Tradition of hot dogs

Published 12:14 pm Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It’s July, and we know what that means: time to celebrate the American hot dog.

July is National Hot Dog Month, you see, a glorious month when the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council tells us about the history of the dog and shares new recipes.

According to the council, sausages, such as hot dogs, have been around a long time. They were mentioned in Homer’s “Odyssey” as far back as the ninth century B.C.

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Frankfurt, Germany, credited by many as the originator of hot dogs (frankfurters), celebrated the 500th birthday of the hot dog in 1987. (There is some dispute surrounding the original city and creator of the hot dog, however.)

The American hot dog “comes from a widespread common European sausage brought here by butchers of several nationalities,” the council says.

There are a couple of notable dates in the American hot dog’s evolution, however:

In 1871, the council says, “Charles Feltman, a German butcher, opened up the first Coney Island hot dog stand selling 3,684 dachshund sausages in a milk roll during his first year in business.” (A dachshund is a small German dog with short legs and a long body.)

Then in 1893, during the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, several visitors were introduced to dachshund sausages wrapped in a bun (though there is still some dispute over the origin of the bun). The little hot dogs were a hit.

That same year, the portability of the hot dog in a bun made the tasty item a natural for baseball games. Hot dogs and baseball games have been a happy couple ever since.

So how did dachshund sausages get the name “hot dog,” you ask?

“Some say the word was coined in 1901 at the New York Polo Grounds on a cold April day,” the council says. “Vendors were hawking hot dogs from portable hot water tanks shouting ‘They’re red hot! Get your dachshund sausages while they’re red hot!’”

Well, as legend has it, a “New York Journal sports cartoonist, Tad Dorgan, observed the scene and hastily drew a cartoon of barking dachshund sausages nestled warmly in rolls. Not sure how to spell ‘dachshund’ he simply wrote ‘hot dog!’”

In any event, the hot dog has since become an American staple, as in the famous 1974 advertisement: “As American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.”

According to the council, Americans each eat 60 hot dogs on average every year. We consume 155 million on Independence Day alone. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we consume more than 7 billion.

Which brings up another American pastime: protesting the American hot dog.

About this time every year, people who hate hot-dog eating tell us that hot dogs are killing us — that they have too much fat and sold.

We are told by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that hot dogs can include “glass, plastic, metal, bone, rodents, and other miscellaneous ingredients … .”

That sounds like a Harry Potter recipe. It also sounds mighty tasty, so long as it’s ground up, stuffed into a sausage casing, grilled to perfection, smattered with mustard and washed down with an ice-cold beer.

We are told that animals used to make sausages are treated inhumanely. Though I agree we must do better in the way we treat farm animals, we should treat all God’s creatures with dignity and respect — then eat them.

In any event, it is summer. It’s time to grill up some iconic American dogs and wash them down with an ice-cold American beer that also originates from German immigrants.

If you can find one of those. In 2012, Budweiser was sold to a Brazilian/Belgian company.


Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. Send comments to Tom at