Archive for February, 2011


Friday, February 18th, 2011

As delicious as it is versatile, the hamburger sandwich is the quintessential American food. This paper will demonstrate its humble beginning as a food of the immigrant, particularly those coming from Eastern Europe via the Hamburg-Amerika line. The inventions, such as broilers and meat grinders, which made the production  easier to accomplish and mass produce as well as the hamburger’s role in American culture and history.

The purpose of the hamburger was simple, to be a cheap and convenient food. Its antecedant, the Hamburg-style steak, epitomized this as the inexpensive salted beef was commonplace on trans-Atlantic voyages. The rise of White Castle in the 1920’s and drive-ins in the post-World War II era perpetuate the hamburger sandwich as the benchmark of American convenience food. As research will demonstrate, the evolution from cheap immigrant food to being the cornerstone of convenience and an icon of American food globally.

Possible alternatives to the hamburger are plentiful, sandwiches such as any variety of sandwiches which offer the complete meal that a hamburger does with meat, produce such as onion, lettuce, and tomato, and secured in bread or bun. Later, adopted ethnic foods such as burritos and gyros rival the hamburger  in terms of taste, cost and portability.

The structure of this blog will start from the roots of the hamburger in the Hamburg style steak and its varied origin stories as an American sandwich. It will then transition into the hamburger as a commodity marketed to the masses as the penultimate in cost effective, satisfying and portable eating. The blog will also demonstrate the social impact of the burger in the 1950’s with drive-ins and the rise of youth car culture, the commercialization of the sandwich by chains adopting factory like methods to the construction of the sandwich and the hamburger as a symbol of American impact on globalization as the hamburger becomes an international icon of America.

Abundant in number, quick and easy to build and endless in variation, the hamburger’s rise to prominence is as much a testament to American ingenuity and technical management as the production of steel or automobiles. Therefore, despite its beginnings in Europe and role in European-American immigration, the subsequent evolution of the hamburger makes it a true American culinary invention.

Annotated Bibliography

Bailey, Courtney Supersizing America: Fatness and Post-9/11 Cultural Anxieties Journal of Popular Culture; June 2010, Vol. 43 Issue 3

The article discusses obesity and the influence of fast-food on U.S. society. The author focuses on the documentary film “Super Size Me” portraying the health effects of an exclusive McDonald’s diet on director Morgan Spurlock. Comparisons are made between the film and the book “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser on topics such as political activism, governmental regulation, consumer boycotts, and personal responsibility for body size. Other topics include practices for good citizenship, white masculinity, and cultural anxieties.

A Burger War. State Legislatures Sep2007, Vol. 33 Issue 8

The article reports on the conflict among several U.S. states regarding the hamburger. A proclamation was adopted by Wisconsin lawmakers which states that Charles Nagreen of Seymour was the first to start using hamburger to refer to ground beef patties in a bun in 1885. The residents of Athens, Texas and New Haven, Connecticut claim the hamburger was born in their hometowns. The Texas House of Representatives also adopted a resolution declaring Athens to be the hamburger’s birthplace

Cartwright, Gary. The World’s First Hamburger Texas Monthly, Aug2009, Vol. 37 Issue 8

The article offers a look at the story behind the claim that the world’s first hamburger was served in Athens, Texas. The city in the Texas county of Henderson has been boasting for more than a quarter of a century that the world’s first hamburgers were created in the late 1880’s at a small cafe on a courthouse square managed by a man known as Uncle Fletcher Davis. An article filed from the World’s Fair described a sandwiched called a hamburger

Farmer, Fannie Boston Cooking School Cook Book. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1896.

One of the earliest published recipes for Hamburg Style Steak. Important in establishing a basis of comparison between the antecedent and its subsequent innovations.

FitzGibbon, Theodora The Food of the Western World New York: Hutchinson, 1976

History relating the Hamburg steak, and its composition, to German and German Jewish immigrant experiences traveling to America.

Hayden, Thomas A National Treasure U.S. News & World Report, 8/15/2005, Vol. 139, Issue 6

Discusses the invention and popularity of the hamburger in the U.S. How the hamburger gained national prominence in 1904; Impact of the first hamburger chain, White Castle, on the popularity of the sandwich. Offers reasons for the hamburger’s popularity, including its portability.

Hogan, David Selling ’em by the Sack: White Castle and the Creation of American Food New York: NYU Press, 1997

Discusses the rise of White Castle as the first commercially successful hamburger chain. The employment of Taylorist production strategies lead to maximum efficiency with every aspect of the restaurant controlled and uniformly constructed down to employee apparel and prefabricated buildings

Lohof, Bruce A. Hamburger Stand: Industrialization and the American Fast Food Phenomenon. Industrial Archaeology Review; Jun1978, Vol. 2 Issue 3

Discusses the advent of fast food, namely the machine-made hamburger, asserting that it was a part and a consequence of the American industrial revolution, and examines the changes which industrial imperatives have made in American culture.

Ozersky, Josh The Hamburger: A History New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008

Provides a basis for a broad history of the hamburger’s genesis, the prevalence of fast food burger restaurants and the hamburger as the quintessential American food.

Ozersky, Josh Has the Hamburger Gone Stagnant? Time, 3/22/2010, Vol. 175, Issue 11

The author talks about burger creations, the toppings used, and the seeming inability to substantially improve upon the basic cheeseburger, a hamburger sandwich that includes a slice of cheese.

Wallis, Michael Welcome To Hamburger Heaven Oklahoma Today, May 1995

Another possible origin of the Hamburger sandwich centering around a family owned root beer shop and grill in Tulsa, OK

Wisconsin State Legislature 2007-2008 session, Assembly Joint Resolution 12, LRB−1572/1,

Full text of Wisconsin State Assembly resolution (as mentioned in A Burger War) declaring Wisconsin as the birthplace of the hamburger sandwich.