History of Burgers

The Rich and Long History of Burgers

We all love the occasional delicious juicy burger off the grill. So, here’s a history of burgers to understand their origin.

There’s no doubting that the hamburger holds a special position in American culture. What other dish evokes such a wide range of emotions and represents so many global forces as this renowned sandwich? Convenience, mass production, globalization, capitalism, American exceptionalism—not to mention meat—are all terms that come to mind when discussing convenience, mass production, globalization, capitalism, and American exceptionalism (lots of juicy, perfectly grilled meat).

The book “The World is Your Burger: A Cultural History” takes a deep dive into the evolution of the burger as a meal and as an idea. This book collects recipes, old images, and chef dispatches. It is thoroughly researched burger history, which charts its evolution from ground meat product to international icon, is one of our favorites.

Columbus, Ohio, 1969

Wendy’s, formerly the world’s third-largest hamburger retailer, was a late starter when founded by former Kentucky Fried Chicken head chef Dave Thomas.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1967
The Big Mac

Though it wasn’t released worldwide until a year later, Jim Delligatti invented the Big Mac, becoming one of McDonald’s signature items.

Des Plaines, Illinois, 1955
Ray Kroc

Ray Kroc, a former milkshake machine salesman, joined the McDonald brothers before finally purchasing them and turning the company worldwide.

London, 1954

J. Lyons and Co. purchased the franchise rights to operate Wimpy burger bars in England, and the first one opened as a concession in a Lyons Corner House restaurant on Coventry Street in Central London.

Miami, Florida, 1954
Burger King

David Edgerton and James McLamore bought the struggling Insta-Burger King and renamed it, launching McDonald’s, the most prominent fast-food alternative.

San Bernardino, California, 1948

Though the McDonald brothers had operated a barbecue shack since 1940, they shifted to hamburgers in 1948 and launched what would become the world’s most fantastic fast-food franchise.

History of Burgers

1937: Glendale, California
The Big Boy

Bob Wian launched Bob’s Pantry in 1936 and, within a year, had created the first double-decker burger by splitting a bun into three pieces and utilizing two patties.

Denver, Colorado, 1935

*For his now-defunct Humpty Dumpty Drive-In, Louis Ballast applied for a trademark for “The Cheeseburger,” however, historians question whether he acquired it.

1934, Louisville, Kentucky
“A New Tang”

When Kaelin’s Restaurant melted cheese over patties to make what they said was the first real cheeseburger, it was how they described the taste.

Must Read: How to Find a Good Burger Restaurant in Florida?

1931, Fleischer Studios

The iconic hamburger-eating comic character J was created by the New York-based animation studio. Wellington Wimpy was created for the Popeye series, and the restaurant was later named after him.

Pasadena, California, 1925
The Cheese Burger

Lionel Sternberger, who ran his father’s diner, The Rite Spot, claimed to be the first person to put cheese on a patty in a bun, calling it a Cheese Hamburger.

Wichita, Kansas, 1921
White Castle

With advances in design, cooking, and service, cook Walter Anderson and entrepreneur Billy Ingram built their first restaurant and changed the path of hamburger history.

Wichita, Kansas, 1916
Walter Anderson

Anderson, one of the two geniuses behind White Castle, originally started trading from a food cart, serving burgers with specifically created buns and using his own handmade spatula.

Wichita, Kansas, 1916
Walter Anderson

Anderson, one of the two geniuses behind White Castle, originally started trading from a food cart, serving burgers with specifically created buns and using his own handmade spatula.

Chicago, Illinois, 1906
The Jungle

Even though it was not Upton Sinclair’s intention, his novel about the meat-packing industry caused many Americans to fear the quality of ground (minced) beef.

St. Louis World’s Fair, Missouri, 1904.
Davis, Fletcher

Davis claimed to have been serving beef in sandwiches since the 1880s and sold out of his “hamburgers” at this world-famous exhibition.

New Haven, Connecticut, in the year 1900
Louis Lassen

Lassen is credited with inventing the hamburger by the United States Library of Congress; however, his beef patty was placed between two slices of toast rather than the bun that a proper burger requires.

Bowden, Oklahoma, 1891
Wilby, Oscar Weber

Bilby and his wife Fanny developed the first reported appearance of flame-grilled beef patties in a sourdough bun to commemorate the Fourth of July.

Seymour Fair, Wisconsin, 1885
Charlie Nagreen

Nagreen, affectionately known as “Hamburger Charlie,” apparently squashed a beef meatball between slices of bread so his customers could walk around eating—a concoction he claimed was the first hamburger.

Erie County Fair, New York, 1885
The Menches Brothers

There are contradictory accounts that the brothers ran out of pig sausages at this fair in New York State and substituted beef in a sandwich, resulting in creating a burger.

Virginia, 1845
The Meat Grinder

G. A. Coffman invented and patented his Machine for Cutting Sausage-Meat, which consisted of rotating blades beneath a spiral feeder, similar to modern meat grinders (mincers).

Oxford, 1802.
The Oxford English Dictionary

Hamburg steak is defined as “a hard slab of salted, minced [ground] beef, frequently somewhat smoked, combined with onions and breadcrumbs” in the English vocabulary.

London, 1747
Sausages “Hamburg”

This smoked sausage of ground (minced) beef, suet, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, garlic, vinegar, salt, red wine, and rum, to be eaten on toast, is described in Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery.

13th Century AD: The Steppes
Steak Tartare

The Mongols were fearsome horsemen who conquered most of Eurasia by tucking big slabs of beef under their saddles and eating them after riding had tenderized the meat after a day of riding.

Rome: First century A.D.
Isicia Omentata

The history of burgers began with this ground- (minced-) meat dish that featured pine nuts, pepper, wine, and garum flavorings and was the first stirrings of what came to resemble a hamburger.

The modern hamburger was born out of the culinary needs of a society undergoing fast change as a result of industrialization and the rise of the working and middle classes, which created a desire for mass-produced, affordable food that could be enjoyed outside the home. This is the history of burgers timeline and how it become the icon that it is today.

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