In 1880, a few years after arriving in Milwaukee from Frankfurt, Germany, Fred Usinger Sr. took over a little butcher shop on what is now N. Old World 3rd St., where he had been an employee, and married a niece of the former owner. The company remained in family hands.
A German immigrant and artist named George Peters painted murals in the Usinger's store depicting elves making sausage in 1906. In the 1950s, Usinger's began using the "Head Elf" of these murals, nicknamed "Fritzie," as the company's mascot.
When Frederick Usinger III died in 2006, his son Fritz and daughter Debra were still running the business.
Usinger's produces many kinds of sausages and meats, in many cases using traditional 19th-century recipes. Examples include varieties of bratwurst, salami, kishka, chorizo, liverwurst, beerwurst, bologna, pastroma, frankfurters, summer sausage, blood sausage (Blutwurst), ham and head cheese. It is not uncommon to see a worker from the surrounding restaurants pop in to get Usinger's products for their tables when they urgently need to restock.
Michael Bartlett's 1984 book The Book of Bests decreed, "If we were forced to pick just one "great" hot dog we'd probably go with Usinger's of Milwaukee. Usinger's line of cold cuts reaches heights of quality and flavor rarely achieved in this country." Former New York Times food writer Mimi Sheraton wrote in 1973, "Now, the good news. If ever I decide to move to Milwaukee, it will be because of Usinger's..."
- Silvers, Amy Rabideau. "Usinger was 'head elf' at sausage company" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Dec. 7, 2006
- Bartlett, Michael. The Book of Bests: Exploring the world of quality: A guide to the best things life has to offer Kansas City: Andrews, McMeel & Parker, 1984
- Sheraton, Mimi. "Food/ Made to Be Sold, Not Eaten." New York Sep. 3, 1973, p. 67.