Hot Dog History
Many stories exist about the creation of the hot dog, and its true origin is often debated. Hot dogs as we know them today trace their origin as far back as the 15th century to various parts of Germany or Austria, such as Frankfurt or Vienna. More current references to dachshund sausages and hot dogs are attributed to German immigrants in the 1800s.
Folklore suggests that hot dogs first became popular in the U.S. when a German immigrant began selling them from a cart in the Bowery district of New York City. In 1871, Charles Feltman opened the first Coney Island hot dog stand, and their popularity grew and spread south where the first sausage was served at a baseball park in 1893, creating the bond between hot dogs and baseball.
The name “hot dog” is often attributed to cartoonist who observed the carts selling “red hot dachshund dogs” on the New York Polo grounds and was unable to spell dachshund, so he printed “hot dogs” instead. However, this cartoon has not been found, prompting many historians to question the legend’s accuracy. The immigrant vendors of the time also brought their dachshund dogs, prompting their carts to be called dog wagons. Possessing good humor, these vendors were known to tease that their sausages were made from their dachshunds. Certainly, this was nothing more than a friendly joke, but this may be where the term “hot dog” was coined.
As for the bun, legend has it that was a happy accident. Sausages were previously consumed while wearing gloves. As the legend goes, a sausage seller at an exposition during the turn of the 20th century ran out of gloves and had to improvise by serving the sausages on rolls. While the exact origin may not be known for certain, it’s clear the legends of the hot dog solidify its important place in American culture.
For more information on hot dog facts, figures and folklore, download this brochure from the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council