Hot Dogs: Baseball Fans' Convenience, Traveler's Salvation

By Patricia B. Mitchell, 1991.

In the 1950's my daddy, mother, and I traveled a lot in the summer because my father was a recruiter for Hargrave Military Academy. As we scoured the upper South for potential cadets, many a mealtime rolled around. Although I ate a variety of foods when at home, the combination of strange places, nausea, and Dramamine turned me into a picky eater on the road.

My indulgent parents and I walked out of numerous classy restaurants because they did not serve hot dogs, the only thing I found appealing in my somewhat dizzy state.

Brian Cummins

Brian Cummins provides an expert touch to hot dogs on a grill at the Cedars Country Club, Chatham, Virginia, during a summer 1961 picnic.

Currently, the average American gulps down over 80 hot dogs a year, and Oscar Mayer is the nation's leading producer of the weenie. Two versions of the history of the weiner in a bun exist. One version says that at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair a German concessionaire name Antoine Feuchtwanger lent his sausage customers gloves to wear while eating his steaming hot sausages. Many of the gloves were not returned, so Antoine got his brother-in-law, a baker, to make long rolls to encase the sausages.

Another story is that in April 1900 concessionaire Harry Stevens at the Polo Grounds in New York was having no success selling ice cream and soft drinks because it was a cold day. It occurred to Harry that the New York Giants fans would more likely buy something hot, so he sent out for some long German sausages and sold them in warm buns. He advertised them as “red hot dachshund sausages.” Baseball fan and cartoonist T. A. Dorgan happened to be one of Harry's customers that day. Dorgan sketched a picture of dachshund dog in a roll, inaugurating the famed all-American “hot-dog.”

1961 picnic

Kids at the 1961 Cedars picnic take a break from swimming to enjoy the hot dogs from the grill. From left to right: (this article's author) Patricia Beaver (Mitchell), Linda Yeatts (Brown), Ann Maxwell Bryant, Carol Mitchell, and Betty Toler.

Actually, the long frank recipe had been perfected by a German butcher, Johann Georg Lahner, who lived from 1771 to 1845. He developed such sausages while working in Frankfurt and later in Vienna. From those towns are derived the words “frankfurter” and “wiener.”

Sausage-making was a well-known skill in Europe in the Middle Ages. (Italy had her bologna from Bologna, and Genoa salami from Genoa.) The word “sausage” comes from Latin and means “salted” or “preserved.” The fact that hot dogs and other sausages do keep well has partly accounted for their popularity.

After German immigrants brought sausage-making techniques to the United States in the mid-1800's, their frankfurters became especially valued in the American West. Franks and dried beans could be carried far and long, and when cooked together made a savory dish.

Patricia Beaver (Mitchell) at Palm Beach, Florida

After Georgia hot dogs, the author (in 1963) posed in Palm Beach.

The taste of weenies, too, is pleasing. In fact, one of my most memorable meals involved a December 1963 car trip through then-desolate eastern Georgia, heading for Florida. Hours past lunch time no eateries of any sort had been found. A mirage-like shanty of a filling station up ahead proclaimed ominously, “Last Chance for Gas and Food.”

We hungry travelers staggered in and purchased a package of hot dogs, a jar of mustard, and a loaf of white bread. (They had no buns, and very little other food from which to select, either.) Sitting in our Pontiac Catalina, we gobbled up cold hot dog sandwiches and were thankful for them — though a bit of chili would have been mighty nice!