The Hamburger is one the biggest selling fast foods in the world. Millions of Hamburgers are eaten every day. But where did the Hamburger come from. Find out its history and see stock hamburger photos, burger pictures & images of hamburgers.

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The Hamburger.


There is hardly a major city on earth where the signs of the Hamburger giants McDonald's and Burger King don't shine out in the night sky. These brands offer a uniform Hamburgers world wide with some local variations such as the "Maharaja Mac" in India, where beef has been substituted by chicken because of local cultural taboos about Beef

The American Hamburger is one of the fastest selling foods in the world and its flattened minced beef pate is grilled and served in a bread bun with a a variety of salad garnishes, relishes and sometimes topped with cheese and bacon. As a meal it comes with chips and a cola. There are few people in the westernized world who can say they have never tried an American Hamburger. The hamburger has become one of the great symbols of the American dream.


From The Beginning.


The American Hamburger is not a unique food. It is part of a similar world wide family of foods that date back to ancient times.

Chopping and shredding meat has been part of a cooks preparation repertoire for centuries. Recipes for Minced meat loaves can be found in Roman cookbooks like "Apicus" dating from the 5th century. Koftas would have existed in the middle east and eastern Europe for far longer. The Kofta, which consists of a ball of minced lamb or other meats, can be found in Greek cuisine as Keftes. In Arabic countries it is called Kufta with 291 Kufta recipes existing in Turkish cuisine alone. In Bengal minced goats meat is used and Kofta dishes are very popular in Indian food Restaurants around the world. The humble Kofta has crossed all religious boundaries and is eaten by Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike. The Koftas bigger cousin, Kebab meat, is found in Kebab take away restaurants around the world. In Italy meat balls are an everyday staple food and minced meat is an essential ingredient in Bolognese sauce.



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Chopped meat and offal mixed with salt have been encased in animals intestines to make sausages for centuries. This was a way of preserving meat through the winter. When the 11th century Knights returned with spices from the first crusade, the spices were added to chopped meat and dried fruits and preserved in melted animal fats in jars for the winter. This was the forerunner of mincemeat used in Christmas mince pies and so loved by Henry VIII.



Steak Tatare


One of the great grandfathers of the American Hamburger was Steak Tartare. This is made from a raw ground fillet beef served with a raw egg cracked on-top, capers and chopped onion. It is rumored an American visiting London in the 70's was so appalled by the poor quality of the British Hamburgers that he ordered steak tartare in an expensive restaurant. When it was served he requested that it be taken back to the kitchen, grilled and placed between 2 slices of bread for him to eat!

It is popularity believed that Steak Tartare was a Russian recipe named after the nomadic Tartar tribes of the Central Steppes of Asia. The Tartars herded their cattle across the vast plains of the steppes. Quite often when on the move they had no time to cook so strips of beef that had been tenderized by placing them under the horses saddle would be eaten raw. Steak Tartar was actually invented by the French and got its name from tartare sauce and was served in French restaurants from the early twentieth century as steak a L'Americaine.

The steak a L'Americane points us to a closer relation of the American Hamburger, the Salisbury steak. This was made from various minced meats then formed into the shape of a steak. It was served with gravy and potatoes. It was invented by Dr. JH Salisbury (1823-1905) and was popular in the USA from the mid 1880's.


Stock photos & pictures of burger & hamburger from Funkystocks image collections
Stock photos & pictures of burger & hamburger from Funkystocks image collections
The American Hamburger


The American Hamburger though had different parents. The influence of world cuisines have spread from country to country over time. The great civilizations like the Greek & Romans spread food ideas right across Europe. The invasion of the Eastern tribes like the Huns brought in Eastern influences. The Turks brought Arab cuisine and great trading empires like the Venetians brought to Europe cuisines from as far away as China. All of these cultures had minced meat dishes of some sort of another. The European meat loaf is probably an older traditional dish in America cuisine than the Hamburger.

Ideas about different ways of cooking and new foods were spread by sailors. The sailors from the great port of Hamburg eat Hamburg salted beef on their long voyages. This hard meat had to be soaked and stretched to make it soft and palatable. Imagine then how excited the Hamburg sailors were to discover Steak Tartare in Russia in the early to mid eighteen hundreds. They started shredding their tough salt beef and mixing it with seasonings to make it more palatable. The idea became so popular in Hamburg, especially amongst the poor as tough low grade meat could be used, that the resulting meat pate became known as the "Hamburg steak". In 1802, the Oxford English Dictionary defined Hamburg steak as salt beef. In 1758, German immigrants who came to England with the new Hanovarian King, introduced a recipe for the "Hamburg Sausage" which can be found in Hannah Glasse's cookbook "The Art of Cookery Plain and Easy".




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According to Theodora Fitzgibbon in her book "The Food of the Western World - An Encyclopedia of food from North American and Europe":

The (Hamburger) originated on the German Hamburg-Amerika line boats, which brought emigrants to America in the 1850s. There was at that time a famous Hamburg beef which was salted and sometimes slightly smoked, and therefore ideal for keeping on a long sea voyage. As it was hard, it was minced and sometimes stretched with soaked bread crumbs and chopped onion. It was  popular with the Jewish emigrants, who continued to make Hamburg steaks, as the patties were then called, with fresh meat when they settled in the U.S. (from Linda Stradleys - Cooking In America)

"The Origin of Hamburgers and Ketchup", by Prof. Giovanni Ballarini:

The origin of the hamburger is not very clear, but the prevailing version is that at the end of 1800' s, European emigrants reached America on the ships of the Hamburg Lines and were served meat patties quickly cooked on the grill and placed between two pieces of bread. (from Linda Stradleys - Cooking In America)

The new German immigrants kept up the tradition of the Hamburg Steak in America along with the other classic German foods like the "Frankfurter Sausage" or "Hot Dog".


The First Hamburger.

1885 the invention of the first American Hamburger is a short step away but this short journey to the birth of the American Hamburger is shrouded by myths, claims and counter claims. The problem is also compounded by not knowing exactly what recipes of the various claimants used, moreover the highly academic question of what the burger was served in? Could it have been it the first real Hamburger if it was served between 2 pieces of bread instead of the essential element of a Hamburger, a bun? So for the train spotters here is the history of the first American Hamburgers.



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In 1885 at the tender age of 15 Charles R Nagreen of Seymour, Wisconsin was an enterprising young man with his own ox-drawn food stand. At the fairs he sold meatballs but these were not popular because they were difficult to eat whilst wandering around the fair. His way around the problem was to flatten the meat balls and put them between 2 slices of bread. Charles called this new food idea the Hamburger, probably after the well known Hamburger Steak. He became know as "Hamburger Charlie" and sold Hamburgers at the fairs until his death in 1951. This was not a classic American Hamburger though as it did not come in a bun. The meatballs probably owe their heritage to the popular Italian meatball so the only connection to Hamburg is the name. These piffling details are lost on the residents of Seymour though and they have built their own Hamburger Hall of Fame and host an annual Burger Festival on the first Saturday of August. Just to make sure their important claim is never overlooked the town legislature made Seymour, Wisconsin the "Home of the Hamburger" on May 9th 2007 with the following act:

Whereas, Seymour, Wisconsin, is the right home of the hamburger; and,
Whereas, other accounts of the origination of the hamburger trace back only so far as the 1880s, while Seymour's claim can be traced to 1885; and,
Whereas, Charles Nagreen, also known as Hamburger Charlie, of Seymour, Wisconsin, began calling ground beef patties in a bun "hamburgers" in 1885; and,
Whereas, Hamburger Charlie first sold his world-famous hamburgers at age 15 at the first Seymour Fair in 1885, and later at the Brown and Outagamie county fairs; and,
Whereas, Hamburger Charlie employed as many as eight people at his famous hamburger tent, selling 150 pounds of hamburgers on some days; and,
Whereas, the hamburger has since become an American classic, enjoyed by families and backyard grills alike; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the assembly, the senate concurring, That the members of the Wisconsin legislature declare Seymour, Wisconsin, the Original Home of the Hamburger.

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A counter claim for the home of the first Hamburger comes from the family of Frank and Charles Menches of Akron, Ohio. They claim that the Menches brothers invented the Hamburger in 1885, the same year as Hamburger Charlies' claim. The Menches brothers like "Hamburger Charlie" sold food at country fairs and festivals. Their speciality was a cooked pork patty sandwich. In 1885 at the Erie County Fair the local butcher could not supply the brothers with pork meat due to the unusually hot weather. The brothers had to make their patties out of ground beef mixed with spices then served between 2 slices of bread. To celebrate the new sandwich they named it after the town the County Fair was being held at - Hamburg, New York - announcing "this is the Hamburger". This again could have been named after the Hamburger Steak and the coincidence of the pork problem happening in Hamburg, New York was probably not lost on the brothers. You can still buy a Menches Hamburger made from the original recipe in the Menches' family restaurant in Akron, Ohio.


Hamburg, New York, has also been quick to capitalize on the "Home of the Hamburger" idea with an annual Burgerfest. On May 28, 2005, the town of Akron, Ohio hosted the First Annual National Hamburger Festival to celebrate the 120th Anniversary of the invention of the hamburger. The Ohio legislature is also considering making hamburgers the state food, so expect the second American civil war to break out between Ohio and Wisconsin anytime soon!

For the purists these Hamburgers may be seen as impostors as neither of them was served in a bun. The first Hamburger in a bun was claimed by the family of Oscar Weber Bibly. In 1891, on his farm near Tulsa in Oklahoma, Grandpa Oscar built a wood burning grill and cooked a Hamburger which he served in a bun. This event would probably have been forgotten had it not been for Grandma Fanny's secret recipe bread buns. The combination was a winner with the family for years. On the 4th of July 1933 they took the original burning grill, which had been converted to gas, and opened the families first hamburger stand at Tulsa, Oklahoma. On April 13th 1995, Governor Frank Keating proclaimed Oklahoma the real birthplace of the Hamburger.

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Another main contender is Fletch Davis who in 1904 was reported in the New York Tribune as selling a new sandwich called a Hamburger at the World's Fair in St. Louis. Fletch Davis owned a lunch counter in Athens, Texas. He sold a Hamburger patty between 2 pieces of toasted bread and the stand he used at fairs was called "Old Daves Hamburger Stand". After years of research in 1983, Frank X. Tolbert, former newspaper columnist of the Dallas Morning News, wrote the following in his book Tolbert's Texas, The Henderson County Hamburger:

"It took me years of sweatneck research before I finally determined, at least in mine and in some other Texas historian's estimation, that Fletcher Davis [1864-1941], also known as "Old Dave" of Athens, in Henderson County, Texas, invented the hamburger sandwich." (from Linda Stradleys - Cooking In America)

In 1984, a plaque was placed on the Ginger Murchison Building, approximately on Fletch Davis' cafe site.

I n 2006, the Texas Legislature introduced the bill, H.C.R. No. 15 - CONCURRENT RESOLUTION, to make Athens, Texas "Original Home of the Hamburger."

As there are several state Legislature claims to be "Homes of the Hamburger" and with such a strong feelings, claims & counter claims between states conflict to resolve the question seems inevitable!


The First Burger Bun & Hamburger Restaurant Chain

Either way by the 1916 the burger in a bun was popular enough for Walter Anderson of Wichita, Kansas to develop a burger bun. He made it from a heavier than normal bread dough and a square shape to take one burger. He gave up his job as a fry cook and used his life savings to buy a diner. In 1921 he cofounded White Castle Hamburger restaurants with Edgar Waldo "Billy" Ingram, which is the oldest hamburger chain.



In 1931 the popular cartoon series "Popeye The Sailor Man" features a Hamburger loving character J. Wellington Wimpy, whose famous line was " I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a Hamburger today". This led to another successful chain of hamburger restaurants called Wimpy, which still exist today the UK although most were converted to Burger Kings.


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The First Cheeseburger

Just when you thought the row over who invented the Hamburger could not get any more complex lets consider who invented "The Cheese Burger"!

You can take your choice from the aptly named Lionel C. Sternberger who in 1924 served a "Cheese Hamburger" in his restaurant in Pasadena, California. Charles Kaelins who claimed his restaurant, Kaelins. in Louisville, Kentucky, as "Birthplace of the Cheeseburger in 1934. Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Barrel Drive-in, Denver, Colorado, who on March 5th 1935 supposedly registered the trademark "Cheeseburger". (from Linda Stradleys - Cooking In America)

No matter The Hamburger is today the quintessential American food which when washed down with a Coca Cola, the quintessential American drink, will give you the classic tastes of American fast food. Ronald McDonald is a world wide icon and "Le Big Mac" is part of pulp fiction.

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In 1937, Patrick McDonald opened "The Airdrome" restaurant at Monrovia Airport, California selling Hamburgers for 10 cents. In 1948 brothers Richard & Maurice McDonald move the whole building 40 miles to San Bernardino on Route 66 and renamed it as the first McDonald. They streamlined the kitchen with an assembly line for Hamburger production. In 1953 the McDonald's brothers started franchising McDonald restaurants. By 1958 McDonald had sold its 100 millionth Hamburger and by 1963 it had sold its billionth hamburger. In 1961 the brothers sold the business for $2.7 million. They were meant to receive a 0.5% royalty from the franchise business but an oversight in the legal documents left this clause of the sale out. This would have been worth $100 million a year to the family today.



Healthy & Controversy

American's eat on average 3 hamburgers a week and McDonald alone sell approximately 4.2 million hamburgers in the US and 1.7 million in the UK a day. Burgers are big, big business. The Hamburger is such an important product that it has become the subject of controversy and politics. It has been at the center of health scares in documentaries like "Super Size Me" in 2004, in which Morgan Spurlock increases his weight by 13% in 30 days by only eating McDonald. This was countered in 2007 when Johan Groundstroem lost 30% body mass on a McDonald diet. McDonald have been attacked by Greenpeace for Amazon jungle deforestation by beef herds which are a major part of its meat supply and are under constant attack from green pressure groups. This has led to an overhaul of their image worldwide and an unlikely alliance with Greepeace. This has resulted in McDonald stopping the use of Amazon Soya in its chicken feeds and forming a pressure group with other big brand food businesses to improve agriculture in the Amazon.

A fear from E. coli and Salmonella in hamburgers arose after hundreds were sickened an 4 children died in 1993 after eating burgers from Jack In The Box restaurants. The Hamburger has become so important that writers like Michael Moss have won Pulitzer Prizes for articles about E. coli and the Hamburger.

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In Conclusion

There are few such iconic foods on the planet as the American Hamburger. To some they are the symbol of a fast modern lifestyle, to others the sign of American Capitalist Imperialism. Some are addicted to them and other see them as a health pest and a threat to millions and the planet. Either way the occasional burger can be a real treat and is a treat few of us deny ourselves.


See Our Hamburger Photo, Hamburger Pictures & Burger Images


The History og The Hamburger http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamburger
Hamburgers - History & Legend by Linda Stradley http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/HamburgerHistory.htm
History Of McDonalds http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_McDonald's
Greenpeace & McDonalds http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/forests/the-odd-couple
The Complete Hamburger - The History of America's Favorite Sandwich, by Ronald L. McDonald, published by Carol Publishing Group, 1997.
The Food of the Western World - An Encyclopedia of Food from North America and Europe, by Theodora Fitzgibbon, Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1976.
The Origin of Hamburgers and Ketchup, by Giovanni Ballarini, University of the Studies of Parma.
State of Oklahoma, Executive Department, Proclamation, April 12, 1995.
Weber's Superior Root Beer, by the Weber family.
History of the Menches Brothers.
Menches Bros. is more than just burgers, by Michelle Detwiler, 7/18/2002, Leader Publications, Akron, Ohio.
Hamburgers and Mustard: A Match Made in Wisconsin, by Eric Model, published by Hidden America - USA Today, July 23, 1999.



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    Funky Stock Pictures & print library specialises in food pictures, European Travel images, photos of the archaeological sites of ancient Europe & the Middle East & Images of archaeological museum exhibits

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    All photographs on this site have been taken by Paul Williams.There are few other photographers in the world with the experience of food photography that of Paul Williams has gained over the last 30 years. Paul has worked on major food advertising campaigns for the UK and Europe as well as taking food pictures for packaging design & advertising photography projects for nearly every major food brand in the UK.

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