Tracing history back thousands of years, we learn that even the ancient Egyptians ate ground
meat, and down through the ages we also find that ground meat has been
shaped into patties and eaten all over the world under many different name.
1209-1121 - Genghis Khan (1167-1227),
crowned the "emperor of all emperors," and his army of fierce Mongol
horsemen, known as the "Golden Horde," conquered two thirds of the then
known world. The Mongols were a fast-moving, cavalry-based army that rode
small sturdy ponies. They stayed in their saddles for long period of time,
sometimes days without ever dismounting. They had little opportunity to stop
and build a fire for their meal.
The entire village would follow behind the
army on great wheeled carts they called "yurts," leading huge herds of
sheep, goats, oxen, and horses. As the army needed food that could be
carried on their mounts and eaten easily with one hand while they rode,
ground meat was the perfect choice. They would use scrapings of lamb or
mutton which were formed into flat patties. They softened the meat by
placing them under the saddles of their horses while riding into battle.
When it was time to eat, the meat would be eaten raw, having been tenderized
by the saddle and the back of the horse.
1238 - When Genghis Khan's grandson,
Khubilai Khan (1215-1294), invaded Moscow, they naturally brought their
unique dietary ground meat with them. The Russians adopted it into their own
cuisine with the name "Steak Tartare," (Tartars being their name for the
Mongols). Over many years, Russian chefs adapted and developed this dish and
refining it with chopped onions and raw eggs.
Beginning in the fifteenth century, minced beef was a valued
delicacy throughout Europe. Hashed beef was made into sausage in several
different regions of Europe.
1600s - Ships from the German port of
Hamburg, Germany began calling on Russian port. During this period the
Russian steak tartare was brought back to Germany and called "tartare
18th and 19th Centuries
In the late eighteenth century, the largest ports in Europe
were in Germany. Sailors who had visited the ports of Hamburg, Germany and
New York, brought this food and term "Hamburg Steak" into popular usage. To
attract German sailors, eating stands along the New York city harbor offered
"steak cooked in the Hamburg style."
Immigrants to the United States from German-speaking
countries brought with them some of their favorite foods. One of them was
Hamburg Steak. The Germans simply flavored shredded low-grade beef with
regional spices, and both cooked and raw it became a standard meal among the
poorer classes. In the seaport town of Hamburg, it acquired the name Hamburg
steak. Today, this hamburger patty is no longer called Hamburg Steak in
Germany but rather "Frikadelle," "Frikandelle" or "Bulette,"
orginally Italian and French words.
According to Theodora Fitzgibbon in her book The Food
of the Western World - An Encyclopedia of food from North American and Europe:
The originated on the German Hamburg-Amerika line boats,
which brought emigrants to America in the 1850s. There was at that time
a famous Hamburg beef which was salted and sometimes slightly smoked,
and therefore ideal for keeping on a long sea voyage. As it was hard, it
was minced and sometimes stretched with soaked breadcrumbs and chopped
onion. It was popular with the Jewish emigrants, who continued to
make Hamburg steaks, as the patties were then called, with fresh meat
when they settled in the U.S.
The Origin of Hamburgers and
Ketchup, by Prof. Giovanni Ballarini:
The origin of the hamburger is not
very clear, but the prevailing version is that at the end of 1800' s,
European emigrants reached America on the ships of the Hamburg Lines and
were served meat patties quickly cooked on the grill and placed between
two pieces of bread.
Invention of Meat Choppers
Referring to ground beef as hamburger dates to the invention
of the mechanical meat choppers during the 1800s. It wasn't until the
early nineteenth century that wood, tin, and pewter cylinders with wooden
plunger pushers became common. Steve Church of Ridgecrest, California
uncovered some long forgotten U. S. patents on Meat Cutters:
E. Wade received Patent Number
x5348 on January 26, 1829 for what may be the first patented "Meat
Cutter." The patent shows choppers moving up and down onto a rotating
G. A. Coffman of Virginia received
Patent Number 3935 on February 28, 1845 for an "Improvement in Machines
for Cutting Sausage-Meat" using a spiral feeder and rotating knives
something like a modern food grinder.
Old Restaurant Menus
Many historians claim the
first printed American menu was in 1826 on New York's Delmonico's
Restaurant. Ellen Steinberg, Ph.D, of Illinois sent me the following
information from the Nutrition Today Magazine, Volume 39,
January/February 2004, pp 18-25:
American History, Part 6 - Beef (Part 1): Reconstruction and
Growth Into the 20th Century (1865-1910), by Louis E.
Grivetti, PhD, Jan L. Corlett, PhD, Bertram M. Gordon, PhD,
and Cassius T. Lockett, PhD:
written the first hamburger - specifically hamburger steak -
was served in 1834 at Delmonico's Restaurant, New York City,
for $.10. However, this oft-quoted origin is not based on
the original Delmonico menu but rather a facsimile, and it
can be demonstrated through careful scholarship that the
published facsimile could not be correct, because the
printer of the purported original menu was not in business
According to the
Los Angeles, CA Metropolitan New-Enterprise newspaper article, Old Menus Tell the History of
Hamburgers in L.A., by Roger M. Grace:
From 1871-1884, “Hamburg
Beefsteak” was on the “Breakfast and Supper Menu” of the Clipper
Restaurant at 311/313 Pacific Street in San Fernando. It cost 10
cents—the same price as mutton chops, pig’s feet in batter, and stewed
veal. It was not, however, on the dinner menu; “Pig’s Head” “Calf
Tongue” and “Stewed Kidneys” were.
Hamburger Steak, Plain and Hamburger Steak with
Onions, was served at the Tyrolean Alps Restaurant at the 1904 St.
Louis World's Fair.
1758 - By the mid-18th
century, German immigrants also begin arriving in England. One recipe,
titled "Hamburgh Sausage," appeared in Hannah Glasse's 1758 English cookbook
called The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. It consisted of
chopped beef, suet, and spices. The author recommended that this sausage be
served with toasted bread. Hannah Glasse's cookbook was also very popular in
Colonial America, although it was not published in the United States until
1805. This American edition also contained the "Hamburgh Sausage" recipe
with slight revisions.
original Boston Cooking School Cook Book, by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln (Mary
Bailey), 1844 had a recipe for Broiled Meat Cakes and also
Broiled Meat Cakes
- Chop lean, raw beef quite fine. Season with salt, pepper, and a little
chopped onion, or onion juice. Make it into small flat cakes, and broil
on a well-greased gridiron or on a hot fring pan. Serve very hot with
butter or Maitre de' Hotel sauce.
Hamburgh Steak - Pound a slice of round steak enough to break
the fibre. Fry two or three onions, minced fine, in butter until
slightly browned. Spread the onions over the meat, fold the ends of the
meat together, and pound again, to keep the onions in the middle. Broil
two or three minutes. Spread with butter, salt, and pepper.
1894 - In the 1894 edition of
the book The Epicurean: A Complete Treatise of Analytical & Practical
Studies, by Charles Ranhofer (1836-1899), chef at the famous Delmonico's
restaurant in New York, there is a listing for Beef Steak Hamburg Style.
The dish is also listed in French as Bifteck ŕ Hambourgeoise. What
made his version unique was that the recipe called for the ground beef to be
mixed with kidney and bone marrow:
pound of tenderloin beef free of sinews and fat; chop it up on a
chopping block with four ounces of beef kidney suet, free of nerves and
skin or else the same quantity of marrow; add one ounce of chopped
onions fried in butter without attaining color; season all with salt,
pepper and nutmeg, and divide the preparation into balls, each one
weighing four ounces; flatten them down, roll them in bread-crumbs and
fry them in a sauté pan in butter. When of a fine color on both sides,
dish them up pouring a good thickened gravy . . . over."
1906 - Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), American novelist, wrote in his
book called The Jungle, which told of the horrors of Chicago meat
packing plants. This book caused much distrust in the United States
regarding chopped meat. Sinclair was surprised that the public missed the
main point of his impressionistic fiction and took it to be an indictment of
unhygienic conditions of the meat packing industry. This caused people to
not trust chopped meat for several years.
History of American Hamburgers
There is a dispute
about who made the first hamburger and bun in America. Have you
ever wondered where the first hamburger on a bun came from?
Which story you believe depends on your definition of a
Is it a hamburger when served on a bun? Or is it a hamburger
when served between two slices of bread?
Only one of the claimants below served their hamburgers on
a bun - Oscar Weber Bilby in 1891. The rest served
them as sandwiches between two slices of bread.
Most of the following stories on the history of the hamburgers were told
after the fact and are based on the recollections of family members. For
many people, which story or legend you believe probably depends on where you
are from. You be the judge! The claims are as follows:
Charlie Nagreen of Seymour, Wisconsin, at the age of 15, sold hamburgers from his
ox-drawn food stand at the Outagamie County Fair. He went to the Outagamie
County Fair and set up a stand selling meatballs. Business wasn't good and
he quickly realized that it was because meatballs were too difficult to eat
while strolling around the fair. In a flash of innovation, he flattened the
meatballs, placed them between two slices of
bread and called his new creation a hamburger. He was known
to many as "Hamburger Charlie." He returned to sell hamburgers at the fair
every year until his death in 1951, and he would entertain people
with guitar and mouth organ and his jingle:
hamburgers hot; onions in the middle, pickle on top. Makes your lips go
The town of Seymour,
Wisconsin is so certain about this claim that they even have a Hamburger
Hall of Fame that they built as a tribute to Charlie Nagreen and the legacy
he left behind. The town claims to be "Home of the Hamburger" and holds an
annual Burger Festival on the first Saturday of August each year. Events
include a ketchup slide, bun toss, and hamburger-eating contest, as well as
the "world's largest hamburger parade."
On May 9, 2007, members of the
Wisconsin legislature declared
Seymour, Wisconsin, as the home of the
Whereas, Seymour, Wisconsin, is the
right home of the hamburger; and,
Whereas, other accounts of the origination of the hamburger trace back
only so far as the 1880s, while Seymour’s claim can be traced to 1885; and,
Whereas, Charles Nagreen, also known as Hamburger Charlie, of Seymour,
Wisconsin, began calling ground beef patties in a bun “hamburgers” in 1885; and,
Whereas, Hamburger Charlie first sold his world-famous hamburgers at age
15 at the first Seymour Fair in 1885, and later at the Brown and Outagamie county fairs; and,
Whereas, Hamburger Charlie employed as many as eight people at his
famous hamburger tent, selling 150 pounds of hamburgers on some days; and,
Whereas, the hamburger has since become an American classic, enjoyed by
families and backyard grills alike; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the assembly, the senate concurring, That the members of the
Wisconsin legislature declare Seymour, Wisconsin, the Original Home of
1885 - The
family of Frank and Charles Menches from Akron, Ohio, claim the brothers
invented the hamburger while traveling in a 100-man traveling concession
circuit at events (fairs, race meetings, and farmers' picnics) in the
Midwest in the early 1880s. During a stop at the Erie County Fair in
Hamburg, New York, the brothers ran out of pork for their hot sausage patty
sandwiches. Because this happened on a particularly hot day, the local butchers
stop slaughtering pigs. The butcher suggested that they substitute beef for the pork. The brothers ground
up the beef, mixed it with some brown sugar, coffee, and other spices and
served it as a sandwich between two pieces of
bread. They called this sandwich the "hamburger" after
Hamburg, New York where the fair was being held. According to family legend,
Frank didn't really know what to
call it, so he looked up and saw the banner for the Hamburg fair and said,
"This is the hamburger."
In Frank's 1951 obituary in
The Los Angeles Times, he is acknowledged him as the ''inventor'' of the hamburger.
Hamburg held its first Burgerfest in 1985 to mark the 100th anniversary of the
birth of the hamburger after organizers discovered a history book detailing the burger’s origins.
In 1991, Menches and his
siblings stumbled across the original recipe among some old papers their
great-grandmother left behind. After selling their burgers at county fairs
for a few years, the family opened up the Menches Bros. Restaurant in Akron,
Ohio. The Menches family is still in the restaurant business and
still serving hamburgers in Ohio.
On May 28, 2005, the town of Akron, Ohio hosted the First Annual National Hamburger Festival to celebrate the 120th
Anniversary of the invention of the hamburger. The festival will be
dedicated to Frank and Charles Menches. That's how sure the city of Akron is
on the Menches' family claim on the contested contention that two residents
invented the hamburger. The Ohio legislature is also considering making
hamburgers the state food.
1891 - The family of
Oscar Weber Bilby claim the
first-known hamburger on a bun was
served on Grandpa Oscar's farm just west of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1891. The
family says that Grandpa Oscar was the first to add the bun, but they
concede that hamburger sandwiches made with bread may predate Grandpa Oscar's famous hamburger.
Michael Wallis, travel writer and reporter for Oklahoma
Today magazine, did an extensive search in 1995 for the true origins of the
hamburger and determined that Oscar Weber Bilby himself was the creator of
the hamburger as we know it. According to Wallis's 1995 article, Welcome
To Hamburger Heaven, in an interview with Harold Bilby:
The story has been passed down
through the generations like a family Bible. "Grandpa himself told
me that it was in June of 1891 when he took up a chunk of iron and made
himself a big ol' grill," explains Harold. "Then the next month
on the Fourth of July he built a hickory wood fire underneath that
grill, and when those coals were glowing hot, he took some ground Angus
meat and fired up a big batch of hamburgers. When they were cooked all
good and juicy, he put them on my Grandma Fanny's homemade yeast buns -
the best buns in all the world, made from her own secret recipe. He
served those burgers on buns to neighbors and friends under a grove of
pecan trees . . . They couldn't get enough, so Grandpa hosted
another big feed. He did that every Fourth of July, and sometimes as
many as 125 people showed up."
Simple math supports Harold Bilby's
contention that if his Grandpa served burgers on Grandma Fanny's buns in
1891, then the Bilbys eclipsed the St. Louis World's Fair vendors by at
least thirteen years. That would make Oklahoma the cradle of the
hamburger. "There's not even the trace of a doubt in my mind,"
say Harold. "My grandpa invented the hamburger on a bun right here
in what became Oklahoma, and if anybody wants to say different, then let
them prove otherwise."
In 1933, Oscar and his son, Leo, opened the family's first
hamburger stand in Tulsa, Oklahoma, called Weber's Superior Root Beer Stand.
They still use the same grill used in 1891, with one minor variation, the
wood stove has been converted to natural gas. In a letter to me, Linda
Stradley, dated July 31, 2004, Rick Bilby states the following:
My great-grandfather, Oscar Weber
Bilby invented the hamburger on July 4, 1891. He served ground beef
patties that were seared to perfection on a open flame from a hand-made
grill. My great-grandmother Fanny made her own home-made yeast hamburger
buns to put around the ground beef patties. They served this new
sandwich along with their tasty home-made rood beer which was also
carbonated with yeast. People would come for all over the county on July
4th each year to consume and enjoy these treats. To this day we still
cook our hamburger on grandpa's grill, which is now fired by natural gas.
On April 13, 1995, Governor Frank Keating of Oklahoma
proclaimed that the real birthplace of the hamburger on the bun, was created
and consumed in Tulsa in 1891. The State of Oklahoma Proclamation states:
Whereas, scurrilous rumors have
credited Athens, Texas, as the birthplace of the hamburger, claiming for
that region south of the Red River commonly known as Baja Oklahoma a
fame and renown which are hardly its due; and
Whereas, the Legislature of Baja
Oklahoma has gone so far as to declare April 3, 1995, to be Athens Day
at the State Capitol, largely on the strength of this bogus claim, and
Whereas, while the residents, the
scenery, the hospitality and the food found in Athens are no doubt
superior to those in virtually any other locale, they must be
recognized. In the words of Mark Twain, as "the lightning bug is to the
lightning" when compared with the Great City of Tulsa in the Great State of Oklahoma; and
Whereas, although someone in Athens,
in the 1860's, may have place cooked ground beef between two slices of
bread, this minor accomplishment can in no way be regarded comes on a
bun accompanied by such delight as pickles, onions, lettuce, tomato,
cheese and, in some cases, special sauce; and
Whereas, the first true hamburger on
a bun, as meticulous research shows, was created and consumed in Tulsa
in 1891 and was only copied for resale at the St. Louis World's Fair a
full 13 years after that momentous and history-making occasion:
Now Therefore, I, Frank Keating,
Governor of the State of Oklahoma, do hereby proclaim April 12, 1995, as
THE REAL BIRTHPLACE OF THE HAMBURGER IN TULSA DAY.
Louis Lassen of New Haven, Connecticut is also
recorded as serving the first "burger" at his New Haven luncheonette called
Louis' Lunch Wagon. Louis ran a small lunch wagon selling steak sandwiches
to local factory workers. A frugal business man, he didn't like to waste the
excess beef from his daily lunch rush. It is said that he ground up some
scraps of beef and served it as a sandwich, the sandwich was sold between
pieces of toasted bread, to a customer who was in a hurry
and wanted to eat on the run. Kenneth Lassen, Louis' grandson, was quoted in
the September 25, 1991 Athens Daily Review as saying;
"We have signed, dated and notarized
affidavits saying we served the first hamburger sandwiches in 1900.
Other people may have been serving the steak but there's a big
difference between a hamburger steak and a hamburger sandwich."
In the mid-1960s, the New Haven Preservation Trust placed a
plaque on the building where Louis' Lunch is located proclaiming Louis'
Lunch to be the first place the hamburger was sold.
Louis' Lunch is still selling their hamburgers from a small
brick building in New Haven. The sandwich is grilled vertically in antique
gas grills and served between pieces of toast rather than a bun, and refuse
to provide mustard or ketchup.
Library of Congress named Louis' Lunch a "Connecticut
Legacy." The following is taken from the Congressional Record, 27 July 2000,
Honoring Louis' Lunch on Its 105th Anniversary - Representative Rosa L.
. . . it is with great pleasure that I rise today to celebrate the 105th
anniversary of a true New Haven landmark: Louis' Lunch. Recently the
Lassen family celebrated this landmark as well as the 100th anniversary
of their claim to fame — the invention and commercial serving of one of
America's favorites, the hamburger . . . The Lassens and the community
of New Haven shared unparalleled excitement when the Library of Congress
named Louis' Lunch a "Connecticut Legacy" — nothing could be more true.
1902 - Bert W. Gary of Clarinda, Iowa,
in an article by Paige Carlin for
the Omaha World Herald newspaper, takes no credit for having invented
it, but he stakes uncompromising claim to being the "daddy" of the hamburger
industry. He served his hamburger on a bun:
business all started about 1901 or 1902 (The Grays aren't
sure which) when Mr. Gray operated a little cafe on the east
side of Clarinda's Courthouse Square.
recalled: "There was an old German here named Ail Wall (or
Wahl, maybe) and he ran a butcher shop. One day he was
stuffing bologna with a little hand machine, and he said to
me: 'Bert, why wouldn't ground meat make a good sandwich?'"
"I said I'd
try it, so I took this ground beef and mixed it with an egg
batter and fried it. I couldn't bet anybody to eat it. I
quit the egg batter and just took the meat with a little
flour to hold it together. The new technique paid off."
"He almost ran
the other cafes out of the sandwich business," Mrs. Gray put
in. "He could make hamburgers so nice and soft and juicy -
better than I ever could," she added.
German, Wall, came over here from Hamburg, and that's what
he said to call it," Mr. Gray explained. "I sold them for a
nickel apiece in those days, That was when the meat was 10
or 12 cents a pound," he added. "I bought $5 or $6 worth of
meat at a time and I got three or four dozen pans of buns
from the bakery a day."
One time the
Grays heard a conflicting claim by a man (somewhere in the
northern part of the state) that he was the hamburger's
inventor. "I didn't pay any attention to him," Mr. Gray
snorted. "I've got plenty of proof mine was the first," he
The hamburger gets its first widespread attention at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, also known as the Louisiana Purchase
Exhibition, where it created a sensation. A reporter for the New York Tribune wrote from the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair of a new sandwich called a hamburger,
“the innovation of a food vendor on the pike.” By “Pike” he meant
the World's Fair midway.
Most Texans believe the vendor in question was
(1864-1941)>, also known as "old Dave" who owned
a lunch counter in Athens, Texas. Supposedly Fletch Davis, at his Athens lunch counter, took some raw
hamburger steak and placed it on his flat grill and fried it until it was a
crisp brown on both sides. Then he placed the browned patty of meat between
two thick slices of homemade toast and added a thick slice
of raw onion to the top. He offered it as a special to his patrons to see if
they would like it.
According to some
historians, he opened up a concession stand and began selling the ground
beef patty sandwich at the amusement area, known as The Pike (there
is no evidence for that claim, however). According to the book Beyond The Ice Cream Cone - The Whole Scoop on Food at the
1904 World's Fair by Pamela J. Vaccaro:
There is no Fletcher Davis on the
official concessionaire's list or on the final financial balance sheet
of the LPE Co., and the company certainly would not have let anyone
exert any kind of "squatter's rights."
According to an article written by John E. Harmon called
The Better Burger Battle:
In 1904 Davis and his wife went to
the St. Louis World's Fair either on his own or the townspeople took up
a collection to send him (there is no evidence for that claim, however).
Whoever paid for the trip, he was there since a reporter for the New
York Tribune wrote from the fair of a new sandwich called a
hamburger, "the innovation of a food vendor on the pike." The reporter
did not name the vendor but Athens resident Clint Murchison said that
his grandfather had strong memories of the sandwich in the 1880s but
remembered the innovator only as "Old Dave." Murchison also had a large
photograph of the midway at the 1904 fair with "Old Dave's Hamburger
Stand" marked apparently by his grandfather. When Davis returned from
the fair there were already several cafes in Athens serving the sandwich
and he went back to firing pots in the Miller pottery works. Tolbert's
investigation proved that "Old Dave" was Fletcher Davis from Athens
In 1983, Frank X. Tolbert, former newspaper columnist of the
Dallas Morning News, wrote the following in his book Tolbert’s Texas,
The Henderson County Hamburger:
"It took me years of sweatneck research before I finally determined, at
least in mine and in some other Texas historian’s estimation, that
Fletcher Davis (1864-1941), also known as “Old Dave” of Athens, in
Henderson County, Texas, invented the hamburger sandwich."
In 1984, a plaque was placed on the Ginger Murchison
Building, approximately on Fletch Davis' cafe site.
In 2006, a bill
was introduced into the Texas Legislature, H.C.R.
No. 15 - CONCURRENT RESOLUTION, to
make Athens, Texas “Original Home of the Hamburger.” This
bill is based on the research of Frank X. Tolbert into Fletcher
1916 - Walter
Anderson from Wichita, Kansas, a fry cook, developed buns to accommodate the
hamburger patties. The dough he selected was heavier than ordinary bread
dough, and he formed it into small, square shapes that were just big enough
for one of his hamburgers. He quit his job as a cook and used his life
savings to purchase an old trolley car and developed it into a diner
featuring his hamburgers. In 1921, Anderson
co-founded the White Castle Hamburger with Edgar Waldo "Billy" Ingram,
an insurance executive, in Wichita, Kansas. It is the oldest
hamburger chain. They serve steam-fried hamburgers, 18 per pound of
fresh ground beef, cooked on a bed of chopped onions, for a nickel.
1931 - Popeye the sailor man, a cartoon
figures in the comic strip created by American cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar
(1894-1938) in 1929, and syndicated by the Hearst newspaper's King Features syndicate
featured the character J. Wellington Wimpy, known as Wimpy. Wimpy joined
the Popeye comic strip in 1931, and he played a significant role in
popularizing the hamburger in the United States. Wimpy is probably best know for his consumption of hamburgers.
Wimpy loves to eat hamburgers, but is usually too cheap to pay for them.
A recurring joke is Wimpy's attempts to con other members of the diner
into buying him burgers. Wimpy often tries to outwit fellow patrons with
his convoluted logic. His famous line is
"I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
The popularity the character Wimpy spawned a
successful chain of hamburger restaurants called Wimpy's, that
flourished for over a decade. This burger went for the upscale
market at 10 cents a burger. In keeping with the founder's wishes,
all 1,500 restaurants were closed down when he died in 1978.
1941 - A
California Supreme Court decision, that arose from a sales tax
dispute where the plaintiff wanted a refund of taxes paid, under protest, on sales
made during the 1937-39 World’s Fair on San Francisco’s Treasure
Island. Operating food booths, it “sold
only frankfurter (commonly referred to as ‘hot dog’) and
hamburger sandwiches, together with coffee, milk, ale and beer,”
the per curiam decision said. The issue was whether these
sandwiches constituted a “meal,” rendering them exempt from the
sales tax. Resolving the issue against the concessionaire, the high court said:
A 'hot dog' or hamburger
sandwich is the type of food frequently offered for sale to
and desired by persons who wish to eat something while
walking about. It is not the type of food generally ordered
by a person who patronizes a hotel, restaurant or other
public eating establishment with the intention of securing a
‘meal’. It may not be said that one has ‘served’ a meal who
merely prepares a sandwich for consumption, wraps it in a
paper napkin and hands it to a purchaser without offering
any facilities for its consumption on the premises, and with
the intention that it be consumed elsewhere.
There is also a dispute
between Denver, Colorado, Louisville, Kentucky, and Pasadena, California on
who and where the cheeseburger was invented.
1920s - Pasadena,
According to the 1995 book
called Welcome To Hamburger Heaven by
Tennyson said he
interviewed former restaurant employees who confirmed that the Rite Spot
is where the cheeseburger debuted — although it was called the cheese
From the article,
Who Invented Hamburger Sandwich? And What About the Cheeseburger? By
Roger M. Grace,
Metropolitan News-Enterprise, Thursday,
January 8, 2004:
Sternberger is believed to have invented the “cheese hamburger” in the 1920s in the Northeast portion of Los
Angeles County. Tales differ, however, as to precisely when this occurred, and where. Some peg the date as 1924, others as 1926. The
site is usually said to be Pasadena, though that has been called into question.
Steve Harvey, in his column in the
L.A. Times, wrote on March 27, 1991: “American Heritage magazine
points out that a local restaurateur was identified as the inventor
of the cheeseburger at his death in 1964. Cooking at his father’s
short-order joint in Pasadena in the early 1920s, the lad
experimentally tossed a slice (variety unknown) on a hamburger ‘and
lo! the cheeseburger sizzled to life.’
1934 - Louisville,
According to Robin Garr's Louisville Restaurant Reviews:
Charles Kaelin and his
wife opened the restaurant in 1934, the menu claims, dubbing the old
brick building at the corner of Newburg and Speed "The birthplace of the
cheeseburger." The standard hamburger had already become "an established
staple of the diet" by then. But Kaelin was an inveterate experimenter,
always looking for new food ideas. "One day in the kitchen ... it
occurred to him that if he put a slice of cheese on top of the hamburger
patty just before it was done, the cheese would melt down into the patty
and add a new tang to the hamburger. It was an instant success - its
popularity spread nationwide until just about everyone the world over
enjoys the cheeseburger. . .
The Humpty Dumpty Barrel
Drive-In in Denver, also gone from the scene, trumps that with evidence
that it sought to trademark the name "cheeseburger" in Colorado in March
1935. But Kaelin's claim beats Humpty Dumpty by a year, substantiated by
a 1934 menu that reads, "Try Kaelin's Cheese, burgers ... 15 cents ...
You'll like 'em."
a plaque (probably placed there by the owners) on the wall of the Kaelin Restaurant proudly state that Carl
Kaelin invented the cheeseburger.
1935 - Denver, Colorado:
The cheeseburger trademark was
supposedly registered by Louis Ballast on March 5, 1935 of the Humpty Dumpty Barrel Drive-In in Denver,
Colorado. Ballast claimed to have come up with the idea while testing
hamburger toppings. Although Louis registered the name, he never made any
claims, and the restaurant is now a thing of the past. Some historians
dispute that he actually was issued a trademark.
The American and His Food, Revised
Edition, by Richard Osborn Cummings, published by University of Chicago
American Forum - Fast Food History, Handout #4: Mcfast-food Conques
Birthplace of the Burger, The Lassen
family has 'em the same way for generations at Louis' Lunch, by Jim
Shelton, Register Staff.
The Better Burger Battle, Atlas of
Popular Culture in the Northeatern United States, by John E. Harmon.
Beyond the Ice Cream
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Vaccaro, Enid Press, St. Louis, 2004.
Brief History of Athens, Texas, Texas
Highways Magazine, July 1994.
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D.A. Lincoln, Dover Publications, Inc. Mineola, New York (1996 Reprint
of the 1884 Classic).
Bull Cook and authentic Historical
Recipes and Practices, Volume II, by George Leonard Herter & Berthe E.
Can you believe some dispute us? We won, now we
celebrate - newspaper guide to hamburger cookoff, Athens (TX) Daily
Review, Athens Daily Review, September 25, 1991.
Cheap burger in paradise:
History of the hamburger, by Milford Prewitt, North Carolina
Food in American
History, Part 6 - Beef (Part 1): Reconstruction and Growth Into
the 20th Century (1865-1910), by Louis E. Grivetti, PhD, Jan L.
Corlett, PhD, Bertram M. Gordon, PhD, and Cassius T. Lockett,
PhD, Nutrition Today Magazine, Volume 39, January/February 2004,
From Boarding House to Bistro: the American Restaurant Then and
Now, by Richard Pillsbury. Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990.
Hamburgers and Mustard: A Match Made
in Wisconsin, by Eric Model, published by Hidden America - USA
Today, July 23, 1999.
History of the Menches
Louis' Lunch (A little
bit a history).
Menches Bros. is more than just burgers,
by Michelle Detwiler, 7/18/2002, Leader Publications, Akron, Ohio.
National Even Coming to Akron - Today is
National Hamburger Day! City of Akron, 2004 News Release, May 28, 1994.
The Night 2000 Men Came To Dinner, by
Douglas G. Meldrum, published by Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994.
Old Menus Tell the History of Hamburgers in L.A., by Roger M. Grace,
Thursday, January 15, 2004, Los Angeles, CA Metropolitan New-Enterprise.
Online Extra: A Hamburger's
Tasty Legacy, March 14, 2005, BusinessWeek.com.
Clarindan Is 'Dan' of
Hamburgers, Omaha World-Herald, by Paige Carlin, date unknown.
Paying Homage To The
Hamburger Is A Patriotic Duty, by Doris Reynolds, Naples Daily News, May
State of Oklahoma, Executive Department,
Proclamation, April 12, 1995.
Steve Church, Ridgecrest, California.
Better Burger Battle, by John E. Harmon, Atlas of Popular Culture in the
Northeastern United States.
The Complete Hamburger - The History of
America's Favorite Sandwich, by Ronald L. McDonald, published by Carol
Publishing Group, 1997.
The Food of the Western World - An
Encyclopedia of Food from North America and Europe, by Theodora
Fitzgibbon, Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1976.
The Food Chronology -
Food Chronology - A Food Lover's Compendium of Events and Anecdotes,
from Prehistory to the Present, by James Trager,
New York, published by Henry Holt and Company, 1995.
The Origin of Hamburgers
and Ketchup, by Giovanni Ballarini, University of the Studies of Parma.
The White Shoe Irregular:
It was Fun while it lasted, Honoring Louis' Lunch on Its 15th
Anniversary, Representative Rosa L. DeLauro, Congressional Record, 27
July 2000, page E1377.
They Only Serve Burgers Their Way, Making
It In Connecticut, Your Money, March 12, 1994.
Tolbert's Texas, The Henderson County
Hamburger, by F. X. Tolbert, Doubleday & Co., Garden City, New York,
Root Beer, by the Weber family.
Welcome To Hamburger Heaven, by Michael Wallis,
Oklahoma Today Magazine, May 1995.
Who Invented Hamburger Sandwich? And What About
the Cheeseburger?, by Roger M. Grace, Reminiscing, Thursday, January 8,
2004, Metropolitan News-Enterprise.