Although “wiener” and “frank” and “hot dog” are interchanged quite freely today, old-time sausage makers insist that originally Vienna’s wiener and Frankfurt’s frankfurter were two distinct breeds, the latter being more coarsely ground and highly seasoned.
To confuse matters even more, the hot dog’s antecedent is called a wiener Wurst in Frankfurt and a Frankfurter in Vienna, apparently neither city is eager to lay a claim.
Antoine Feuchtwanger of Bavaria is usually credited with introducing the frank to the shores of America, selling the sausage in St. Louis in the 1880s.
At the Louisiana Exposition in 1904, he offered white cotton gloves along with the piping hot franks to prevent customers from burning their hands. The gloves were expensive, though, and most were not returned, so Feuchtwanger turned to his brother-in-law, a baker, who created long buns to fit the meat. Charles Feltman was another immigrant and early entrepreneur of the frank, opening a business on Coney Island, from which his employee Nathan Handwerker departed in 1916 to found the successful hot dog outfit Nathan’s Famous, Inc.
The vendors of the shrewd concessionaire Harry M. Stevens, who sold franks at the New York Polo Grounds on cold days, lured customers by shouting, “Red hots! Get your red-hot dachshund sausages!”
“Dachshund” was a name applied to numerous German things at the turn of the century, the new German-American sausage included. Sports humorist T. A. “Tad” Dorgan was in the press box at one particular game in 1900, and hearing the vendors inspired a new cartoon. He sketched a barking dachshund in a roll and, not knowing how to spell “dachshund,” called his character a hot dog—and the name stuck.
Today the hot dog legally may contain just about any meat but dog, beef, pork, chicken, mutton, veal, up to 30 percent fat, and, if indicated on the label, up to 3.5 percent cereal.
A variety of names, such as beef frank, chicken frank, or just hot dog (which usually means the presence of pork), give some clues about what’s in the sausage, but no one thinks twice about it at parks and stadiums.
The dog remains an all-time favorite with Americans, who now consume about 17 billion a year.