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The History of Hot Dogs

Hot dogs are considered classic American fare, but they have a long and storied history that predates America by many centuries. The story starts with the first sausage, which is thought to have been created by Emperor Nero’s cook, Gaius, using empty pig intestines. Sausages eventually made their way from Rome over to present-day Germany, where the people adopted the food as their own and created many variations - including the hot dog. Two towns vie for the honor of being the original birthplace of the hot dog. Frankfurt claims that the frankfurter was created there over 500 years ago, in 1484. However, Vienna claims that it was the originator of the “wienerwurst.” We may never know which town created the hot dog first, but we can be relatively sure that German immigrants in New York in the 1860s were the first to sell wieners here in America. However, it was a Jewish immigrant from Poland named Nathan Handwerker who popularized hot dogs and made them iconic in America. In 1915, Handwerker worked at a Coney Island hot dog stand. He saved up until he could open his own stand and charged 5 cents less than his former boss. Customers flocked to his stand, Nathan’s Famous. Nathan’s hot dogs quickly became known throughout the United States. In fact, hot dogs were considered so delicious and all-American that when President Franklin D. Roosevelt hosted King George VI of England and his queen at a Hyde Park picnic in 1939, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt included grilled hot dogs on the menu! Today, people still flock to Nathan’s Famous and hot dogs continue to be a culinary icon in America. In fact, they’re so popular that every year, the third Wednesday in July is designated as National Hot Dog Day!

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