History of the Hamburger

The iconic hamburger that we know and love today is very much an American  invention, according to “The Hamburger: A History” by Josh Ozersky. However, the  true identity of its inventor is still open for debate. Here is a brief history  of the early hamburger.

Hamburg steak Minced or chopped beef was a popular dish  in Hamburg, Germany in the nineteenth century. This so-called Hamburg steak was  a familiar dish for the German immigrants that left Hamburg for the United  States. It was also perfect for New York City because it was filling and could  be easily eaten while standing up or on the go. Hamburg steak can be found on a  menu from New York’s Delmonico’s that was printed back in 1837.

Who is the father of the hamburger? It is not clear  who is responsible for the first hamburger. It may be “Hamburger Charlie”  Nagreen, who is said to have sold meatballs between two pieces of bread at a  fair in Seymour, Wis. in 1885. He is said to have called this sandwich the  “hamburger.” However, others believe that Frank and Charles Menches, two  brothers from Ohio, sold their ground beef sandwich in Hamburg, N.Y. in 1885,  making them the supposedly fathers of the hamburger.

Yet another claim comes from New Haven, Conn. Louis Lassen reportedly served  some ground beef trimmings between two slices of toast in 1900. And then there  was “Uncle” Fletcher David, a Texan who is said to have created the hamburger in  the late 1880s. Legend has it that Uncle Fletcher brought his sandwich to St.  Louis for the 1904 World’s Fair, where it was dubbed the “hamburger.” Critics  argue that this ground beef sandwich was served on simple slices of bread rather  than a bun, so it cannot claim to be the first hamburger.

In April 1995, the governor of Oklahoma proclaimed that Tulsa is, in fact,  the real birthplace of the hamburger. Oscar Weber Bilby is said to have served  the first hamburger, bun and all, in 1891 at a Fourth of July part just west of  what is now Tulsa.

Hamburger becomes a fast food favorite So, we know that  the hamburger was around by the turn of the twentieth century, but Alan Rocke, a  history professor at Case Western Reserve University, says that doesn’t mean it  was respected back then.

“It was considered questionable food except for workingmen’s lunches, as  hamburgers were commonly ‘mystery meat’ served in small greasy-spoon short-order  diners, often set up near factories,” Rocke says.

With the arrival of the automobile and the public desire for on-the-go meals  came a reputation makeover for the hamburger. White Castle — yes, the same one  that Harold and Kumar embark on a journey to find — became the first fast food  burger chain. It was founded in Wichita, Kan. in 1921.

“‘White’ was chosen to escape the public perception that hamburgers were  unsanitary,” Rocke explains, “[and] ‘Castle’ to evoke a higher-class  product.”

The cheeseburger and the golden arches Lionel  Sternberger is said to have added cheese to the burger in the mid-1920s while  working as a short-order cook in Pasadena, Calif.

Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald’s franchise restaurant in Des Plaines,  Ill. in 1955, establishing the McDonald’s that we know today. As Tom Robbins  wrote in Esquire in 1983, “Columbus discovered America, Jefferson invented  it, Lincoln unified it, Goldwyn mythologized it, and Kroc Big Mac’d it.”

Today, McDonald’s restaurants serve 68 million people every day and can  be found in 119 countries. Wendy’s and Burger King round out the top three  biggest hamburger chain by volume.

History of the Hamburger from FoxNews.com
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