Hamburger Sandwich (1901); French Dip (1951); 1938 Slang Article

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Sat Jan 3 18:35:58 UTC 2004


   Andy Smith sends along Charles Perry's discovery of "hamburger sandwich" in ProQuest's LOS ANGELES TIMES.  Everybody's gettin' into the act, as Jimmy Durante used to say.
   I've found "hamburger steak" served on bread in the 1880s.  I've recently e-mailed ProQuest about the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, but didn't get a response.  I expect the TRIBUNE will be ready soon to give us important insights into hamburger, hot dog, pizza, Greek salad, Thousand Island dressing, and more.
   Here's Perry's post:

In a message dated 1/2/2004 9:26:43 PM Eastern Standard Time, Charles.Perry at writes:
  First mention of "Hamburg steak": Oct 9, 1888: sordid story of a jealous lover putting morphine on his rival's hamburg steak in order to poison him.
    May 31, 1895: Hamburg steak the cause of a street brawl last night. Guy ate at a "portable restaurant" at First and Main and walked away without paying.
    August 1, 1907: Lord Sholto Douglass, a notorious remittance man who "made things lively in Los Angeles" before he "drifted" to Bakersfield, there met a waitress over a Hamburg steak and ended up marrying her.
    June 26, 1903: Several parties found guilty of adding "Freeze-Em" (sulfite of soda) to hamburger meat in order to keep it artificially red for days.
    First mention of a hamburger sandwich, June 10, 1901: customer tries to buy a hamburger sandwich from a lunch wagon on credit.

FRENCH DIP (continued)

   NYU Bobst Library was closed for three days.  This continues the article.

PHILIPPE'S FOUNDER RECALLS BUSY DAYS; Man Who Made First French-Dip Sandwich Sees Restaurant Bearing Name Close Doors
Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File). Los Angeles, Calif.: Aug 27, 1951. p. 27 (1 page)
(Col. 2--ed.)
  "One day a police officer asked me if I would min splitting one of those large loaves of French bread and filling it with "some of that delicious roast pork."  I was not too busy, so I said, "Sure."  Then he asked me to (Col. 3--ed.) 'please cut it in half.  I've got a friend outside who can eat it.'  Then he asked for some pickles, onions and olives."
  Philippe charged 35 cents for the works and says that was the start of the "man-size" sandwich.  The next day the policeman and his friend returned with several other friends.
     _Dipped in Gravy_
  "Then we started making French-roll sandwiches for those who had smaller appetites," he says.
  "One day a customer saw some gravy in the bottom of a large pan of roast meat.  He asked me if I would mind dipping one side of the French roll in that gravy.  I did, and right away five or six others wanted the same."
  Those were the first French-dip sandwiches.
  "It was a good idea," Philippe said, "but the small amount of gravy in the pan didn't last.  But it put me wise.  The next day I made a gallon of the gravy--and still we ran out of it!"
  The dipped sandwich sold for a dime.
     _Tasty Combination_
  "The next day," Philippe says, "an Internal Revenue officer from the Los Angeles warehouse wanted a slice of cream cheese in his pork sandwich.  In a short time almost everyone was asking for the "combination sandwich."
  That sandwich sold for 15 cents.
  The place was overflowing with customers.  Philippe, his wife and their two small daughters were hard-pressed to handle everything.
  Also, the landlord demanded more rent.  He doubled it and within a few months doubled it again.
  "I had my eye on a piece of property up the street," Philippe says, "and I bought it."
  That was at 361 Allen St., the last stop for Philippe's.  Also, it was in 1925.
  "In those days," he says, "I had a standing order for delivery every day of 125 dozen French rolls.  Usually we had to order another 25 to 35 dozen."
  The gravy for the sandwiches was made by the gallon.  Meats (Col. 4--ed.) were cooked by the quarter of the animal.
  The girls peeled 50-gallon barrels of pearl onions--onions about the size of a fingernail--on their Sundays "off."
  The four members of the Mathieu family worked at a frantic pace.  Philippe worked hardest of all, if that is possible.
  In two years he had worked himself into a fine case of the dithers.
  He was tired.  His wife and the girls were tired.  His doctor told him to quit.
  "He told me," says Philippe, "that if I stayed on I would last maybe three months, maybe four months, but not much longer."
  In 1927 he sold.
  The place was sold again, this (Col. 5--ed.) time to harry and David Martin.  It flourished for years, and expanded.
  Then came the freeway project.  Last July 2, Philippe's closed for good.


   Becky Mercuri has forwarded these diner slang sites to me:

   Add this article to the growing number:

(WWW.NEWSPAPERARCHIVE.COM)(Jibberish tumbnail copied--ed.)
Zanesville Signal - 6/19/1938
...joints." "One Elmei.-" is their term for a HAMBURGER SANDWICH. If, it comes up 'dry-eyed.....THE SUNDAY TIMES-SIGNAL, ZANESVILLE, SUNDAY, JUNE 19, 'f ;H Minding My.....chocolate sundae; "Scorch a .grilled cheese SANDWICH; "Deep sea wiener and kraut and the.....tongue In connection with the campus HAMBURGER..
Zanesville, Ohio   Sunday, June 19, 1938  1338 k

   19 June 1938, SUNDAY TIMES-SIGNAL (Zanesville, Ohio), pg. ?, col. 1 ("Minding My Own Business" by Earl W. Brannon):
_Young America Uses_
_"Screwball Talk"_
   Out in Ames, I-o-way, there is a very fine state supported agricultural college.  Farmers send their offspring to this institution from far and wide in hopes they will pick up a little of the latest inside dope about the scientific farming and housekeeping together with a bit of cultural polish which along with the radio and a big high powered automobile will make farm life more profitable and attractive.
   These farmers' daughters and sons have contributed something however to the quaint American tongue in connection with the campus hamburger "joints."  "One Elmer" is their term for a hamburger sandwich.  If it comes up "dry-eyed" it is in its natural state of preservation but if it comes "bawling" the piece de resistance is embelished with a generous slice of onion.
   "Run the concrete" and the result is a malted milk.  "Chase one" and chicken dinner is ordered, but if the diner is not so affluent, and being a normal student he usually is not, he "chases one through the fence" for a chicken sandwich, the aristocratic step-sister of the humble hamburger.
   Other samples of higher cultural English found on the Ames campus, similar, indeed to the palaver found on any college campus, are "Make it roar," a tenderloin sandwich; "Chocolate church," chocolate sundae; "Scorch a binder," grilled cheese sandwich; "Deep sea diver" wiener and kraut and the most startling of all, "Blood and thunder," a rare steak.
   Probably the most impressive expression used by the college youth is his order of a five cent soft drink, "Nothing for the house."
   And the students themselves have a name for this crazy quilt jargon of theirs, "screwball talk."
_Harlem Also_
_Contributes "Americanese"_
   George Ross, sophisticated New Yorker, submits some samples of a slightly different type of "Americanisms" coming from colorful Harlem.  A Harlemite who is "beat to my socks" is flat broke and if he says he has received a "fraughty issue" he has been recipient of a sad message.
   If some snooty Harlem matron has "her glasses on" she is acting a bit upstage and if she says "I have myself a ball," she means she is having a good time.  One striking bit of Harlem slang is the name for liquor, "jitter juice."  If a fellow is "Kopasetic" he is absolutely all right.  If a "joint is jumping" it is filled with lively entertainment.
   Other items of Harlemese translated into good American are: "Togged to the bricks," dressed to kill; "Twister to the slammer" key to the door; "V-S" a girl who is a flat tire; "Trickeration," strutting your stuff; "Slide your job," speak freely; "Rug cutter" a good hoofer; "Neigho popys," nothing doing.
_They Were No_
_Pikers in Those Days_
   All of which calls up from the rhetorical bone yards of yesteryear some of the slang expressions which stir a familiar response in the memories of Pap and Mam.
   A "peach" of 1910 is a hot number today.  A "bag of wind" is a false alarm and "twenty-three skiddoo" means you had better "scram," and say when pap was young and said skiddoo he meant scram--and no foolishness.
   Back when the century was young the boss told the waiters to give an unruly customer the "bum's rush" now he says "give him the air" and the foul ball lands on the back of his neck on the same old sidewalk.  "Hello Gloomy Gus" said Dad to grandpap and now is greeted "Hiah Sourpuss," by Sonny.
   "Ish Kabibble" more or less freely translated from Yiddish meant "I should worry" to Mam and Dad when their folks told them to be careful or they would get into trouble and now daughter replies "So-o-o What?"  Girls in those good old days either would or would not "cuddle" and now they either throw the "woo" or stay at home.
   A gal who could not attract the young men was a "lemon" back when Mam was in circulation but now she's just a "pain in the neck."
   And the jibberish of one generation is carried over into the jargon of the next and finally out of the melting pot comes a language.

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