Have you ever wondered where the first hamburger came from? There is much debate about this answer, and which story you believe depends on your definition of a hamburger. Is a hamburger ground beef served on a bun? If so, then why the “ham” in hamburger? In honor of National Hamburger Day on May 28th, here are some fun facts about the history of the hamburger below.
THE ORIGINAL GROUND MEAT PATTY WAS INVENTED BY THE MONGOLS
Genghis Khan (1167-1227), crowned the “emperor of all emperors,” and his army of fierce Mongol horsemen, conquered two thirds of the then known world. The Mongols were a fast-moving, cavalry-based army that rode small sturdy ponies. They stayed in their saddles for long periods of time, sometimes days without ever dismounting. They had little opportunity to stop and build a fire for their meal. As the army needed food that could be carried on their mounts and eaten easily with one hand while they rode, ground meat was the perfect choice. They would use scrapings of lamb or mutton which were formed into flat patties. They softened the meat by placing them under the saddles of their horses while riding into battle. When it was time to eat, the meat would be eaten raw, having been tenderized by the saddle and the back of the horse.
RUSSIA ADAPTED THE GROUND MEAT PATTY INTO “STEAK TARTARE”
When Genghis Khan’s grandson, Khubilai Khan (1215-1294), invaded Moscow, the Mongol army naturally brought their ground meat patties with them. From there, the Russians adopted the patties into their own cuisine with the name “Steak Tartare,” since “Tartars” were their name for the Mongols.
THE HAMBURGER’S NAME ORIGINATED FROM GERMANY
In the 1600’s , ships from the German port of Hamburg, Germany began calling on Russian port. During this period the Russian steak tartare was brought back to Germany and called “tartare steak.” In the late eighteenth century, the largest ports in Europe were in Germany. Sailors who had visited the ports of Hamburg, Germany and New York, brought this food and term “Hamburg Steak” into popular usage. To attract German sailors, eating stands along the New York city harbor offered “steak cooked in the Hamburg style.”
THE AMERICAN HAMBURGER IS THOUGHT TO BE CREATED IN SEYMOUR, WI
In 1885, Charlie Nagreen of Seymour, Wisconsin, sold hamburgers from his ox-drawn food stand at the Outagamie County Fair at the age of 15. He went to the Outagamie County Fair and set up a stand selling meatballs. Business wasn’t good and he quickly realized that it was because meatballs were too difficult to eat while strolling around the fair. In a flash of innovation, he flattened the meatballs, placed them between two slices of bread and called his new creation a hamburger. He was known to many as “Hamburger Charlie.” He returned to sell hamburgers at the fair every year until his death in 1951, and he would entertain people with guitar and mouth organ and his jingle:
“Hamburgers, hamburgers, hamburgers hot; onions in the middle, pickle on top. Makes your lips go flippity flop.”
The town of Seymour, Wisconsin is so certain about this claim that they even have a Hamburger Hall of Fame that they built as a tribute to Charlie Nagreen and the legacy he left behind. The town claims to be “Home of the Hamburger” and holds an annual Burger Festival on the first Saturday of August each year. Events include a ketchup slide, bun toss, and hamburger-eating contest, as well as the “world’s largest hamburger parade.”
THE FIRST HAMBURGER ON A BUN WAS MADE IN TULSA, OK
The family of Oscar Weber Bilby claim the first-known hamburger on a bun was served on Grandpa Oscar’s farm just west of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1891. The family says that Grandpa Oscar was the first to add the bun, but they admit that hamburger sandwiches made with bread may predate Grandpa Oscar’s famous hamburger.
Whatever the origin, it is obvious that hamburgers have been enjoyed by many for thousands of years. IMT Residential apartment communities typically feature on-site grills, where you can cook up your very own variation of a hamburger every day of the week, but especially on National Hamburger Day. Enjoy!