Thursday, November 17, 2016

Puppies, Austrian Bread and Austrian Sausage - a Finely Ground History of "Hot Dogs"

New York Tribune, August 20, 1922.

Hot dogs! Warm puppies. Step this way for your red-hot canines!

Metropolitan Magazine, Volume 26, Number 5, August 1907, page 652.

This circus barker’s sales pitch is not just a pun – it is suggestive of the origin of the term, “hot dog,” as applied to a cooked sausage in a bun.  The suggestion that mystery-meat sausage may include dog meat is a centuries-old joke – and, in some cases, a genuine concern.

Hopkinsville Kentuckian, October 25, 1895, page 2.
Illinois Free Trader and LaSalle County Commercial Advertiser (Ottawa, Illinois), May 5, 1843, page 2.
Binghamton Courier (Binghamton, New York), May 01, 1845, Page 2.

Mules and horses may have had just as much to fear:

Hopkinsville Kentuckian, October 25, 1895, page 2.

It has recently been discovered that in New York an improvement has been attempted on the sausage.  An investigation among the fat-rendering establishments of Jersey City has revealed the fact that dogs and horses have been liberally used in the manufacture of sausage-meat. 

The Evening Telegraph (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), October 1, 1870, page 3.

It appears that the “red hots” (frankfurter sausages) sold at Coney Island and on the streets of New York are horse meat or mule meat, to say nothing of their being of the very lowest quality at that.

The Roanoke Daily Times (Virginia), May 21, 1896, page 6.

But despite the rumors, the desire for sausages continued apace:

We cling to our sausage through good report and evil report, and though dogs become scarce and sausage-meat abundant about the same time, we never dream of coupling the two circumstances.  Who knows that this piece of canine delicacy that I eat with my buckwheat cake is not tainted with hydrophobia?  This beautifully browned saucisson may be nothing but madness chopped fine and fried.  Well, what is to be will be.  How satisfactory that is! New York must have her sausages, even if she goes without her dogs.  So let us buy hydrophobia by the pound.

The Evening Telegraph (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), October 1, 1870, page 3.

“Frankfurter” sausages and “Wienerwursts” have been called “hot dogs” in the United States since at least the early 1890s[i], and were jokingly referred to as dogs much earlier.  But while the origin of the term, “hot dog,” is clear, the origin of the sausage and bun is more of a mystery.

Washington Herald (Washington DC), November 10, 1912, page 38.

Writing pop-histories, like making sausage, isn’t always pretty – a bit from here, a scrap from there, run it through the grinder – it’s not kosher, but voila!  They taste good, many of their parts are edible, but some of them are hard to swallow – a few examples:

The “hot dog” was invented in 1805 by Johann Georg Lahner, a Frankfurt, Germany, butcher – thus “frankfurters.”[ii]

Charles Feltman [was] the genius who devised a charcoal stove on his pie wagon capable of heating sausages and put the heated sausages inside fresh rolls.[iii]

Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1953, page 68.
Harry M. Stevens . . . sold peanuts in the early days of baseball and later invented the hot dog . . . .[iv]

Jim Donohue . . . invented the hot dog.[v]

Tradition has it St. Louis is the birthplace of the American hot dog.  The date: 1883.  But it was not until some years later, when Anton Feuchtwanger cloaked its blushing warmth in a bun and peddled the delicacy from his wagon, that the hot dog made good locally.  Then came the wider audience of the St. Louis World’s Fair . . . and the hot dog began its triumphant march to world fame.[vi]

Here’s how the hot dog began, according to most accounts.  A sausage salesman named Sigmund, selling at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, gave his customers gloves to hold the hot sausage while they ate them.  That cost too much.  So his helper, Otto, cut out special buns for the sausages.  Others say A. M. White invented the sausage on a bun at Asbury Park, N. J., in 1895.[vii]

But regardless of who “invented” the “hot dog,” it was, much like apple pie,[viii] an American institution by 1920:

The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio), March 28, 1920, section 2 page 3.


Pola Negri, continental motion picture star, tries one of the great American institutions in Los Angeles – the “hot dog.” 

The Evening Star (Washington DC), November 3, 1922, page 17.

A complete history of the “hot dog” is deeper, more complex, and more satisfying than the easily digestible popular stories, even though most of the standard stories include at least a morsel of truth.  Let’s open the bun, peel back the sausage casing and sort out the meat from the meat by-products.

So, who invented the “hot dog”? 

It depends on what you mean by “hot dog.” 

If by “hot dog” you mean a Wienerwurst or Frankfurter sausage – long, slender sausage made with finely ground meat (generally a mixture of pork and beef), you may get one answer.   If by “hot dog” you mean a Wienerwurst or Frankfurter sausage served on bread, you may get another answer.  And, if by “hot dog” you mean a Wienerwurst or Frankfurter on a spongy white-bread bun, you may get yet a third answer.

Wienerwurst or Frankfurters were introduced into the United States by the early 1870s.  Street vendors selling hot wienerwursts and bread (generally “brown” or “rye” bread, when specified) were a feature of Midwestern cities along the Ohio River and Mississippi River Valleys throughout the late 1870s and into the early 1880s.  The earliest, unambiguous evidence of Wienerwurst in New York City dates to about 1873.  The earliest unambiguous reference to serving “sausages” (perhaps Frankfurters) on a “roll” (perhaps a Vienna roll) dates to 1881 on Coney Island.

Proto-“Hot Dogs”

Long before Wienerwurst or Frankfurter sandwiches became popular in the United States, people throughout the United States and Europe were known to eat “bread and sausage” or even sausage sandwiches.  It is not clear, however, whether these early sausages were of the Wiener or Frankfurter style that would later become known as “hot dogs.”  Many sausages, like bologna or salami for example, have a large diameter, are sliced and served cold – nothing like a “hot dog.” Other sausages were large, with hard casings, and could not be easily bitten and chewed like Wiener and Frankfurter-style “hot dog” sausages.

An early example of American “bread and sausage” sparked a political controversy.  The sausage, however, was not hot.  Congressman William Sawyer of Ohio pulled it out of his pocket and ate it for lunch on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, touching off a minor scandal:

Every day about 2 o’clock, he [(Congressman Sawyer)] feeds.  About that hour he is seen leaving his seat and taking a position in the window, back of the Speaker’s chair, on the left.  He unfolds a greasy paper, in which is contained a chunk of bread and sausage, or some unctuous substance.  This he disposes of quite rapidly, wipes his hands with the greasy paper for a napkin, and then throws it out of the window.  What little grease is left on his hands he wipes on his almost bald head, which saves an outlay for pomatum.  His mouth sometimes serves as a finger-glass, his coat-sleeves and pantaloons being called into requisition as a napkin.  He uses a jackknife for a tooth-pick, and then he goes on the floor again, and abuses the Whigs as the British party, and claims the whole of Oregon as necessary for the spread of civilization.

Polynesian (Honolulu, Hawaii), October 24, 1846, page 3 (reprint of article that appeared in the New York Daily Tribune before March 5, 1846).

The Congressman confirmed some elements of the story, denied others, and introduced an arguably unconstitutional motion to expel the reporter from the chamber:

Mr. Sawyer, in bringing the matter before the House, distinctly admitted that he did usually ‘feed’ upon sausage and bread about two o’clock each day, but stoutly denied the charge of using his coat and pantaloons as a napkin, or his mouth as a wash bowl.  The House saw no reason why Mr. Sawyer should not be permitted to do with his own as he saw fit, and consequently pacified the Hon. Member, by expelling the offender.

Vermont Phoenix (Brattleboro, Vermont), March 12, 1846, page 2.

The American sausage affair sparked Euro-elitist ridicule of classless Americans in the German-language press:

The continent has scarcely recovered from a laugh that threatened at one time to become hysterical.  Had the hysterics set in, the whole cause of the disease, and the moral responsibility of its consequences would have rested on the shoulders of the honorable member of the House of Representatives, who sees fit when he is hungry to retire to a window of the house and enjoy a lunch of bread and sausage.

The New York Herald, July 31, 1846, page 1.

There were two common 19th century American food items which, like “hot dogs,” involving ground or minced meat in bread.  The names of these food items, “hot dodger” and “sausage roll,” sound tantalizingly similar to “hot dogs”.
A “hot dodger” was a hard griddle cake made from cornmeal.  When made with meat cooked into the cake, it sometimes referred to as a “beef dodger.”  When made without meat, it was commonly referred to as a “corn dodger.”  The name “dodger” was said to refer to the tendency of corn to pop or sizzle when heated, causing the cake to move or “dodge” in the pan.[ix]

A “Sausage Roll” was prepared by cooking seasoned chopped meat inside of a pocket of pastry dough[x]; more like a pioneer “Hot Pocket” than a “hot dog.”

One account of a typical New York street scene in 1870 described something more closely resembling an actual “hot dog”:

[T]here has to me always been something wonderfully seductive in the spectacle of a market woman selling vegetables with one hand, and with the other dipping into a cup of smoking coffee a fragrant sausage, rolled up in a well-buttered buckwheat cake.  It is a perfect picture of vulgar happiness.

The Evening Telegraph (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), October 1, 1870, page 3.

It is not clear whether this particular sausage was a “Wienerwurst” or a “Frankfurter,” and a buttered buckwheat cake is not quite a bun, but it pre-dates the earliest unambiguous evidence of either “Wienerwurst” or “Frankfurter” sausages (by those names) in the United States by only a few years, so it is possible that the sausage was a Wiener. 

“Wienerwursts” and “Frankfurters” are alternate names for the same sausage.  They were invented by a Frankfurt-trained butcher working in a suburb of Vienna (Wien in German) – hence, “Frankfurter” and “Wienerwurst” (Vienna sausage).  Coincidentally, the early hot dog buns were generally referred to as “Vienna rolls,” which were also developed in Vienna.

Wienerwursts and Frankfurters

Johann Georg Lahner
In 1805, Johann Georg Lahner, a Frankfurt-trained butcher from Gasseldorf Germany (b. 1772) invented a new type of sausage while working in Alt-Lerchen, Austria, a suburb of Vienna.  The revolutionary sausage was announced in a Vienna newspaper on May 15, 1805.  In Vienna, he marketed the sausage as a “Frankfurter,” after the city where he trained; outside of Vienna, it came to be known as a “Wienerwurst,” after the city of its origin. 

One hundred and seventy-five years later Vienna celebrated the feat:

A famous Austrian celebrated its 175th anniversary.  Not some war hero or other famous personage but something that gave simple pleasure to countless millions through the years.

It was 175 years ago that Johann Georg Lahner, a butcher from the Viennese suburb of Alt-Lerchen feld first concocted the exact recipe for a new kind of sausage.  Having spent his apprentice years in Frankfurt and sensing that prophets are usually not honored in their own country, he called his invention “Frankfurter”.  This explains the curious fact that the home town called these sausages “Frankfurters” while the rest of Europe called them by their rightful name of “Wiener” – a literal translation of “Viennese”.  Be that as it may, the Viennese saw cause for celebration: The mayor gave an official speech in which he pointed out that a city which celebrates something edible instead of a war hero was a good place to live in, the populace responded by eating even more of the delicious product than usual and the spokesman for the butchers pointed out that they are selling their product at a loss.  In their festive mood, the Viennese were even willing to let that go . . . and ate another “Wiener”.

Austrian Information (New York), a publication of the Austrian Information Service, Volume 33, Number 10, 1980, page 8.

Contemporary sources verify that the same sausage was still known by two names in the mid-1800s:

They have arranged to deliver, every day, 10,000 pairs of “Frankfurter with Kren”.  What they call a “Frankfurter” here [(Vienna)] is what people outside of Vienna call “Wiener Wuerstchen”; “Kren” is grated raw horseradish.

Friedrich Giehne, Zwei Jahre oesterreichischer Politik, Schaffhause, Fr. Hurter, 1868, page 519.

The original “Wienerwurst” or “Frankfurter” was a mixture of beef and pork, something that Lahner had not been allowed to do in Frankfurt, where the prevailing rules of butchery forbid mixing meats. 

The new sausage was accepted by the Imperial Court and became very popular.  Prominent fans reportedly included Franz Schubert, Johann Strauss, and the poet, Adalbert Stifter, who arranged to transport the sausages from Vienna to his home in Linz (a distance of 110 miles) when weather conditions permitted (the temperature had to be low enough to ensure the sausages remained fresh – this was before refrigeration or train travel with cold storage).[xi]

Lahner’s successful sausage helped him launch a family business that lasted for a century and a half.  In 1906, one of his great-grandchildren invented the “pig in a blanket,” or “Wuerstel im Schlafrock” (sausage in a nightshirt).  Lahner’s meat company was in operation until 1967.

Lahner’s signature sausage, however, lives on today, thanks (in part) to its eventual success in the form of the American “hot dog.”  But before it became an American institution, it had to get to the US.     

The international “Wienerwurst” market may have experienced a boost with its prominence at the International Exposition of 1867; the Paris World’s Fair:

[T]here were bakers of sweets and cakes, and makers of gauffres around the gardens, not to speak of the sausage and Wiener Wurst booths where refreshments solid and liquid could be had.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 20, 1867, page 4.

Within a few years, you could find Vienna sausages, “Wienerwursts” and “Frankfurters” all up and down the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys; presumably spread by a wave of German immigrants who helped fuel the expansion of the American West.

“Wieners” and “Frankfurters”

It may be impossible to know how or when sausages similar to Lahner’s “Wienerwurst” were first enjoyed in the United States, but in 1871, you could order “Vienna sausage with potatoes salad” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  You could order “Vienna sausage and sauerkraut” in Bloomington, Illinois in 1873.  By 1874, you could buy “Vienna Sausage” from butchers and sausage makers in Jefferson City and St. Louis, Missouri, and Memphis, Tennessee. 

Memphis Daily Appeal, October 31, 1874, page 2.
“Vienna sausage” could be ordered in a German restaurant in New York City as early as 1873, but not in the form of a hot dog.  Dinner came with a “hunk” of bread cut from a communal supply in the center of the table, but the sausages were not served on the bread as a sandwich.  The “loved Vienna sausage” was served with “half and half – that is to say, half a plate of sauer-kraut and half of mashed potatoes.”[xii]

The earliest unambiguous evidence of something like a “hot dog” appears, appropriately enough, in the city then proudly known as “Porkopolis” – Cincinnati, Ohio.  In 1875, in the German quarter of Cincinnati – “Over the Rhine” – you could buy a generic sausage from the “sausage-man” or a “Wienerwurst” on bread from the “Vienna sausage-man” or “Wiener wurst man”:

The sausage man perambulates [the saloons and gardens of the German neighborhood] at all hours of the day and evening; but chiefly at half-past nine and eleven in the morning, about six in the afternoon, and throughout the evening, from seven or eight till after midnight. . . . 
 The Vienna sausage-man is another well-known character “Over the Rhine.”  He is constantly to be met with, and is known by every body.  He carries with him a large tin full of sausages, while a small boy by his side bears the bread, the salt, and the pepper.  He is a man not without wit, but of an aspect which the irreverent declare to be bordering upon the ludicrous. . . .  Every one “Over the Rhine” knows them both, and every kindly German has a nod and a smile for the man and the boy.

Daniel J. Kenny, Illustrated Cincinnati: a Pictorial Hand-book of the Queen City, Cincinnati, Stevens, 1875, pages 135-136.

Although they were not yet called “hot dogs,” “Wienerwursts” were already, on occasion, jokingly referred to as dogs or dog meat:

It is Frank Maeder, of the Troubadour party [(the Troubador was a musical play being performed in Cincinnati that week)] who is the greatest living destroyer of “Wienerwurst,” and not Frank Warder, as the types had it yesterday.  We do not propose letting “Handsome Frank” off that easily.  The truth of history must be maintained.  He came near “bulling” the “dog” market last week.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, October 30, 1876, page 8.

In 1877, a New York City sausage shop called, “The Vienna,” advertised “Something new! Pure Sausages, Vienna style,” suggesting that the sausage was still a novelty, at least in New York City:

New York Herald, May 27, 1877, page 13.

Three years later, a New York newspaper profiled Cincinnati’s “Wienerwurst” vendors, suggesting that the sausage may still not have been well known in the city, or at least not as sold by street vendors:

“Wiener wurst” is a common street cry in Cincinnati, being used by venders of Vienna sausage.  These men have little stands at the street corners, provided with a vessel for keeping the sausage hot by means of steam, a box for German rye bread, and a jar for horse-radish.  For five cents they sell a steaming link of sausage, resting on a slice of bread, with horseradish sprinkled over it.  The sausage is made of three parts of beef to one of pork.

The Sun (New York), November 9, 1880, page 2.

Wiener-wurst is an article of street sale peculiar to Cincinnati, and its peddlers do most of their business at night.  When a cent is handed to the vender, he lifts the lid of his tin box, from which warm steam comes oozing forth; seizes a piece of brown paper and a slice of black or rye bread daubs on the latter about a tablespoonful of horse radish, and then with a fork, produces the wiener wurst, nothing more than a sausage, long and slenderly made, of a reddish, beefy hue.  It is piping hot, appetizing, and has a sort of flavor about it that is both strengthening and savory.

Evening Visitor (Raleigh, North Carolina), October 6, 1881, page 1.

This last article was republished in numerous other newspapers, with “Cincinnati” changed to “Western cities” generally.  By the mid-1880s, the “Wienerwurst” peddler had become a well-known personage on the streets of cities along the Ohio, Mississippi and Missouri River valleys.  It seemed like a good business to get into:

The wiener-wurst season has come.  An enterprising young man might get an outfit for a mere song, and make a good living this winter.  Wiener-wurst, fresh bread and horse-radish, yum, yum.

Atchison Daily Patriot (Kansas), November 20, 1878, page 4.

In St. Louis, a number of “wiener-wurst men” were arrested during a gambling raid – no word on whether Anton Feuchtwanger, the reputed “inventor” of the hot dog at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, was among those arrested:

At midnight last night the down town keno houses were visited by the police. . . .  At Bensley’s some wiener-wurst men were making sales among the players. . . . One of the wiener-wurst cans exploded spattering the crowd with boiling water.  Altogether 145 arrests were made.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 1, 1881, page 10.

A good wienerwurst man could make a small fortune – or large one:

A Chicago pork-packer created a sensation on ‘Change [(the stock exchange)] by announcing that in the future he would deal in Wiene4rwurst only.  He caused another sensation in thirty days by retiring from business worth $100,000. . . .

A Texas farmer made his start in Louisville by selling Wienerwurst. . . .

Louisville-made Wienerwurst is the best, but Chicago Wienerwurst yields the largest profit.

The Wienerwurst trade flourishes best at night, after the oyster with each glass of beer has retired. . . .

A few loaves of bread, a few pounds of Wienerwurst, a small water bath tank, and a coal oil tank, complete the outfit.  Nothing else is required, except the words “red hot,” and the business begins.

The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), December 19, 1884, page 4.

Wienerwurst-men appeared in Minneapolis in 1884, and did doggoned good business for a few years:

It was two years ago last spring when a Teutonic individual wearing a white apron appeared on the corner in front of the Nicollet house in Minneapolis, having with him a cylindrical tin can about two feet high, which was supplied with a small furnace in the shape of a gasoline lamp at the bottom.  He immediately set up the cry of “Ret hot; red hot.”  At first no attention was paid to him, but the persistency with which he continued to ejaculate this rather unusual expression finally induced some one to ask him what ailed him.  Then it was discovered that he desired to sell for the modest sum of 5 cents a sandwich composed of two links of weiner-wurst sausage and two slices of rye bread.  A little horse-radish added by way of a relish made the whole a rather palatable “snack.”  The sausages were heated to a temperature that probably suggested the name “red hot.”  The fame of the new bonne bouche spread rapidly and soon all classes of people were eating “red hots.”  At first it was only the “rounders” and people who were on the streets late at night who ran the risk of contracting hydrophobia [(rabies)] by masticating the enervating wiener-wurst, but the craze spread rapidly and dudes, politicians and even capitalists became slaves to the fascinating but soul-destroying “red hot.”

St. Paul Daily Globe, August 22, 1886, page 7.

With business good, several additional “red-hot” men began plying the mean streets of Minneapolis.  But in a sequence of events that would repeat themselves in other cities over the years, business slumped in the wake of reports questioning the quality of the meat.  A medical student claimed to have found a dog collar in his “red-hot,” and reports surfaced that the sausages were made from damaged meat bought on the cheap in St. Paul. 

The “red-hot” man was quickly supplanted by popcorn salesmen and “ham and” sellers, who sold a freshly-prepared “ham and egg sandwich, or rather a ham omelette and biscuit” for ten cents – a precursor of the Egg McMuffin.

In 1883, you could buy Cincinnati “Wienerwurst” (and St. Louis beer) in Texas: 

San Antonio Light (Texas), October 19, 1883, page 2.
  . . . and Wienerwurst in California:

Sacramento Daily Record Union (California), November 14, 1883, page 3.

These early Wienerwurst sandwiches were apparently not completely “hot dog”-like, in that they were not served on a spongy white-bread roll or bun.  When the bread was specified, it was generally described as rye, brown, graham, or pumpernickel, and sometimes just a “slice” or two of bread; in any case, not a roll or bun. 

For example, this early reference to “Frankfurters” in New York City refers to “brown bread” – and mustard:

I am not a great admirer of Teutonic cookery, but must admit that Frankfurter sausage, brown bread and beer do not go bad on a winter’s evening.  I never knew what a Frankfurter was made of, and I have no desire to be informed.  In know that with horse-radish and mustard it is very appetizing.

Samuel A. Mackeever, Glimpses of Gotham (2nd Edition), New York, National Police Gazette Office, 1880, page 28.

One year later, a lone “sausage” man of the Iron Pier on Coney Island sold what may have been the first real “hot dog” on a bun (even if not by that name).  Competition soon followed.

Vienna Rolls

The happiest man along the beach nowadays in the way of a caterer on a small scale is certainly the “sausage” man of the Iron Pier.  For 10 cents one can get a savory section of the minced and spiced delicacy deftly inclosed in a long, fresh Vienna roll, and for those who are fond of sausages it is decidedly a savory sandwich. 

New York Times, August 15, 1881.

Although the type of sausage served on the roll was not identified by name, its description as a “minced and spiced delicacy” is consistent with other early descriptions of the distinctive new sausage known as a “Wienerwurst” or “Frankfurter”.

The same article noted the success of the novel sausage-on-a-roll operation and predicted future success and more competition:

The way the cook and his assistant were overrun with orders and presented with dimes yesterday seemed to indicate that a vast number of the pier excursionists had developed an alarming appetite for the sausages.  The business is rather a novelty at present, but it is so profitable that there will no doubt be one or more opposition sausage furnaces in the near future.

New York Times, August 15, 1881.

The prediction proved prescient.  One year later, nearly to the day, they were everywhere:

A surprising feature of this section of the beach is the extraordinary consumption of sausages.  Over a dozen sausage stands are to be seen within twenty paces.  Upon huge gridirons, with roaring fires beneath them, are laid the sausages that look indigestible enough, and they are broiled until they are cooked to suit the esthetic tastes of the multitude that anxiously await the completion of the cooking process.  As soon as the sausage is cooked it is inserted in a huge roll, and this delicacy, with the addition of a coppery looking pickle, is disposed of at the moderate sum of five cents.  Over 10,000 sausages were disposed of at the Island yesterday.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 14, 1882, page 3.

History does not record the name of the anonymous sausage vendor who first put his sausage on a roll at the Iron Pier in 1881, nor does it say where he got his roll.

History does, however, credit an Austrian-born baker with inventing the “Vienna roll,” or at least adapting its shape to the shape of a frankfurter, and with supplying the bulk of Coney Island’s “hot dog” buns throughout the first two decades of the trade.

Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania), July 6, 1904, page 4.

The baker’s name was Ignatz Frischmann:[xiii]

Mr. Frischmann was born in Austria, and on his arrival in this country established a baking business at the resort, becoming the firm friend and supporter of John Y. McKane [(a neighborhood political boss)].  Even at that early date the frankfurter was an institution at Coney Island.  The shrewd baker saw a chance to make a hit and invented the long, narrow – and what has since become very lean – Vienna roll.  . . . From a daily sale of ten dozen during the rush season, the industry rose to a maximum sale of more than one hundred thousand rolls a day last summer.

The Topeka State Journal (Kansas), March 10, 1904, page 5.

Mr. Frischman was fifth-three years old and a native of Austria.  About twenty years ago he established a bakery at Coney Island.  He observed that the crowds which flocked there as the island grew in popularity as a resort displayed a fondness for frankfurter sandwiches.  In those days the frankfurter was served to the hungry pleasure seekers between two slices of bread.  It occurred to Mr. Frischman that it would be more delectable tucked in the depths of a Vienna roll of a special size.

Acting on the idea he began baking rolls and supplying them to the frankfurter men, who, finding that they increased business, ordered more and more of them.  Mr. Frischman, as a result, was soon turning out “frankfurter rolls” by the thousands from his ovens.  For years his bake for the average Summer Sunday was 100,000 rolls, and he was known the length and breadth of the island.

New York Times, March 7, 1904, page 13.

The report that Frischmann established his bakery “about twenty years” before his death in 1904 is more-or-less consistent with the earliest contemporary reports of “sausages” served on “Vienna rolls” at Coney Island in 1881.  Whether it was his idea to use the “Vienna rolls” as the first “hot dog” bun, or whether he merely capitalized on someone else’s idea by supplying the rolls, is an open question.   

What is not in dispute, however, is that he definitely did not “invent” the “Vienna roll”.  “Vienna rolls” had been known in the United States since at least the 1840s,[xiv] and became popular in the United States following the success of the “Model Vienna Bakery” at the Philadelphia World’s Fair of 1876.

“Hot dog” buns were routinely referred to as “Vienna rolls” well into the 1920s and crescent-shaped “Vienna rolls,” in their own right, were still commonly available.  They were well known and popular enough in the 1910s that several accounts of their early “history” appeared in numerous newspapers.

A colorful yet likely fanciful origin story credits a Polish baker named Kolszicki with inventing the “Vienna Roll.”  He purportedly invented the roll after receiving permission to open the first coffee-house in Vienna as a reward for his service as a spy against the Turks.[xv] 

Another version of the story suggests that the shape honors bakers who helped repel a Turkish invasion of Vienna:

It was on September 27, 1529, that the enormous Turkish host laid siege to Vienna, Solyman conducting the affair in person.  Before risking useless loss of life in a general assault the sultan tried to make an entrance into the city by means of tunnels. . . . 

Some Vienna bakers were at work one night (so runs the story) in a cellar making bread for the garrison.  During a pause in their conversation one of the bakers happened to hear the muffled sound of digging. . . .

Guessing at once that the enemy were tunneling a way into the city, the bakers rushed out and gave alarm. . . .  In the moment of victory . . . the bakers who had given the alarm were not forgotten.  To commemorate the event, they and their descendants henceforth molded their rolls into the shape of a crescent (the sacred emblem of Turkey).  The custom prevails to this day.

The Evening Times (Grand Forks, North Dakota), April 17, 1911, page 4 (from The New York Herald; reprinted in numerous newspaper).
Vienna bread and rolls received international acclaim at a succession of World’s Fairs; the “Exposition Universelle” in Paris in 1867:

One French journalist declares that Vienna roll which he ate at Vienna was the most exquisite in the world.  Austria, in order to prove her superiority, has established a bakery in the Exhibition Park, and thence are sold all over Paris, daily, delicious tit-bits, made as only Austrians can make them, which excite the envy of the native tradesmen.

Detroit Free Press, June 20, 1867, page 3.

This wheat-bread of Vienna has long been famed for its excellence.  As produced at the Paris International Exposition in 1867, it elicited universal admiration. . . . .

Reports of the Commissioners of the United States to the International Exhibition held at Vienna, 1873.

The rolls were such a success in Vienna that the Reports of the Commissioners of the United States to the International Exhibition held at Vienna, 1873 devoted 230 pages of text to the grain, harvesting, flour milling, and baking techniques for the distinctively white and soft bread. 

The bread was believed to have health benefits not achieved from typical American bread.  For example, it was believed to be easier to digest and less likely to cause “dyspepsia,” a common complaint in the United States at the time.  The health benefits of the distinctive white bread were believed to be derived from the “press yeast” and from flour made using “high milling” techniques applied to the “white interior” of the grain:

[I]f we can can supply ourselves with such delicious and perfectly nutritious and digestible rolls and loaves as are made at the Vienna Bakery, our grateful stomachs will testify to our wisdom, and fill our veins with the blood of a new and more vigorous life.

The Nation (New York), Volume 23, Number 548, September 7, 1876, pages 147-148.

Vienna bread and rolls could take on many forms, including the round “Kaisersemmel” (“Kaiser roll”) named for the Emperor (in German, “Kaiser”) of the former Austria-Hungary Empire.  Today, the “Kaiser roll” is popular in the United States for use as a hamburger bun.

In the United States of the mid-1800s, however, the “Vienna roll” was more typically crescent-shaped, as described in an American cookbook as early as 1846,[xvi] and as illustrated in American cookbooks published in the late-1880s:

Estelle W. Wilcox, The Buckeye Cook Book, Minneapolis, Buckeye Publishing Co., 1887, page 48 (the same illustration and recipe also appear in Estelle W. Wilcox, The New Dixie Cook Book, Atlanta, Georgia, L. A. Clarkson & Company, 1889, page 48).

Vienna rolls were a big hit at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, where visitors flocked to the popular “Fleischmann’s Model Vienna Bakery”:

The first café which really strikes the visitor as distinctly novel and foreign is the Viennese Bakery, where you can not only eat your cake, but also see it made. . . . There is also to be had the Vienna bread in the form of a croissant, which it may not be unpatriotic to say compares favorably with the Graham or even with rye, and delicious coffee and chocolate.

The Nation, Volume 23, Number 576, July 13, 1876, page 23.

You could also get a “Vienna roll” for a nickel at “The Dairy”:

One of the pleasantest restaurants on the Centennial grounds is “The Dairy,” a little east of Horticultural Hall.  I invested forty cents there to-day, as follows: first, a large glass of pure unskimmed creamish-like milk, five cents; secondly, a saucer of strawberries piled with ice-cream, thirty cents; thirdly, Vienna rolls, five cents.

The Evening Post (New York), May 27, 1876, page 3.

Manufacturers of yeast and baking powder capitalized on the success to advertise their products:
Plattsburgh Sentinel (Plattsburgh, New York), March 2, 1877, page 2.

Daily Review (Wilmington, North Carolina), September 10, 1877, page 1.

When the Centennial Exposition closed, reports circulated that a developer was planning to purchase the fair’s “Vienna Bakery” (along with the unfortunately named Pacific Guano pavilion) and move it to Coney Island:

The manager of the Coney Island Railroad has bought the Vienna Bakery, the Pacific Guano pavilion and the New York Tribune building at the exposition, for erection at Coney Island Beach, Long Island.  He proposes to use the first two for a restaurant and a music stand, respectively.

Newport Daily News (Rhode Island), November 29, 1876, page 2.

Two years later, Charles Feltman (one of the men frequently credited with “inventing” the hot dog on a bun) did, in fact, open a “Vienna Bakery” on Coney Island:


The opening for the season, at Coney Island, of Mr. C. Feltman’s Pavilion, will take place to-morrow.  The event will be appropriately celebrated.  Mr. Feltman has a Vienna bakery, a model milk dairy, and has a specially built oven for clam roasts.  Deverell’s Thirteenth Regiment Band will furnish the music.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 13, 1878, page 4.

So-called “Vienna Bakeries,” modeled after the “Model Vienna Bakery” of Philadelphia World’s Fair fame, opened in cities across the country in the late 1870s, bringing fancy, soft white bread and “Vienna” rolls to the masses:

When Shakespeare built that conundrum, “Tell me where is fancy bred?” he little dreamed of the showers of Vienna bakeries that our Centennial was to bring us.

Weekly Bazoo (Sedalia, Missouri), June 4, 1878, page 4.

Newport Daily News (Rhode Island), March 20, 1877, page 1.

Louis Fleischmann (apparently no relation to Fleischmann’s Yeast), the New York City baker who operated the Vienna bakery at the Centennial Exposition, opened a similar “Model Vienna Bakery” in lower Manhattan, where it became a popular fixture of sophisticated coffee and pastries – a sort of gilded-age Starbucks:

Fleischmann’s Vienna Model Bakery (of the Centennial Exposition), Broadway and 10th Street, (opposite Stewart’s). – An international fame attaches to Fleischmann’s Vienna Model Bakery. . . .  His enterprise [in Philadelphia] from the first met with pronounced success, and when the exhibition closed he removed his establishment to New York,[xvii] opening out here in December of the year 1876.  In New York he spared no pains or expense to make his establishment as attractive and comfortable to the public as in Philadelphia, and secured what is undoubtedly the choicest location on Broadway, being the elegant building corner of Broadway and 10th Street. . . . This spacious restaurant is a special feature, fitted up in the best of styles, with every accommodation to partake of refreshments, in which the delicious fresh-baked Vienna bread and rolls form the greatest of attractions, and bringing to the attention and palates of thousands its unrivalled superiority to all other breads.

Richard Edwards, New York’s Great Industries, Exchange and Commercial Review, New York, Historical Publishing Company, 1884, page 164.
Ignatz Frischmann joined Feltman and Fleischmann with his own “Vienna  bakery” in Brooklyn in about the early 1880s.  Two decades later, Ignatz Frischmann was remembered as the man who “invented” the hot-dog bun, but it is unclear whether he invented it or was merely a major supplier of rolls to Coney Island’s sausage men.

History is silent as to who supplied the first Vienna roll to the “sausage man of the Iron pier, and where he got the idea.  Frischmann, Feltman or Fleischmann are all candidates, but since Vienna rolls were coming into their own at a time when “Frankfurters” and “Wieners” were increasingly being sold on bread, perhaps it was inevitable that someone would try it.  

The curved, crescent shape of the common Vienna roll may even have suggested itself for use with a “Wieners” and “Frankfurters,” which were then commonly curved like a modern bratwurst or Polska kielbasa.  Some early images of hot dog buns hint at pointy ends, perhaps like a crescent:

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, May 12, 1912, page 65.

Chicago Inter-Ocean, December 26, 1897, page 33.

Or perhaps Ignatz Frischmann “devised a Vienna roll adapted to the shape of the popular frankfurter” as remembered at his death in 1904.[xviii]

In any case, “Vienna rolls” were everywhere in the late-1870s and an anonymous sausage man at the Iron pier in Coney Island had the foresight to put them together in 1881 – and there was much rejoicing.  

The Day Book (Chicago), August 20, 1913, page 13.
OK, maybe not immediately, and not everywhere, but “hot dogs” on “buns” would, within just a few decades, become one of just a few pieces of archetypical Americana, along with baseball and apple pie. 

Part II – Coming Soon!

Part II will look at the history of Coney Island, Coney Island hot dogs, baseball and hot dogs, the expression “hot dog,” and distill elements of truth from several competing origin stories. 
Washington Herald (Washington DC), November 10, 1912, page 38.

Try as I might, however, I never could find any evidence that “hot dogs” were particularly newsworthy or noteworthy at the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904.  I have no doubt that they were available, as they had been in St. Louis for two decades before the fair.  The only fair-related “hot dog” news items I could find were about a Harvard hot dog vendor planning a honeymoon excursion to the fair and a troupe of Filipinos performing as an anthropological exhibit at the fair.

They regularly cooked and ate actual dogs.

New York Tribune, June 5, 1904, page 6.

Hot Dog!!!!

[ii] Garret Clipper (Garret, Indiana), October 22, 1936, page 8.
[iii] Pittsburgh Press, August 28, 1961, page 21.
[iv] The Los Angeles Times, June 29, 1953, page 68.
[v] Shamokin News-Dispatch (Shamokin, Pennsylvania), May 28, 1938, page 4.
[vi] St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 1, 1954, page 31.
[vii] News-Journal (Mansfield, Ohio), July 17, 1957, page 19.
[ix] John Russell Bartlett, Dictionary of Americanisms, Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1859, 2d Edition.
[x] The Weekly Herald (Cleveland, Tennessee), January 30, 1879, page 4.
[xii] New York Times, January 19, 1873.
[xiv] A Manual of Homoeopathic Cookery, New York, William Radde, 1846, page 152 (an American edition of a British cookbook that included a number of recipes said to have been borrowed from a homeopathic cookbook originally published in Vienna).
[xv] The Publishers’ Weekly Book Review, Volume 84, Number 24, December 13, 1913,Book Review Supplement, page 2127.
[xvi] A Manual of Homoeopathic Cookery, New York, William Radde, 1846, page 152 ([C]ut it into triangular pieces, which roll up, leaving the corner out; bend them at the ends to form a crescent . . . .).
[xvii] This seems to conflict to the earlier reports that the bakery in Vienna was to be moved to Coney Island, so it is unclear whether Fleischmann sold his Philadelphia lock-stock-and-barrel to Coney Island and recreated the magic in Manhattan on his own, or whether he ultimately decided not to sell, and Feltman opened his own imitation Vienna bakery, as so many others did during theperiod.
[xviii] Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania), July 6, 1904, page 4.

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