During National Hamburger Month, May of every year, it’s only natural to wonder about the origins of America’s favorite sandwich. Who is the true inventor? From what country or state did the very first hamburgers emigrate to our U.S. restaurant tables and backyard grills? We can faithfully report that there are almost as many claims of inventorship as there are hamburger styles, which of course comprise every variation from Kobe beef to vegetarian meat substitutes to salmon to the popular 80/20 ground beef.
The name “hamburger” derives, of course, from the city of Hamburg, Germany. Some residents of Hamburg were headed as far west as the eastern shores of the United States during the 18th century. Many of them brought a snack called the “Hamburgh sausage.” This snack, like its cousin the “Rundstück warm,” combined a meatball similar to the Swedish meatball with a slice of bread for utensil-free handling. We’ll give you a bonus bit of trivia for your first barbecue this spring: the words “wiener” and “frankfurter” also derive from the names of German cities, Vienna and Frankfurt, respectively. (Remember that German W’s sound like V’s.)
History of National Hamburger Month
As far as credit for the transformation of the European meat sandwiches into the sesame-seed bun, wide patty, condiment and leaf-laden burger we know today? You might as well draw a name out of a hat. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll tell you that among the first to serve American hamburgers were the owners of the first White Castle restaurants, who in turn spread the story of the burger’s invention by a chef named Otto Kuase (whose sandwich included a fried egg on top of the patty; the egg was later omitted).
The other main component to remember about the hamburger’s origin is its presence at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. At that event, burgers were served and became popular enough to become a de facto exhibit of their own. Writing up the Fair, the “New York Tribune” called the new hamburger “the innovation of a food vendor on the pike,” the word ‘pike’ meaning the fair’s midway, a mile-long span that showcased numerous amusements and activities. History has (fairly certainly) revealed the vendor in question to be the late Fletcher Davis. Counterclaims have been made in print and oral histories, but we accept them as more variables in the swirling mists of time that have irrevocably obscured the hamburger’s precise birth circumstances.
But hey, we don’t have to be historians to eat our favorite food, right?
National Hamburger Month timeline
As fast-food burger chains compete more and more intensely, patties increase in size, resulting in McDonald’s “Big Mac” and Burger King’s “Whopper.”
No “ivory tower” here…
Chef and entrepreneur Walter "Walt" Anderson opens a hamburger stand in Kansas, his business eventually leading to the successful White Castle restaurant chain.
“Old Dave” stakes his claim
In a contested piece of historical fact, Fletcher “Old Dave” Davis of Athens, Texas, invents the hamburger, serving a beef patty between two slices of bread at the St. Louis World’s Fair.
An alternate theory
Connecticut blacksmith and preacher Louis Lassen receives credit for creating the first hamburger — though as we’ve seen there is room for debate.
Invention theory #1
Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas, perhaps invented the hamburger, serving a beef patty between two slices of bread. However this fact, much like everything else about the invention of the burger, is up for debate.
National Hamburger Month FAQs
What month is National Burger Month?
National Burger Month sizzles every year in the start of May, the perfect time to fire up the grill.
What restaurants celebrate National Hamburger Day?
Burger joints celebrating National Hamburger Day include Fatburger, Dairy Queen, Jack in the Box, BurgerIM, and Ruby Tuesday.
When did National Hamburger Day start?
It’s unknown when National Hamburger Day on May 28 officially began, but we’re very happy that it exists.
HOW TO CELEBRATE NATIONAL HAMBURGER MONTH
Throw a backyard barbecue
Considering the preponderance of digestive peculiarities in today’s America, you might need to include gluten-free buns and tofu-base patties, but now is the perfect time to flip some burgers for your family and friends. It's an old-standing American tradition, and May has the perfect weather for it.
Try a different kind of burger
We all have our favorites, our fallbacks, our tried-and-trues. But in honor of a whole month of burger love, go ahead and explore. Angus, chili, Buffalo, California, vegan, and more hamburger varieties are available right down the road at your favorite grocery. And we're only just getting started. Use your chef’s intuition, and cook up something new!
Read up on hamburger history
It’s a given that the internet is chock-full of fascinating facts, stories, theories, blogs, and posts of all kinds. Everyone has an opinion about everything, with America’s favorite food no exception. (You’ll find some mouth-watering images, too!)
FIVE AMAZING FACTS ABOUT MCDONALD’S
“There’s one in every group”
Until the year 1990, there was a McDonald’s restaurant that was not beholden to the rules, regulations and standards of all the other franchise and corporate stores, and it was owned by the original McDonald brothers.
Taking advantage of a technicality
Since the armed services regulation AR 670-1 and the Uniform Code of Military Justice prevented soldiers from getting out of their cars to go into McDonald's restaurants, in 1975 drive-through service was added to McDonald’s branches near a military base in Arizona.
Nothing like BBQ
In 1940 in San Bernardino, California, the first McDonald’s opened, specializing not in hamburgers, but in barbecue foods.
A truly enterprising entrepreneur
Ray Kroc was the “Multi-mixer” salesman who sold McDonald’s their first order of the milkshake machines, and he saw the potential of the company, going on to purchase franchise rights and going down in history.
With attention to good causes
The Ronald McDonald House charities, whose people help sick children and their parents, raised around $450 million in the year 2013, alleviating the suffering of many families.
WHY WE LOVE NATIONAL HAMBURGER MONTH
There’s no denying that the hamburger is America’s favorite food, and the numbers are there to back up the claim: we eat 50 billion burgers a year! That’s three burgers a week for every single person in our great land.
Burgers are the ultimate comfort food
A hamburger, a soft drink, and a container of fries. Who among us doesn’t love to have all three within reach? It’s like apple pie and Fourth of July fireworks. We’ve even heard of some vegetarians and vegans driving two or three towns away from where they live, to secretly indulge!
It’s a nice feeling to be on top
Hamburgers are not only the food eaten most often, but also the top selling food in the U.S. We looked into how burgers competed with delivery and frozen pizza, and it turned out that pizza isn’t even a close second to the ubiquitous hamburger. You can silently chant the refrain, “We’re number one, we’re number one,” as you sink your teeth into that juicy patty…
National Hamburger Month dates