July is National Hot Dog Month in the United States. These hot dogs are dressed according to taste in mustard, onions, pickles, and tomatoes. Credit: © Olga Nayashkova, Shutterstock
In the United States, July is National Hot Dog Month. The hot dog, the simple sausage in a bun, is one of the country’s favorite foods. A popular outdoors or on-the-run fast food, hot dogs—traditionally called frankfurters, but also known as red hots or wieners—sell in peak numbers during the hot months of summer. Whether the dogs are cooked on the grill or purchased from a stand or at the ballpark, Americans eat an estimated 150 million hot dogs over the 4th of July holiday alone. So, in honor of the humble hot dog, let’s explore some fun facts and delicious history.
The frankfurter is named for Frankfurt, Germany, where frankfurters were first made in the Middle Ages. Modern frankfurters are made of cured and well-smoked beef, pork, poultry, or a combination of meats. In the second half of the 1800’s, frankfurters became popular in the United States as a street food for people taking a break from work or simply out and about town. They were also popular at holiday festivals, local fairs, and traveling carnivals.
German immigrant Chris Von der Ahe is credited with popularizing frankfurters at baseball games. In 1882, Von der Ahe, a grocery and tavern owner, bought the St. Louis Browns baseball team—largely so he could sell frankfurters and beer at the ballpark. Von der Ahe enjoyed great success, and frankfurters quickly appeared at ballparks around the country. According to popular lore, frankfurters became “hot dogs” in 1901 at the Polo Grounds, the home ballpark of the New York Giants. Vendors there sold hot “dachshund sausages,” which was quickly simplified to hot “dogs.” Today, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that roughly 19 million hot dogs are sold at Major League Baseball stadiums each year.
Two of the more celebrated events of National Hot Dog Month are the annual hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s Famous in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn and the annual hot dog lunch for staff and members of Congress in Washington, D.C. Numerous cooking contests, festivals, and other events celebrate the hot dog throughout July in all parts of the country.
Los Angeles is credited as the top hot dog eating city in the country, followed by New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston. Outside the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom are the next hungriest for hot dogs, and hot dogs are easily found and eaten in most cities around the world. Mustard is the most popular hot dog condiment—though kids generally prefer ketchup. People often add cheese, onions, pickles, relish, or tomato slices to make their frankfurter “top dog.”
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