Watch CBS News

History Of The Hot Dog: How It Came To Be America's 4th Of July Staple Food

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If there's one thing Americans love to enjoy on the 4th of July, it's hot dogs. And the iconic food has an interesting history behind it.

Lloyd Handwerker's grandfather was Nathan Handwerker, the Nathan of Nathan's Famous. A Polish-Jewish immigrant, Nathan started a humble hot dog stand on Coney Island in New York back in 1916.

"He came with no English and just enough money to come to Ellis Island," Lloyd says.

German immigrants brought frankfurters to the U.S. in the 1800s, but it didn't become an American symbol right away. Nathan gained customers when he decided to drop his prices to just 5 cents a dog.

"Once the Depression rolled around, that was when the business started taking off, because you could feed a family of 4 for under 50 cents," Lloyd says.

Pretty soon, everyone was coming to Coney Island for a dog.

Lloyd says, "the sidewalk out here was lined with people pushing in to the counters, the boardwalk was packed."

As time passed, hot dogs became synonymous with American culture – at the cook out, the baseball game, and, of course, that 4th of July tradition: The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest.

The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates Americans will eat 150 million hot dogs this 4th of July.


View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.