Yale hot dog story (April 1899)

Shapiro, Fred Fred.Shapiro at YALE.EDU
Wed Sep 5 20:09:37 UTC 2007


As the founding president of the organization YWRACABDOHD (Yalies Who Really Are Concerned About Barry's Discoveries on _Hot Dog_), I beg for some clarification.  Didn't you in March post, with surprisingly little fanfare, an 1893 mention of _hot dog_ in the Knoxville Journal?  And doesn't that citation knock out, at least until further evidence emerges, Yale's claim to be the birthplace of the term _hot dog_?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Fred Shapiro

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Barry Popik [bapopik at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Wednesday, September 05, 2007 3:30 PM
Subject: Yale hot dog story (April 1899)

 So I sent my new information on the origin of the Texas city name "Marfa"
to the editors of The Big Bend Sentinel in Marfa. Keep in mind that no one
knew about this information for 125 years. And nobody even writes back. So I
send the information to the editor of the new Marfa Magazine--a magazine
dedicated to the city of Marfa. And nobody even writes back there, either.
The motto of Texas, my new state, is "Friendship."
My local newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, in its business pages
last week stated a "deal of the week" that Chase Bank, Culver's
butterburgers, and KFC will be added to the Wal-Mart in Buda, Texas. I wrote
in a simple note that, hey, those stores were there when I moved here in
2006--everybody who's been to Buda knows that. The newspaper issued no
correction. More importantly, I also wrote that I'm a Texas historian, and I
want to do a project on Austin names. Free, because it's illegal for me to
make any money. The Austin American-Statesman was taken off
NewspaperArchive, and I have to know when the historical archives of the
newspaper will be available. I subscribe to your newspaper--please tell me
about your historical archives! I wrote to letters at statesman.com and
editors at statesman.com. And nobody goddamn responds to me. Because it takes
so much effort to e-mail a subscriber who's also a historian who's
volunteering a year's worth of his time to his city.
Genealogybank added (in August 2007) the 1890-1900 New Haven (CT) Register,
so I checked again for "hamburger" and "hot dog." There was no luck, but I
did find these articles.
Yale University has not published a goddamn thing about "hot dog" in all
these years, so I guess they're not going to be interested in this, either.
1 April 1899, Kansas City (MO) <i>Star</i>, pg. 7:
<i>A College Institution Now - The "Yale Ken-</i>
<i>nel Club" and Its proprietor.</i>
>From the New York Sun.
New Haven -- Dog wagons are indigenous to New Haven and are the result of
the appetites of Yale men who appreciate the fact that the hot wienerwusts
snugly imbedded in rolls and covered in mustard are ready to bark at any
time. Everywhere else the dog wagons masquerade as owl or night lunch
wagons. Even in New Haven, as popular eating places, they are somewhat
recent institutions, and have sprung up in all parts of the town, though
most liberally scattered through the college quarter, where it is not
unusual to find two on one block and another just around the corner. The dog
wagons came in response to a natural call. The Yale men are in a large
measure responsible for their existence in their present numbers.
Restaurants for light lunches are undeniably expensive and college boys,
despite their reputation for having money to burn, are, in the majority of
cases, seldom burdened with wealth. Before the dog wagons multiplied the
"all-hot" man, crying his wares on the street corners and producing them
from a white covered basket, had things pretty much his own way and supplied
evening lunches to not only the college element but to all late pedestrians.
Of these wayside caterers, "Pop" Jamison, who a short time ago sold out his
business on Gregson street and left New Haven, was the most famous. Yale men
of former days will recall him and his delicious chicken pies with pleasure.
He is a gentleman of color and wide experience. His chicken pies have
delighted famous men in all parts of the country and his assistant often
disposed of upward of 500 pies a day. Many days the demand exceeded the
supply. Besides pies, his deep basket contained soft shell crabs, fried
oysters and clams and sandwiches of all varieties. He amassed a fortune in
the business. The college men, however, grew tired of eating on street
"Billy the Dog Man" must have foreseen this, for he became the pioneer of
his kind and established a modest wagon on Elm street, opposite the
gymnasium. At once he bacme popular. Every night his stock was sold out.
Each day saw an addition in order to supply the demand. "Billy the Dog Man"
became enrolled, upon the list of Yale necessities and Yale characters, and
his coffers began to fill proportionately.
Envious eyes, noting Billy's success, emulated his example, and dog wagons
sprung up all over town, several of them having invaded the residence
streets. The owners of these institutions, far from feeling that any
aspersion is cast upon their viands by the suggesting title given by their
patrons, have entered heartily into the facetious, if somewhat cynical,
spirit which prompted it. Billy has met the college more than half way by
inscribing on his wagons the following sign:
The wagon itself is a gorgeously painted affair, the foundation color being
true Yale blue. Upon it are panels bordered in red and green and yellow
representing all manner of dogs, but principally hounds and dachshunds.
Stained glass windows ornament the front and ends, with dogs' heads as the
chief decorative subject--"Memorial windows" the Yale men call them.
As if to emphasize further his wares, or it may only be a coincidence, his
largest and most patronized wagon has attached a very sleek and obese black
dog, with a thick, stumpy tail which wags a friendly greeting to all
customers. This dog is always in evidence about the "kennel." At night he
stays inside, but the warm sunshine of day tempts him to sit on the steps or
patrol the sidewalk.
The interior if the wagons are all scrupulously neat. There is a narrow
counter and some stools, so when business is not over rushed all patrons can
enjoy the privilege of a seat while lunching. There are many times, however,
when the interior is packed and lunchers are standing on the steps and
grouping themselves at the foot, shouting their orders over the heads of
their companions and receiving their portions in the same way. The menu is
quite extensive and comprises in addition to the wieners, known as "hot
dogs," all kinds of sandwiches, cold meats, tea, coffee, cocoa and cold
milk. Nothing more expensive than a ten cent dish is served.
Even at the extremely modest prices fixed by the owners the lunch wagon
business pays. Billy, for example, has amassed a comfortable fortune since
he opened his first wagon on Elm street. He has long ago doffed the jacket
and apron emblematic of his calling as a matter of habitual dress, and is
arrayed in the top of the fashion. His purse has frequently tided some of
his customers over hard places. For the student who is for a time on his
uppers and reduced to strict economy the dog wagon is an inestimable boon.
For strangely enough, the Yalensian in financial straits invariably beings
retrenchment in the direction of his stomach. Cigarettes, beer,
theater-going all these may survive even the most stringent saving measures,
the tailor's bill may be increased, likewise the haberdasher's, but the
expensive "eating joint" can be sacrificed. With judicious dining out with
affluent friends who still maintain their places in the regular eating
clubs, and frequent visits to Billy and his competitors, the expense of
living can be kept at a minimum.
The dog wagon many times gains the victory over a restaurant for theater
parties, while visitors from out of town are usually initiated into its
mysteries by Yale hosts.
 16 February 1900, New Haven <i>Evening Register</i>, pg. 10:
Plantsville has sustained another loss. Today its "dog house" was moved to
Unionville, the support given the night lunch wagon there being small,
causing "The Little Old Man" to wear a smile today like all successful trust
and syndicate men.
22 July 1911, Anaconda (Montana) <i.Standard</i>, pg. 13, col. 2:
"I came to Yale from a Kentucky town of about 1,000 inhabitants situated
more than 1,000 miles from Yale," says a writer in Munsey's Magazine. (Who?
When? -- B.P.)
"Arriving in New Haven on a mild spring evening, I searched out the humble
dog wagon, caterer to impecunious students, and here on ham and a hot dog I
made my first supper, the only meal I paid for in money during my entire
career at college."

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