Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history

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bcory
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2007/01/18 00:43:05 (permalink)

Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A burger battle is brewing between a Texas state legislator and the owners of Louis' Lunch, a restaurant established in 1895, where it has been claimed that the hamburger was invented.

However, with the new session of the Texas legislature now under way, Republican State Rep. Betty Brown has proposed a resolution declaring Athens, Texas, is the original home of the hamburger.

Brown, an Athens resident, says that a long ago resident of the town, Fletcher Davis, had a luncheonette in the late 1880s and sold the first burgers there.

A magazine article also suggests that Davis not only created the hamburger, but sold it from a booth at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. A spokeswoman in Brown's office said she is proposing the resolution on behalf of the Athens Chamber of Commerce,

Those claims are not sitting well with Ken Lassen Sr., 89, the third-generation owner of Louis' Lunch, where he says his grandfather came up with the first hamburger.

Lassen said it happened in 1900 when a man rushed into Louis' and asked for something he could eat on the run. Louis Lassen, Ken Lassen's grandfather, grabbed a broiled beef patty and put it between two slices of bread.

Lassen notes there is the official designation of Louis' Lunch as the burger birthplace, cited by the Library of Congress, under a resolution initiated by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr., very much an advocate for his city, is backing the Lassens and their claims.

"It's a well-known and established fact that New Haven is the home of the hamburger. In fact, New Haven's claim to the hamburger is even supported and documented in the Library of Congress," DeStefano said.

DeStefano notes that New Haven has been a cradle of creativity, as the birthplace of the cotton gin, the first rubber tires, the corkscrew, the Frisbee, lollipops, Erector Sets and pizza.

"We are even the birthplace of George Bush, who wants people to think he's from Texas. So yes, the hamburger is as much a New Haven original as President Bush," DeStefano said. "Get over it, Texas."

#1

34 Replies Related Threads

    Ort. Carlton.
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 00:52:38 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by bcory
    DeStefano notes that New Haven has been a cradle of creativity, as the birthplace of... the Frisbee.


    BCory,
    Absolutely! Bored college students would take used pie tins from the local Mrs. Frisbee's Bakery and toss 'em on the green and holler "FRISBEE!"
    I am, however, assured that Mr. Arthur Slinky of Nacogdoches, Texas had absolutely nothing to do with the stair-hopping spring toy of the same name, as he lived in a one-level house.
    Toying Around, Ort. Carlton in Hilly, Chilly Athens, Georgia.
    P. S. Seriously for a moment, Southerner that I am, I'll have to say that I'm on New Haven's side on this one. The only possible way a Texan can lay claim to this is if he or she was of German descent and had learned his or her beef-patty craft back in Hambourg.
    P. P. S. Athens, Texas was named for Athens, Georgia.
    #2
    caratzas
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 16:53:11 (permalink)
    Okay, for the last time: Louis Lunch DID NOT invent the hamburger. It's a cute story, but there are people who really seriously research this stuff who've found it -- like the pizza myth DeStefano regurgitates -- to have no basis in reality.

    There are plenty of references that predate Louis Lunch's claim: http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/hamburger/

    The Texas claim is more solid, but still questionable: http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/hamburger_fletcher_davis_of_athens_tx_original_home_of_the_hamburger/

    The famous Delmonico's restaurant in NYC had "hamburger steak" on the menu as early as 1826. It's hard to believe it was another 60 years before somebody put one between two pieces of bread.

    The second link includes an interesting letter from Neil E. Shay, who claims to have grown up in New Haven before leaving in 1933. He says that Louis Lunch didn't even have hamburgers on the menu in the early 30s. Another thing that seems a bit fishy is that it's hard to find a reference to the Louis Lunch myth from before 1974, when the store was threatened with demolition to make room for a medical complex. Make of that what you will.

    So New Haven is almost certainly not the birthplace of the hamburger; however, though the term probably had been in use for some time before then, the Elm City (and not a Tad Dorgan cartoon) is the source of the first found use of the term "hot dog": http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-hot1.htm And the "Frisbee" claim is pretty solid too (though the bakery's name was actually "Frisbie" and it was located in nearby Bridgeport.)
    Edited to read "So New Haven IS almost certainly NOT..."
    #3
    desertdog
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 17:02:55 (permalink)
    I thought it was invented in Gary, Indiana....
    #4
    Michael Hoffman
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 17:12:29 (permalink)
    Neil Shay is more than likely wrong! My grandfather, his name was Frank Teitelman, who had a store fixture shop two buildings up Crown Street from Louis Lunch ate a hamburer and a steak sandwich there Monday through Saturday from the day he opened his store in 1919 till he moved to another location in 1950. Granted, I didn't get to Louis Lunch for the first time till 1939 when my grandfather took me there for lunch, so I can't say what was actually on the menu, but regardless, Louis Lassen was serving hamburgers long before the early 1930s.
    #5
    Sundancer7
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 17:17:50 (permalink)
    I saw that today on the news. That debate can probably go on forever. If the truth was known, the burger probably goes back much further than that.

    Paul E. Smith
    Knoxville, TN
    #6
    dholk
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 17:28:16 (permalink)
    desertdog, I'm with you
    #7
    caratzas
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 17:30:03 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Michael Hoffman

    Neil Shay is more than likely wrong!...Louis Lassen was serving hamburgers long before the early 1930s.


    Michael,

    That's interesting (and I have much more faith in your memory over some random guy from Texas, possibly with an agenda.) I'm sure Barry Popik would be interested to hear from you -- he takes this stuff very seriously. Anyway, it would be a lot easier to straighten all this stuff out if Louis Lunch could come up with an ad or menu or some dated documentation showing hamburgers on the menu (though, having been there, it doesn't seem like the kind of place that would have that kind of stuff -- do they even need to advertise?)

    One other thing that would be interesting -- do you remember anybody claiming that Louis Lunch was the birthplace of the burger before 1974? Like I said, others have suggested the story really started being told when the old store was threatened with demolition. The claim is bold enough that you'd think it would've made it into a newspaper, tourist guide or Yale publication before then, but Popik doesn't note any references before the 1974 NYT article (and he's really good at finding this stuff -- he doesn't do much field research but his ability to dig up printed references is legendary.)

    Anyway, the Shay letter is an interesting footnote but it doesn't really change the extensive documentation suggesting the hamburger was an established sandwich filling before Louis Lunch's claimed invention date. That's okay -- like I said, we* still have the hot dog, the white clam pizza and plenty of other stuff to be proud of.

    *Okay, I live in Bridgeport but I spend a lot of time in NH.
    #8
    Extreme Glow
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 17:36:22 (permalink)
    Your tax dollars at work...
    #9
    GB944
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 17:48:54 (permalink)
    Isn't it about that time of year when some jerkwater politician makes a law that pi is a rational number (like 3)?
    #10
    BakersBoy
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 18:13:41 (permalink)
    To all,

    I invented the hamburger. I was really hungry one day and all I could find in the fridge(it was a Kelvinator, I added the "L") was some ground meat which I had made using a hand grinder and some Worchestershire Sauce (I invented that too by the way. People really did not like the anchovies at first but they got used to it). I mixed the beef and the sauce together. I also had some cheese and bread. I decided to make the ground beef into patties and fry them up in a cast iron pan (I invented that too). (My best friend Bill Lodge got all the credit.) Then when the frying was done (I used butter in the churn that I had made), I slapped the beef with the Meunster Cheese, (my Mother's maiden name), between two pieces of homemade bread, and dressed it with some tomato sauce that my other friend Heinz had made and had a great sandwich. I would take credit for the sandwich as well but the Earl was married to my second cousin and I did not want to upset him.

    Point is every time we cook we invent.

    BB

    Kevin (Without the "L")
    #11
    Jimeats
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 18:21:20 (permalink)
    Just what is it with Texas? Obviously they have an idenity problem down there. Up here in the Nor East we are going to flatten the mountains in Vermont and that will make Texas the 3rd largest state. Chow Jim
    #12
    fdaniels
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 18:58:05 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by BakersBoy

    To all,

    I invented the hamburger. I was really hungry one day and all I could find in the fridge(it was a Kelvinator, I added the "L") was some ground meat which I had made using a hand grinder and some Worchestershire Sauce (I invented that too by the way. People really did not like the anchovies at first but they got used to it). I mixed the beef and the sauce together. I also had some cheese and bread. I decided to make the ground beef into patties and fry them up in a cast iron pan (I invented that too). (My best friend Bill Lodge got all the credit.) Then when the frying was done (I used butter in the churn that I had made), I slapped the beef with the Meunster Cheese, (my Mother's maiden name), between two pieces of homemade bread, and dressed it with some tomato sauce that my other friend Heinz had made and had a great sandwich. I would take credit for the sandwich as well but the Earl was married to my second cousin and I did not want to upset him.

    Point is every time we cook we invent.

    BB

    Kevin (Without the "L")



    Kevin,

    my dearly departed dog's name was Mr. French. He invented a really good sauce you might want to try on your invention. It is yellow in color of course, but don't let that detour you. It is quite good.

    Good luck with your invention.

    Frank
    #13
    Michael Hoffman
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 19:39:00 (permalink)
    I do remember everyone believing -- many years prior to 1974 -- that it was the "birthplace" of the hamburger. I do not remember any of the Lassens saying it back then, however. I know that when I was a little kid I'd been told that, and I believed it.
    #14
    dreamzpainter
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 20:36:29 (permalink)
    I think it would be interesting if you could read this post without having to scroll sideways time and again
    #15
    Ort. Carlton.
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 21:03:54 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by BakersBoy
    Kevin (Without the "L")


    Ke(l)vin,
    Does this mean that we should take you by degrees?
    Absolutely Centergradedly, Ort. Carlton in Athens, Georgia, Farenheight (elev. 771) above the ocean.
    #16
    Ort. Carlton.
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 21:11:46 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by caratzas
    quote:



    Caratzas,
    I wouldn't expect Louis' Lunch to have been a big advertiser, so Barry Popik's failure to find documentation in old print media is probably totally accurate. One thing he ought to do, though, is to hunt down all the old Yalies (and other seniors who were in the area at the time) and see if anyone has first-hand memories of the place dating back aways.
    I'm working on a research project that only takes me back to 1938, so my job is a cinch compared to finding people old enough to have scarfed down burgers at Louis' at some time like 1919... but I'm sure they're out there. Maybe (and I'm serious here!) Barry Popik ought to write to a seniors' publication in the area and see what fruition that brings.
    Texas lawmaker or no, I still side with New Haven.
    Connectedly (As I Cut It), Ort. Carlton in the Far West Haven of Athens, Georgia.
    P. S. I once knew that Mrs. Frisbie's Pies was spelled that way, but I had forgotten it over the years.
    P. P. S. Oh, and by the way, I invented the wheel.
    #17
    LegalLady
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 21:39:03 (permalink)
    I DO NOT CARE WHERE THEY WERE INVENTED - THERE IS NOTHING BETTER IN THE WORLD THAN A GOOD OLD HAMBURGER OR CHEESEBURGER - HAD ONE TODAY, IT WAS YUMM0!!

    The Lady
    #18
    Grillmeister
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 22:04:56 (permalink)
    The Athens, Texas claim (as most of you know) stems from research by the McDonald's Corp. tracing the modern hamburger back to the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, and by none other than the venerable Frank X. Tolbert of Terlingua chili cook-off fame. Obviously this hamburger had been made in Athens before this date, but it made its public debut at the fair.

    Again, the resolution by the Texas legislature, and more importantly, the stories by Frank X. Tolbert can be read from the previously stated link:

    http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/hamburger_fletcher_davis_of_athens_tx_original_home_of_the_hamburger/


    Now, just so the class does its reading assignment here's a tasty little quote from the piece quoting Clint Murchison, Jr...

    “Let’s fact: if we let the Yankees get away with claiming the invention of the hamburger sandwich they’ll be going after chili con carne next. The New Haven claim as the birthplace of the American hamburger is a phony one, and the quicker they tear down that old building and raise the medical complex the better.”

    More to come....
    #19
    Michael Hoffman
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 22:19:32 (permalink)
    That's all fine and dandy, but they never built any medical complex at the site of Louis Lunch, although they did move the building a little way up the street.
    #20
    BakersBoy
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 22:43:47 (permalink)
    Ort,

    The Hotpoint here is that it really does not matter where it came from but whether it is good. Stay centered, hope you are a little warmer down in Athens up here we have Frigid Air(e).

    BB (Kevin)
    #21
    Rick F.
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 23:17:36 (permalink)
    I won't take sides (except for the observation that Tennesseeans must accept the responsibility for Texas's existence), but for an absolutely lovely example of "hamburgereana" go here: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ent/dining/reviews/1806287.html
    #22
    caratzas
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/18 23:38:31 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Ort. Carlton.
    One thing he ought to do, though, is to hunt down all the old Yalies (and other seniors who were in the area at the time) and see if anyone has first-hand memories of the place dating back aways.
    Yeah, that'd probably be best -- though our own Mr. Hoffman seems to remember the story from before then so that's good enough for me. I'm surprised, though, that nobody's dragged up anything from the Yale Daily News or another campus publication from before then. It seems like the kind of story that would spread like crazy around a college (especially in the Yale campus culture, which in my experience tends to have a preoccupation with superlatives.) Maybe the researchers haven't put that much effort into looking for an earlier reference since the historical record seems to pretty clearly suggest hamburgers came from somewhere else -- I dunno. It'd still be interesting to know, though, how long the Louis' legend has been around.
    quote:
    Texas lawmaker or no, I still side with New Haven
    I have a hard time with the New Haven story, just because there are so many printed references to hamburger sandwiches from the early 1890s while Louis' uses a date of 1900. That doesn't reflect on my feelings for their burgers though -- they're pretty good, even if they are snotty about ketchup. And it doesn't mean I support the Texas story either; I just can't disprove it as easily. I suspect the hamburger was developed independently in several places, and thus trying to establish where the "first" came from is probably a fool's errand.

    This whole story, I think, underscores the danger of relying on "common knowledge." Michael H. remembers Louis' having been locally known as the birthplace of the hamburger before the 1974 relocation debate. He's never steered me wrong before so I have no reason to doubt his memory. But good stories tend to take on a life of their own even if they aren't founded on the truth and the printed record is pretty clear - other places were serving hamburger sandwiches before 1900. So we have to doubt the local story (or suspect the Lassens just got the date wrong, which is possible but IMO unlikely since you'd think they'd be very careful about pinning down such an important event.)

    It also underscores the importance of documenting these stories so they don't die with the old-timers; even if the stories don't check out after one does some more research, they're still interesting and knowing how long they've been around helps future researchers trace the growth of the legends. At the end of the day we need to rely on the printed documentation over the stories, though. Otherwise we'd all have to believe my ex-girlfriend's landlord when he told her she lived in the building where Charles Goodyear invented vulcanization (she didn't) or the legends at every college that the dorms were based on a rejected design for a prison and the library's sinking because they didn't allow for the weight of the books or even acknowledge Gary, Indiana as the birthplace of pizza. :) Obviously, we can't count on local governments to come up with the right story as they have their own agenda. So we have to rely on the printed record, even if it suggests the story we want to believe is not what actually happened.
    quote:
    P. S. I once knew that Mrs. Frisbie's Pies was spelled that way, but I had forgotten it over the years.
    The bakery shut down years ago, but the building was still there in Bridgeport down by the dog track until recently (I think the last time I passed through that area it had been torn down but I'm not positive.) Table Talk, I think, ended up buying the name so you can still buy Frisbie's pies, but now they make 'em in Worcester, Mass.
    quote:
    P. P. S. Oh, and by the way, I invented the wheel.
    How do you feel about those Geico ads? :)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Michael Hoffman
    That's all fine and dandy, but they never built any medical complex at the site of Louis Lunch, although they did move the building a little way up the street.
    This article (http://www.louislunch.com/register_small.jpg) puts the old location at Temple and George. Two of those corners are currently occupied by the Paul Rudolph garage which dates to 1962. That leaves two corners it could've been on if the article is correct and I'm having a hard time picturing them in my head -- do you remember which corner the old store was on (and maybe what they did end up putting there?) That's assuming the article's right, of course.
    #23
    Foodbme
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/19 00:11:14 (permalink)
    I've applied for a $20 Million grant from the FDA to study this subject. I'll get back to you in about 10 years, give or take, right after I finish my Grant on the origin of Grits
    #24
    caratzas
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/19 00:34:04 (permalink)
    Well, when a mommy grit and a daddy grit love each other very much...
    #25
    Farmallcub
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/19 01:14:26 (permalink)
    I have always heard that Charlie Nagreen created the first hamburger in 1885 at the Seymour Fair.
    #26
    Ort. Carlton.
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/20 18:52:58 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by caratzas
    Originally posted by Ort. Carlton.
    How do you feel about those Geico ads? :)


    Caratzas,
    Since I usually see them while having a pint at Copper Creek Brewing Co., I'd have to call their spokesreptile a true Lounge Lizard.
    Rolling Right Along, Ort. Carlton in Slowly Advancing Athens, Georgia (hasn't anyone in the engineering department here ever heard of synchronized traffic lights?!?!?!?).
    P. S. Now I'm working on another new concept. I'll call it fire.
    #27
    roossy90
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/21 03:02:20 (permalink)
    Jeez, have they nothing better to do with the taxpayers hard earned money?
    #28
    V960
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/22 10:13:54 (permalink)
    There is this city in Germany that might have a bit of a claim...Hamburg.
    #29
    Ashphalt
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    RE: Texas lawmaker challenges hamburger history 2007/01/22 10:54:26 (permalink)
    I thought it was illegal in Texas to teach that God didn't invent the hamburger. Right after the rifle and longhorn cattle, wasn't it?
    #30
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