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History of the Hamburger



Arguably, the most iconic American food, the hamburger, is so beloved that we eat nearly 50 billion a year in the United States. Let's take it back to 12th-century Hamburg, Germany, an independent trading city where beef dishes grew popular. Following political revolutions in 1848, German immigration to the United States saw an uptick. These German immigrants brought with them beer gardens and butcher shops. Hamburg specifically was known as an exporter of high-quality beef. American restaurants began offering "Hamburg-style" chopped steak.

 

According to History.com, "In mid-19th-century America, preparations of raw beef that had been chopped, chipped, ground or scraped were a common prescription for digestive issues. After a New York doctor, James H. Salisbury suggested in 1867 that cooked beef patties might be just as healthy, cooks and physicians alike quickly adopted the "Salisbury Steak." Around the same time, the first popular meat grinders for home use became widely available (Salisbury endorsed one called the American Chopper), setting the stage for an explosion of readily available ground beef."

 

The actual birth of the ground beef on a bun-style hamburger is highly contested. From lunch wagons in Texas to fair stands in Wisconsin and roadside restaurants in Ohio, New York, and Connecticut, many have been touted as the originator of the hamburger. We may never truly know the true origins of the burger, but one thing's for sure: it gained wide acclaim at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. Among the new foods introduced to Americans at the World's Fair included waffle ice cream cones, cotton candy, peanut butter, and iced tea. 

 

In 1921, in Kansas, Edgar "Billy" Ingram and Walter Anderson opened the first White Castle restaurant, marking a significant milestone in the global spread of the hamburger. Ingram's system, which included on-premise meat grinding, was the inspiration for other national hamburger chains founded in the boom years after World War II: McDonald's and In-N-Out Burger (both founded in 1948), Burger King (1954) and Wendy's (1969). Led by McDonald's and the introduction of U.S. hamburger culture by millions of members of the American armed services during World War II, the hamburger—and American-style franchised fast-food—soon spread globally, according to History.com.


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