History of the hamburger in the United States

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A hamburger (or burger) is a sandwich that consists of a cooked ground meat patty, usually beef, placed in a sliced bun or between pieces of bread or toast. Hamburgers are often served with various condiments, such as mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup, as well as lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and cheese.[1]


Fletcher Davis 1880

The Texas historian Frank X. Tolbert attributes the invention to Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas. Davis is believed to have sold hamburgers at his café at 115 Tyler Street in Athens, Texas in the late 1880s, then brought them to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.[citation needed][2][3] An article about Louis' Lunch in The New York Times on January 12, 1974, stated that the McDonald's hamburger chain claims the inventor was an unknown food vendor at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.[4] Tolbert's research documented that this vendor was in fact Fletcher Davis.[citation needed] Dairy Queen spokesman Bob Phillips made a similar claim for Dairy Queen in a commercial filmed in Athens in the 1980s calling the town the birthplace of the hamburger.[citation needed]

Menches Brothers 1885

Residents of Hamburg, New York, which was named after Hamburg, Germany, attribute the hamburger to Ohioans Frank Menches and Charles Menches. According to legend, the Menches brothers were vendors at the 1885 Erie County Fair (then called the Buffalo Fair) when they ran out of sausage for sandwiches and used beef instead. They named the result after the location of the fair.[5][6] But, Frank Menches's obituary in The New York Times states instead that these events took place at the 1892 Summit County Fair in Akron, Ohio.[7]

Charlie Nagreen 1885

The Seymour Community Historical Society of Seymour, Wisconsin, credits Charlie Nagreen, now known as "Hamburger Charlie", with the invention of the hamburger. Nagreen was fifteen when he reportedly made sandwiches out of meatballs that he was selling at the 1885 Seymour Fair (now the Outagamie County Fair), so that customers could eat while walking. The Historical Society explains that Nagreen named the hamburger after the Hamburg steak with which local German immigrants were familiar.[8][9]

Oscar Bilby 1891

There is good evidence that the first hamburger served on a bun was made by Oscar Bilby of Tulsa in 1891.[10][11][12]

"In April of 1995, the Dallas Morning News reported Oklahoma author says Tulsa beats out Texas as the birthplace of delicacy. Michael Wallis, author of "Route 66, The Mother Road", was quoted by the newspaper to say he had discovered Tulsa's place in culinary history. The discovery was made while researching the state’s tastiest hamburgers. What better place to start than the restaurant that has been voted Tulsa's best burger more often than any other restaurant since 1933…Weber’s Root Beer Stand. Mr. Wallis’ research revealed that Oscar Weber Bilby was the first person to serve a real hamburger. On July 4, 1891, ground beef was served on his wife’s homemade buns. The Fourth of July party took place on his farm, just west of present day Tulsa. Until then, ground beef had been served in Athens, Texas on simple slices of bread, known presently and then as a "patty melt". According to the Tulsa-based author, the bun is essential. Therefore, in 1995, Governor Frank Keating cited Athens, Texas' feat of ground beef between two slices of bread to be a minor accomplishment. The Governor's April 1995 Proclamation also cites the first true hamburger on the bun, as meticulous research shows, was created and consumed in Tulsa in 1891. The Governor's Proclamation cites April 13, 1995 as Tulsa as "The Real Birthplace of the Hamburger." [13]

Louis' Lunch 1895

The Library of Congress credits Danish immigrant Louis Lassen of Louis' Lunch, a small lunch wagon in New Haven, Connecticut, for selling the first hamburger and steak sandwich in the U.S. in 1895.[14][15] Louis' Lunch flame broils the hamburgers, the original way, in antique 1898 vertical cast iron gas stoves manufactured by the Bridge and Beach, Co., St. Louis, Missouri. The stoves use hinged steel wire gridirons to hold the hamburgers in place while they cook simultaneously on both sides. The gridirons, made by Luigi Pieragostini, were patented in 1938.[16]

World War II[edit]

During World War II, waves of anti-German sentiment inspired some to refer to hamburgers as "Liberty Steaks."[17]

Hamburger bun[edit]

The hamburger bun was discovered in 1916 by a fry cook named Walter Anderson, who co-founded White Castle in 1921.[18]

U.S. hamburger restaurants[edit]

The following restaurants have either played a part in the creation of the hamburger sandwich, developed a unique cooking method or were first to sell them nationwide:

  • Louis' Lunch 1895, New Haven, Connecticut.[19] Louis' Lunch has been selling steak and hamburger sandwiches since 1895 when Louis Lassen opened his lunch wagon.[20] This small establishment, which advertises itself as the oldest hamburger restaurant in the U.S., is credited by some with having invented the classic American hamburger when Louis sandwiched a ground steak pattie between two pieces of white toast for a busy office worker in 1900.[21] Louis' Lunch flame broils the hamburgers in the original 1898 Bridge & Beach vertical cast iron gas stoves using locally developed steel wire gridirons to hold the hamburgers in place during cooking, U.S. Patent #2,148,879.[16] In 1974, The New York Times published a story about Louis' Lunch claiming to have invented the hamburger. The U.S. Library of Congress American Folklife Center Local Legacies Project website credits Louis' Lunch as the maker of America's first hamburger and steak sandwich The hamburger is still served today on two pieces of toast and not a bun.[14]
  • Dyer's Burgers, 1912, Memphis, Tennessee, deep-fried burgers using a cast-iron skillet.
  • White Castle, 1921, Wichita, Kansas. Due to widely prevalent anti-German sentiment in the U.S. during World War I, an alternative name for hamburgers was salisbury steak. Following the war, hamburgers became unpopular until the White Castle restaurant chain marketed and sold large numbers of small 2 and a half inch square hamburgers. They started to punch 5 holes in each patty which helps them cook evenly and eliminates the need to flip the burger. The burger first sold for 5 cents. White Castle holds a U.S trademark on the word "slyders." The White Castle building was modeled after the water tower building in Chicago with the turrets and fortress like walls. White Castle was the first to sell their hamburgers in grocery stores and vending machines. They also created the industrial strength spatula and first to mass-produce the paper hat. Today there are more than 400 restaurants around the country. They sell over 550 million hamburgers per year. What you crave has become the White Castle slogan[citation needed].


Main article: Cheeseburger history


Game meats and other exotic or unusual meats are increasingly used to make burgers, such as this ground Elk meat. Note the relatively low fat content. (approx 1 pound (0.45 kg))

In the United States, burgers may be classified as two main types: fast food hamburgers and individually prepared burgers made in homes and restaurants. The latter are traditionally prepared "with everything" (or "all the way", "deluxe", "the works", "dragged through the garden", or in some regions "all dressed"), which includes lettuce, tomato, onion, and often sliced pickles (or pickle relish). Cheese (usually processed cheese slices but often Cheddar, Swiss, pepper jack, or blue), either melted on the meat patty or crumbled on top, is generally an option.

Condiments are usually added to the hamburger or may be offered separately on the side; the three most common are mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup. However, salad dressings and barbecue sauce are also popular. McDonald's uses their own "Big Mac sauce" on their signature Big Mac hamburger.

Other popular toppings include bacon, avocado or guacamole, sliced sautéed mushrooms, cheese sauce and/or chili (usually without beans). Heinz 57 sauce is popular among burger enthusiasts. Somewhat less common ingredients include fried egg, scrambled egg, feta cheese, blue cheese, salsa, pineapple, Jalapenos and other kinds of chile peppers, anchovies, slices of ham or bologna, pastrami or teriyaki-seasoned beef, tartar sauce, french fries, onion rings or potato chips.

Standard toppings on hamburgers may depend upon location, particularly at restaurants that are not national or regional franchises. A "Texas burger" uses mustard as the only sauce, and comes with or without vegetables, jalapeno slices, and cheese. In New Mexico and parts of the South West, Green Chile burgers are very common. In the Upper Midwest, particularly Wisconsin, burgers are often made with a buttered bun, butter as one of the ingredients of the patty or with a pat of butter on top of the burger patty. This is called a "Butter Burger". In the Carolinas, for instance, a Carolina-style hamburger "with everything" may be served with cheese, chili, onions, mustard, and coleslaw. National chain Wendy's sells a "Carolina Classic" burger with these toppings in these areas. In Hawaii hamburgers are often topped with teriyaki sauce, derived from the Japanese-American culture, and locally grown pineapple. Waffle House claims on its menus and website to offer 70,778,880 different ways of serving a hamburger. In portions of the Midwest and East coast, a hamburger served with lettuce, tomato, and onion is called a "California burger". This usage is sufficiently widespread to appear on the menus of Dairy Queen. In the Western U.S., a "California" burger often means a cheeseburger, with guacamole and bacon added. Pastrami burgers are particularly popular in Salt Lake City, Utah.[26]

Hamburgers may be described by their combined uncooked weight, with a single uncooked burger a nominal four ounces or 113.5 grams is a "quarter pounder". Instead of a "double hamburger", one might encounter a third- or half-pounder, weighing eight ounces or 227 grams. Burger patties are nearly always specified in fractions of a pound.

In the continental U.S. it is uncommon to hear a chicken patty or breast on a hamburger bun referred to as a "chicken burger". This is almost always called a "chicken sandwich" except for rare exceptions, such as with the Red Robin chain of restaurants. In Canada, "chicken burgers" generally refer to patties and when using a chicken breast, to "chicken sandwiches". In Hawaii, small (usually marinated) pieces of chicken piled on a bun can be found, referred to as a teriyaki chicken burger, for example. This is similar to what is found in Japan,[27] but is a local variation.

  • A hamburger with two patties is called a "double decker" or simply a "double", a hamburger with three patties is called a "triple". Doubles and triples are often combined with cheese and sometimes with bacon, yielding a "double cheeseburger" or a "triple bacon cheeseburger", or alternatively, a "bacon double or triple cheeseburger".
  • A hamburger smothered in red or green chile is called a slopper and is common in the southwestern United States.
  • A patty melt consists of a patty, sautéed onions and cheese between two slices of rye bread. The sandwich is then buttered and fried.
  • A slider is a small hamburger patty sprinkled with diced onions and served on an equally small bun; so named because their small size allows them to "slide" right down your throat in one or two bites. Other versions say the term "slider" originated from the hamburgers served by flight line galleys at military airfields, which were so greasy they slid right through you; or aboard U.S. Navy ships, because of the way greasy burgers slid across the galley grill while the ship pitched and rolled.[28][29]). Another purveyor of the slider is Krystal. Burger King has sold pull-apart mini-burgers, first under the name "Burger Buddies" and later as "Burger Shots". In the late 2000s, the "slider" has gained in popularity and has been featured on the menu even at more expensive restaurants such as T.G.I. Fridays. Jack-in-the-Box also now serves sliders marketed as "Mini Sirloin Burgers".
  • In Minnesota, a "Juicy Lucy" (or "Jucy Lucy", depending on which restaurant's origin claims you believe) it is a hamburger having cheese inside the meat patty rather than on top. A piece of cheese is surrounded by raw meat and cooked until it melts, resulting in a molten core of cheese within the patty. This scalding hot cheese tends to gush out at the first bite, so servers frequently warn patrons to let the sandwich cool for a few minutes before consumption.
  • Buffalo burgers are made with meat from the American Bison.
  • A low carb burger is a hamburger where the bun is omitted and large pieces of lettuce are used in its place, with mayonnaise and/or mustard being the sauces primarily used.[30][31][32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cooking Wizardry for Kids - Margaret Kenda - Google Boeken". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  2. ^ "Atlas of Popular Culture in the Northeastern United States". Geography.ccsu.edu. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ "Burger 'Birthplace' Faces Bulldozer; A Landmark Since 1967". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-06-30. 
  5. ^ "Going On in the Northeast". The New York Times. July 21, 1985. 
  6. ^ "Fest maintains claim to first burger, despite beef from critics". Buffalo News. July 17, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  7. ^ "Obituary: Charles Menches". The New York Times. October 5, 1951. 
  8. ^ "Recent News". SeymourHistory.org. 2011-08-17. Retrieved 2013-03-27. 
  9. ^ Heuer, Myron (1999-10-12). "The real home of the hamburger". Herald & Journal. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  10. ^ "The Hamburger: A History - Josh Ozersky - Google Boeken". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  11. ^ "Hamburgers & Fries: An American Story - John T. Edge - Google Boeken". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  12. ^ "Hogs on 66: Best Feed and Hangouts for Road Trips on Route 66 - Michael Wallis, Marian Clark - Google Boeken". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  13. ^ ":: Welcome To Weber's Superior Root Beer and Grill ::". Webersrootbeer.net. 1995-04-13. Retrieved 2013-03-27. 
  14. ^ a b "Connecticut: Louis' Lunch (Local Legacies: Celebrating Community Roots - Library of Congress)". Lcweb2.loc.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  15. ^ Department of Information Technology. "About Connecticut". CT.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  16. ^ a b "Patent US2148879 - BROILER - Google Patents". Google.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  17. ^ Follow Bob on Tapiture (2013-06-13). "A few interesting facts about WWII". theCHIVE. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  18. ^ "h2g2 - Hamburgers in History". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  19. ^ "Louis' Lunch". Americaslibrary.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  20. ^ "Price & Leeʹs New Haven (New Haven County, Conn.) City Directory, Including ... - Google Boeken". Books.google.com. 1905-06-16. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  21. ^ "New York Magazine - Google Boeken". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  22. ^ "National Cheeseburger Day". Culturefreak.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  23. ^ "Louisville Facts & Firsts - LouisvilleKy.gov". City of Louisville, Kentucky. Retrieved 2006-07-29. 
  24. ^ "» History Of The Cheeseburger". Cheese-burger.net. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  25. ^ "Hamburger America: One Man's Cross-Country Odyssey to Find the Best Burgers ... - George Motz - Google Boeken". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  26. ^ United Tastes - Pastrami Meets Burger in Salt Lake City - Series - NYTimes.com
  27. ^ Setsuko Yoshizuka (2013-07-15). "Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich". Japanesefood.about.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 
  28. ^ Plocek, Keith (2008-02-21). "Sliders, Rollers and Monkey Dicks - Houston - Restaurants and Dining - Eating Our Words". Blogs.houstonpress.com. Retrieved 2013-03-27. 
  29. ^ "The Big Apple: Slider or Slyder (mini-hamburger)". Barrypopik.com. 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2013-03-27. 
  30. ^ [2][dead link]
  31. ^ [3][dead link]
  32. ^ "Healthy Carb Cookbook For Dummies - Jan McCracken - Google Books". Books.google.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27. 


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  • Edge, John T. (2005). Hamburgers & Fries : an American Story. G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN 0-399-15274-1.  - History and origins of the hamburger
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