Saturday, September 19, 2015

The history of the hamburger

History Extra

Actresses Dorothy Sebastian and Joan Crawford enjoy some hamburgers on a Los Angeles beach, c1925-35. (Credit: Getty)

 Why are they called hamburgers?
From the grilled, minced beef patties that originated in the German city of Hamburg and that were introduced to America in the 19th century by German sailors or immigrants.

Where was the hamburger first commercially served in America?
Predictably, many places are keen to claim this honour. The argument is complicated by disputes over what actually constitutes a hamburger. For example, does it have to be in a bun?
New Haven, Connecticut enjoys the support of the Library of Congress in its claim that Louis Lassen of local restaurant Louis’ Lunch first served chopped, pressed beef between two slices of bread in 1900. On the other hand, Athens, Texas argues that Fletcher Davis had been serving them at his food outlet there since the 1880s and popularised them at the 1904 World Trade Fair at St Louis.

How did the Wimpy restaurant chain get its name?
It was named after J Wellington Wimpy, the impecunious hamburger-munching character of Elzie Crisler Segar’s Popeye cartoons. His catchphrase: “I’d gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” has now become an oft-quoted example of financial irresponsibility.

Where was the first McDonald’s?
Mac and Dick McDonald converted their existing restaurant in San Bernardino, California into a streamlined burger joint in December 1948. The first franchised McDonald’s restaurant was opened in Des Plaines, Illinois by future corporation head and owner of the San Diego Padres baseball team, Ray Kroc, in April 1955.

Where was Britain’s first McDonald’s?
The beach-head of the McDonald’s invasion of Britain was established on Powis Street in Woolwich, London, and was formally opened on 13 November 1974. Woolwich was apparently chosen as the location for the first outlet as it was considered to be demographically typical.
By that time outlets had already been established in 16 countries and Britain’s first McDonald’s was in fact the 3,000th to open worldwide. Photographs suggest that the original Woolwich staff were considerably older and more experienced than the typically youthful employees of today’s McDonald’s restaurants.
Julian Humphrys is Development Officer for the Battlefields Trust. He is the author of Clash of Arms: Twelve English Battles (English Heritage, 2007) and a regular contributor to BBC History Magazine.

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