AmazingRibs.com is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

Frankophilia: The Hot Dog Creation Myth

Everything about the history of the hot dog is controversial. The experts disagree on where and when it was invented, where and when it was first served on a bun, and where and when it was named a hot dog. Fact is, nobody knows none of this for sure. What we do know is that there are a lot of myths out there.

Let’s begin with the creation myth. There are many who claim to have invented the hot dog in the US, but franks almost certainly came from the sausage centric culture in Germany. Germany is known for its wurst (sausages), making dozens of styles, and Frankfurt-am-Main is a big part of that culture. Frankfurt makes a good claim to having invented the frankfurter in 1484.

According to one story, franks were first served in the US when St. Louis Browns owner Chris von der Ahe sold them at his baseball park in the 1880s. Others say Oscar Meyer sold the first frankfurter in the US at the Columbian Exposition, a world’s fair in Chicago in 1893. Others claim it was the founders of the Vienna Beef Co., Emil Reichl and Samuel Ladanyi that dished out the first franks at the 1893 Fair.

There is also controversy over who first placed the sausage on a bun. One story claims that Charles Feltman, a merchant at the amusement park on Coney Island, NY first put a sausage on a roll in 1871. Another story declares that at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904 a vendor selling wieners as a snack food straight up, loaned customers white gloves to keep their fingers clean. When the gloves went missing, he asked a baker to create a bun for him.

More likely Germans were the first to put sausage on bread.

How did the hot dog get its name? There are a number of myths surrounding this mystery, too. The most widely circulated myth is that the moniker was coined in 1901 at a baseball game in New York City. Legend has it that on a chilly day a concessionaire shouted, “They’re red hot! Get your dachshund sausages while they’re red hot.” The great New York Journal cartoonist TA Dorgan drew a barking dachshund sausage nestled in a roll. Not sure how to spell “dachshund,” he labeled it a “hot dog.” No such cartoon has ever been found. Cool story, but unsupported by the facts.

One story holds that Johann Georghehner, a butcher living in Coburg, Germany, first called sausages “dachsunds” or “little dogs” in the 1690s. This, by far the oldest claim, is hard to document, but sounds plausible.

It is possible that the name emerged from a familiar children’s tune written by Septimus Winner in 1864. It put into verse a frequent joke about what sausages were made of. The rest of the song tells the story of a drunk named Deitcher, his lost dog, and what may have happened to him. You know the first verse, so sing along:

Der Deitcher’s Dog

Oh where, Oh where is mine little dog gone,

Oh where, Oh where can he be.

His ears cut short und his tail cut long:

Oh where, Oh where, ish he.

I loves mine lager ’tish very goot beer,

Oh where, Oh where can he be.

But mit no money I cannot drink here,

Oh where, Oh where ish he.

Across the ocean in Garmanie,

Oh where, Oh where can he be.

Der Deitchers dog ish der best companie.

Oh where, Oh where ish he.

Un sasage ist goot, bolonie of course,

Oh where, Oh where can he be.

Dey makes um mit dog und dey makes em mit horse,

I guess de makes em mit he.

Others attribute the origin of the name to the October 5, 1895 edition of the Yale Record. It included the following hot doggerel about “The Kennel Club,” a popular campus lunch wagon that sold sausages in buns:

Echoes from the Lunch Wagon

“‘Tis dogs’ delight to bark and bite,”

Thus does the adage run.

But I delight to bite the dog

When placed inside a bun.

Two weeks later, the Yale Record printed a wacky bit of fiction about the lunch wagon being stolen, with its owner onboard. He awoke to find himself and his cart at a chapel where he took advantage of the situation by selling his wares to churchgoers who “contentedly munched hot dogs during the whole service.”

According to Professor Bruce Kraig of Roosevelt University in Chicago in his authoritative book Hot Dog: A Global History. the first recorded use of the term hot dog was in the September 28, 1893 edition of the Knoxville Journal “Even the wienerwurst men began preparing to get the ‘hot dogs’ ready for sale Saturday night.”

Hot dogs were most commonly called frankfurters until World War I, when the war with Germany motivated patriots to drop the name (see “freedom fries”). Within a few years of the end of the war in 1918, because of their taste, price, and convenience, hot dogs became the first fast food and, as American as Apple Pie, and they were served at baseball games, boxing matches, horse races, circuses, carnies, and fairs.

Tale of the dog

It is believed that more hotdogs are sold at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport than any other location in the world.

So last week two nuns from the Vatican arrived in Chicago for a conclave and are walking through O’Hare. Spotting a hot dog stand, the novitiate says to her Mother Superior in Italian “I hear that the occupants of this country actually eat dogs and that Chicago makes the very best dogs.”

“Then I suppose we should try one,” replies the elder. They approach the vendor and hold up two fingers.

He hands them each a foil wrapped packet. Excited, they hurry to a table and unwrap their first American meals.

Staring at hers for a moment, the younger nun giggles, leans over and whispers “What part did you get?”

Related articles

Published On: 3/5/2014 Last Modified: 4/29/2021

  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.


If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and much more!

Millions come to AmazingRibs.com every month for quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 4,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner like TV network or a magazine publisher to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club, but please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get 21 great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial membership, and help keep this site alive.


Post comments and questions below

grouchy?

1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.

Moderators

  Max

Click for comments...

Spotlight

These are not ads or paid placements. These are some of our favorite tools and toys.

These are products we have tested, won our top awards, and are highly recommend. Click here to read how we test, about our medals, and what they mean.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies pay a finder’s fee if a reader clicks a link on AmazingRibs.com and buys a product. It has zero impact on our reviews, zero impact on the price you pay, and the sites never tell us what you bought, but it has a major impact on our ability to keep this site alive! So before you buy, please click our links. Here’s a link that takes you to a page on Amazon that has some of our favorite tools and toys: https://tinyurl.com/amazingribs


The Pit Barrel Cooker May Be Too Easy


The PBC has a rabid cult following for good reason. It is absolutely positively without a doubt the best bargain on a smoker in the world. Period. This baby will cook circles around the cheap offset sideways barrel smokers because temperature control is so much easier.

Click here to read our detailed review and the raves from people who own them


Bring The Heat With Broil King Signet’s Dual Tube Burners

3 burner gas grill

The Broil King Signet 320 is a modestly priced, 3-burner gas grill that packs a lot of value and power under the hood. Broil King’s proprietary, dual-tube burners get hot fast and are able to achieve high, searing temps that rival most comparatively priced gas grills. The quality cast aluminum housing carries a Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Click here to read our complete review


Masterbuilt MPS 340/G ThermoTemp XL Propane Smoker


This is the first propane smoker with a thermostat, making this baby foolproof. Set ThermoTemp’s dial from 175° to 350°F and the thermostat inside will adjust the burner just like an indoor kitchen oven. All you need to do is add wood to the tray above the burner to start smokin’.

Click here to read our detailed review


The Good-One Is A Superb Grill And A Superb Smoker All In One


The Good-One Open Range is dramatically different from a traditional offset smoker. By placing the heat source behind and under the smokebox instead of off to the side, Open Range produces even temperature from left to right, something almost impossible to achieve with a standard barrel shaped offset.

Click here to read our complete review


The Undisputed Champion!

Thermapen One Instant Read Thermometer

ThermoWorks’ Thermapen ONE provides an accurate reading in one second or less. The ONE also includes features that are common on high-end instruments: automatic backlight, rotating display, and water resistant seals. Don’t accept cheap substitutes.
Click here to read our comprehensive Platinum Medal review


GrillGrates Take Gas Grills To The Infrared Zone


GrillGrates(TM) amplify heat, prevent flareups, make flipping foods easier, kill hotspots, flip over to make a fine griddle, and can be easily moved from one grill to another. You can even throw wood chips, pellets, or sawdust between the rails and deliver a quick burst of smoke.

Click here for more about what makes these grates so special


Compact Powerful Sear Machine For Your Next Tailgater


Char-Broil’s Grill2Go x200 is a super-portable, fun little sizzler made of heavy, rust-proof cast aluminum. The lid snaps shut. Grab the handle and you’re off to the party! Char-Broil’s TRU-Infrared design produces searing heat while reducing fuel consumption. A 16 ounce LP gas canister is enough to keep you flipping burgers for hours.

Click here to read our detailed review and to order