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Mirror on History: Hot dogs by any other name sell as well

There's still a lot of outdoor grilling time left and it would be a safe bet to say that most grills will heat up at least some hot dogs — one of the favorite American meats. "Franks" and "wieners" and "hot dogs" are really interchangeable names, although two of the names played a big part in developing the hot dog market. "Wiener" comes from Wien, the Austrian name for Vienna, so "wiener wurst" became the name for the sausage which, while it didn't make Vienna famous, gave it a very proud name. "Franks" comes from "Frankfurter," the signature sausage of the City of Frankfurt.

"Hot dog" had a harder time. A fellow from Bavaria, Antoine Feuchtwanger, is generally given the credit for introducing the "frank" to the American public — which took it to heart immediately. That was in the 1880s. Twenty years later, at the Louisiana Exposition in 1904, he was still selling franks — but with a difference.

All customers were given a white cotton glove so they wouldn't burn their hands or get them greasy. That worked for a while, and a lot of wiener dealers adopted the white glove custom, but there were problems. Most white gloves were not returned, and they were too expensive to be handed out free with every wiener they sold. If they charged for the gloves they wouldn't have to had to worry — the competition would be selling the hot dogs!

Feuchtwanger had a brother-inlaw, Charles Feltman, who was a baker. He was the man who devised the bun to fit the meat. It had worked very well for him when he was selling franks or wieners on Coney Island. One of his employees, incidentally, was Nathan Handwerker, who left Feltman's employ to start his own business — the now nationally known Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs.

Back in New York, vendors at the Polo Grounds sold their hot franks on cold days by shouting, "Red hots! Get your red-hot dachshund sausages!" Quite a few things carried German names in America at that time — World War I had not appeared even on the horizon — so "dachshund" was a natural name for a German sausage.

"Tad" Dorgan was a sports cartoonist and for him hearing the vendors inspired a new cartoon. It was of a barking dachshund (dog) in a roll. The trouble was — he didn't know how to spell "dachshund" so he called the sausage in a roll a "hot dog," and they've been "hot dogs" ever since. Americans now eat around 20,000,000,000 (that's right — 20 billion) hot dogs under one name or another each and every year.