Texas Ingenuity History


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The Hamburger
(Do you want fries with that?)

Texans are a proud folk. When it comes to making a claim about something, we aren't exactly shy. One such claim comes from the East Texas town of Athens and from a fellow named Fletcher Davis. According to Athens's history, "Ole Dave" put a patty of cooked ground beef between two slices of bread sometime in the 1880s and thus invented the hamburger (although it wasn't named that at the time.)

This claim deserves a little discussion.

The process of grinding meat (or at least shredding poorer cuts of meat) and cooking it into a palatable dish is ancient. It's said the Mongols fixed it up that way. Russians had something similar they called Steak Tartare. By the 14th century, this idea of cooking minced beef made its way to Germany. Sailors who visited the port of Hamburg sampled this dish and called it a "Hamburg Steak." It wasn't quite what we picture as a hamburger steak today - it was a minced meat, salted and spiced. In about 1850, meat-grinding implements were first used to make sausage - a tool that would become necessary for grinding hamburger meat like we know today. Hamburger steaks appeared on some American restaurant menus by the 1870s. However, a hamburger steak is still not a "hamburger."

The claim of putting a ground beef patty in a sandwich is held by four American cities. Hamburg, New York, claims that two brothers started selling ground beef on a bun in 1885, but historians have found holes in the story. The Lassen family of New Haven, Connecticut, claims it served the first ground beef patties between two pieces of toast in 1900. Seymour, Wisconsin, claims that Charles Nagren flattened a meatball in 1885, served it at a local fair, and called it a hamburger. However, news stories of that fair do not mention the sandwich. Some accounts claim that a hamburger was served in 1892 at the Summit County Fair in Ohio, although corroboration is hard to come by.

Continues in book...


Fletcher Davis

Fletcher Davis, Inventor of the

Hamburger Sandwich – Athens. Texas.

Of all the claims, the one that passes muster by most historians (most notably Texas food historian Frank X. Tolbert) is that of Fletcher Davis (1864-1941) of Athens, Texas.

Continues. . .

Texas Tidbit: It is estimated that restaurants in the U.S. serve 8.2 billion hamburgers each year.

Continues in the book...

The stories continue in the book Texas Ingenuity... For complete information on this and other Texas stories...