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The History of Hot Dog Buns

Who invented the hot dog bun? There are multiple versions of the story, but a few stand out. The first story comes out of St. Louis in the 1880s, where a street vendor was selling red hots, sometimes called frankfurters. He would give out white gloves to patrons to keep their hands from being scalded or getting greasy, but they would often leave with the gloves, which hurt the vendor’s bottom line. He brought the problem to his brother-in-law, who was a baker. He suggested serving the frankfurters in soft rolls. There are also claims that Austrian-born Ignatz Frischmann developed an oblong Vienna roll specifically for holding hot dogs and supplied his rolls to vendors around Coney Island. Notably, upon his death in 1904, his New York Times obituary credited him with the invention of the hot dog bun. Yet another story dates back to Coney Island in the 1870s. Charles Feltman, who operated a food cart, was in need of a new product. He realized that if he sold frankfurters in buns, they would be similar to the sandwiches he had originally intended to sell (he couldn’t fit enough of them in his cart). So he reconfigured the cart, acquired buns, and began selling hot dogs. (It’s also worth noting that Chicago-style hot dog buns, which use poppy seeds, were invented by a Polish immigrant named Sam Rosen in 1909.) While the invention of the hot dog bun is likely to remain mysterious and multifaceted, we do know that hog dogs themselves caught on and quickly became an American staple, in part due to their popularization by Nathan Handwerker of Nathan’s Famous. Today, hot dog buns remain a hugely important element of a massively popular food and are associated with everything from backyard grilling to ballpark grub.

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