Why St. Louis Is So Important To Hot Dog History

Referred to as "edible immigrants" by historians, hot dogs are as iconic to the United States as the Statue of Liberty. The humble frank has long been the subject of many debates. Most notably, at least lately, has been the question of whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich. According to the states of California and New York, where hot dogs are legally considered sandwiches, it is indeed. But we digress.

The delicious tubes of meat have been served to U.S. presidents, kings and queens, astronauts in space, and American treasure Betty White, who credited hot dogs and vodka for her longevity. Backyard barbecues just wouldn't be the same without hot dogs on the grill, nor would the Fourth of July, when Americans consume a projected 150 million of them. According to many people, apparently, it would be sinful not to serve hot dogs to celebrate our nation's independence.

Other hot dog arguments stem from toppings (ketchup or mustard?), meat (all beef or turkey?), or casings (skinless or not?). The most significant debate, however, centers around the origins of this summertime staple, and just in time for National Hot Dog Month in July, we will explore its history.

Did hot dog buns really come from St. Louis?

Although Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, is touted as being the birthplace of the hot dog, some claim that it's Johann Geroghehner of Coburg, Germany, who should get the credit, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. This butcher reportedly went to Frankfurt to sell his "little dog" in the 1600s.

Fast forward to the 1860s, when Americans were introduced to the hot dog, at the time with a roll instead of the long bun, by pushcart salespeople in New York City. The meal made its way around the nation, but it wasn't until 1904 that the hot dog as we know it today was created. During St. Louis' Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Bavarian Anton Feuchtwanger developed the bun that holds our wieners today.

At the event, which the Missouri Office of the Secretary of State calls "the last great international exposition before World War I," Feuchtwanger sold naked hot dogs from his concessions stand, and patrons were given gloves to prevent their hands from burning and getting messy. Once Feuchtwanger ran out of gloves, he asked his baker brother-in-law to devise a solution, and voila: The long hot dog bun was born. 

Though not everyone agrees with this bit of history, you now have a party-talk topic as we approach the peak season of hot dog consumption from Memorial Day through Labor Day. In 2020, Americans spent $2.8 billion on hot dogs, with more than 19 million franks sold at ballparks alone. This year, the summertime staple will likely be flying off the shelves as people are undoubtedly eager to fire up the grill. Enjoy, America!