From frankfurter to 21st century dog – the hot dog’s history is a mystery

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It starts with a sausage
The humble sausage dates back as far as the 9th century BC with the processed meat product getting a mention in Homer’s Odyssey. But the true origin of the hot dog is somewhat of a mystery.

While Frankfurt-Am-Main in Germany is credited with innovating the Frankfurter, some dispute that the “dachshund,” or “little dog” was borne by a butcher in Coburg in the 1600’s. Johann Georghehner reportedly travelled to Frankfurt to promote his sausage product.

Johann will be pleased to know that in the US about 20 billion hot dogs are devoured every Summer! That’s more than 800 dogs per second. 155 million are woofed down on the 4th July alone.

When did the bun come into it?

No one knows who first stuffed the sausage into a roll. Was it the German immigrant who sold his sausages with milk rolls and Sauerkraut from his New York push cart in the 1860’s?

Or was it Charles Feltman, Coney Island hot dog stand owner whose first years of business saw him sell 3,684 dachshund sausages in a milk roll in 1871?

Surely it could have been the Bavarian Concessionaire Anton Feuchtwanger who used to loan white gloves to his patrons so they could hold his piping hot snags. This not being financially viable, Anton’s brother, the baker, helped replace the gloves with a long white roll; much to the dismay of the glove maker.

Who coined the name “hot dog?”

Hot dog historian & Roosevelt Uni Professor Bruce Kraig recall’s the legend of Tad Dorgan, New York Journal cartoonist. Dorgan apparently observed “hot dachshund sausage” vendor Harry Stevens selling his wares at a New York polo game. He illustrated the scene with a dachshund dog in a bun. Spelling not being his forte, he titled the drawing “Get your hot dogs,” rather than attempting the word “dachshund,”

Given that no-one has found a copy of this cartoon, this may well be an embellished memory recalled in Stevens’ obituary. Why let the truth get in the way of a good story?

What we know about the hot dog today

So highly regarded, Franklin D Roosevelt served frankfurters to England’s king George VI when he visited the US in 1939. Hot dogs were also the first food consumed on the moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin munching dogs on their 1969 expedition.

With a history shrouded in mystery it’s no wonder we’re drawn into a love affair with the tasty hot dog. We trust that through relentless and shameless self-promotion, future historians will hold no confusion as to the origin of the famous 5 Dogs that took Australia by storm in the teens of the 21st Century.

Should Australia have a National Hot Dog Day? Your comments please