Exploding urban populations during the nineteenth century demanded new solutions towards burying the dead. Traditional congregational graveyards were either full or overcrowded. A combination of practical thinking and the wish to commune with nature (inspired by Romantic poetry) led to the development of serene burial grounds outside the city boundaries.
Founded as a “rural” or “garden” cemetery in 1838, Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery is famous for its picturesque landscape features with evocative names such as Camellia Path, Halcyon Lake, Oaken Bluff, or Vista Hill. Elaborate monuments and mausoleums, designed in an array of architectural styles, honor the Lispenard dynasty (Norman), William Niblo (Gothic), the Steinway family (Classical), and others.
And then there is the Feltman mausoleum, the columns of which feature Corinthian capitals. On each side of the doorway stands a trio of mourning figures. Those on the left hold symbols of faith (cross and doves); those on the right show grief and sorrow. The pediment features two cherubs holding a wreath with the initial F in the center. On top of the temple is a cupola with the Archangel Michael standing guard, sword at the ready. The building serves to celebrate the memory of just one man. Who was this person? A Founding Father maybe? A respected politician (if that is not a contradiction in terms)? A celebrated artist?
By the mid-nineteenth century, German immigrants in London made up a large percentage of local butchers and confectioners. They virtually monopolized bread making in the East End. During the 1860s beer gardens became popular, the largest of which became Ye Olde Gambrinus with branches in both Regent Street and Glasshouse Street, Piccadilly. Offering a range of German lagers on tap, its frankfurter sausages were famous and in demand.
By the turn of the century about ten percent of all London waiters and waitresses, as well as many hotel and restaurant managers, were of German background. They would have arrived in England fully-trained thanks to the apprenticeship system in their homeland. The oldest à la carte restaurant in the city was Verrey’s at no. 229 Regent Street (on the corner with Hanover Street). The house was established in 1826 and took its name from a Swiss confectioner who had started his business after leaving Lausanne in the 1820s.
The establishment was taken over by George Krehl (I) who had moved to London from Stuttgart in 1850. He turned the establishment into an exclusive restaurant with a splendid dining area known as the Cameo Room (each of its panels carried a Wedgwood-styled medallion). Tennyson and Gladstone were regular diners. A special table was reserved for Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins whenever the two friends dropped by.
Krehl’s son and successor devoted his spare time to dog breeding. George (II) imported a number of breeds (including the French basset hound) and edited the Illustrated Kennel News since its first appearance in February 1902, a periodical that continues to this day as Dog World. He was responsible for popularizing the dachshund (literally: badger dog) in Britain.
The German breed dates back to the fifteenth century when the dog was trained for hunting purposes. By the mid-nineteenth century, the dachshund was registered by the Kennel Club. Introduced to the breed by her German husband Prince Albert, Queen Victoria owned a number of dachshunds throughout her reign, several of which were immortalized in paintings.
The timing of the dachshund’s arrival in America ran more or less parallel with its introduction into Britain. The dog was brought over by German immigrants and used for hunting. For its looks, wagging tail and lively temperament, it won public sympathy. The Dachshund Club of America was founded in 1895. At Manhattan’s 1913 Westminster Kennel Club dog show in Madison Square Garden the breed had one of the largest entries.
German migrants also brought their sausage culture to America. One of the oldest forms of processed food, Frankfurt is traditionally credited with originating the “frankfurter.” The counter claim is that this sausage was first prepared in the late 1600s by Johann Georghehner, a butcher living in Coburg who had traveled to Frankfurt to promote his product. Others point to Vienna as the birthplace of the “wiener” sausage.
All one can conclude is that the origin of the “dachshund sausage” should be traced back to a Germanic tradition of butchering. Comparing the shapes of sausage and dog most likely started as a joke. The moniker stuck. In Britain and America the dachshund is known to this day as a sausage dog.
The Chicago Dog is an all-beef “wiener-frankfurter” on a bun topped with yellow mustard and a variety of toppings. It arrived in the city in the mid-nineteenth century through Frankfurt from Vienna. At a time of mass immigration into Chicago and the Midwest, German butchers made sausages for sale in their shops, for their beer gardens, and for street vendors. The Red Hot Dog became the city’s fast food icon. Frankfurters, wieners, red hots, and hot dogs were interchangeable terms in Chicago’s burgeoning meat industry.
The Vienna beef dog made its debut at the 1893 World’s Fair (Columbian Exhibition) at a stall operated by Austrian-Hungarian immigrants Emil Reichel and Samuel Ladany who had recently settled in America. They named their sausage Exhibition stand “Old Vienna.” Located within the Austrian Village on the south side of Midway Plaisance, the exhibit was constructed to appear a duplication of a historic part of the Austrian capital with stores and houses, the inevitable beer garden, a theater and a museum.
At the close of the Fair, the two men established the Vienna Company on Halsted Street from where they supplied Chicago with their products. During the Great Depression, a number of vendors began advertising sausages with a “salad on top,” thus giving rise to the traditional Chicago-style hot dog.
Who was the first to serve the dachshund sausage with a bun? From where did the name “hot dog” originate? There are suggestions that during the 1860s German immigrants sold sausages along with milk rolls and sauerkraut from push carts in New York’s Bowery district. In 1867 one Charles (Karl) Feltman was seen pushing a wagon through the dunes of Coney Island selling pies to beach goers.
When the Dutch first set foot on the island they encountered a multitude of rabbits (“konijnen”). Hence the name “Conyne Eylandt.” At the time that Feltman arrived, the outpost had become a boisterous “Sodom by the Sea,” attracting hordes of working class New Yorkers to its pavilions, playgrounds and amusement parks, all lit in a sea of multi-colored lights and smelling of fast food.
Born in 1841 and trained as either a baker or butcher, Charles Feltman had left Germany as a teenager. In 1869 he came up with the idea of inserting a sausage in a specially-made elongated bun that could be consumed whilst walking the street or relaxing on the beach. The “Coney Island Red Hot” soon became the eating rage. Four years later Charles leased a plot of land and opened Feltman’s Beer Garden from where he sold the frankfurter rolls that would make him a fortune.
The lunch wagon was an innovation of the early 1890s. Students at Yale University referred to the wagons selling sausages and rolls outside their dormitories as “dog wagons” (also a joke on the carts that rounded up strays). In October 1895 the term “hot dog” appeared for the first time in print in the Yale Record. The frankfurter was about to flood the American food market.
War & Diplomacy
As Feltman’s business boomed, he began building an empire that by the early 1900s covered a full city block, consisting of nine restaurants, two bars and beer garden, a roller coaster and carousel, a ballroom, an outdoor cinema, a hotel and pavilion, and a Tyrolean village.
The First World War interrupted the vogue for both dachshund and frankfurter. The dog came to be considered a symbol of warmongering and was used by cartoonists in vilifying Germany. To walk a sausage dog meant supporting the enemy. People turned away from the dachshund; its breeders were shunned. In 1919, the American Kennel Club proposed to change the breed’s name to Badger Dog in a futile attempt to make it less German.
Following the sinking of the luxurious liner Lusitania on May 7th, 1915, Anglo-American anger was directed against German shops (128 of the 1,195 victims were Americans). In Britain, angry protesters carried banners to spread the message: “We don’t want any German sausages here!” and attacked butchers’ premises. In America, President Woodrow Wilson confined around 4,000 German-Americans. Sausages were used to satirize bellicose Germany – xenophobia was a frankfurter.
The setback in fortunes did not last long. Although Charles Feltman had died in 1910, his family continued the prospering business. Ingrained in the American way of life, the hot dog passion returned soon after hostilities had ended. During the 1920s Fetlman’s Ocean Pavilion was serving five million customers a year and was billed as the world’s largest restaurant.
Nelson Rockefeller once stressed the frankfurter’s diplomatic value when he suggested that no American candidate for high office could hope to get elected “without being photographed eating a hot dog.” The campaign trail is littered with dogs. The dish would even play a part in the conduct of foreign policy.
Having concluded a state visit to Canada, King George VI was the first reigning British monarch to be entertained in the United States. In June 1939, after spending four days of formalities in Washington that included a State Dinner at the White House (which the British had burned to the ground 125 years earlier), the Royal party traveled in the company of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor to the couple’s mansion in Hyde Park, New York, where on June 11 an informal “American-style” picnic was laid out. The menu included ham, turkey, strawberry shortcake – and frankfurters.
The Royals were somewhat taken aback by the sight of dachshund sausages being presented on a silver tray (although paper plates were made available). Legend has it that Queen Elizabeth asked FDR how one would consume a hot dog. The alleged answer was: “Push in into your mouth and keep pushing until it is all gone.” She elected to use a knife and fork instead. According to press accounts the occasion was a success. The day after the event The New York Times reported on the picnic with the headline “King Tries Hot Dog and Asks for More.”
The setting suited FDR, the grandee with a common touch and liking for casual meetings. In his garden he had invited a cross-section of New Yorkers, consisting of relatives, friends, neighbors, and members of staff – American democracy in action. There was however a shadow hanging over proceedings. Europe was on the brink of war and strategic talks took place against a background of chatter and laughter.
The event undoubtedly strengthened Anglo-American relations just a few months before England declared war on Nazi Germany. Roosevelt was able to convince Congress and win public opinion to take steps to aid the British while maintaining American neutrality. It was slightly ironic that the frankfurter served to bring Germany’s opponents close together.
War created problems both for the dachshund (Field Marshal Erwin Rommel loved the breed) and the hot dog. The stigma of the association was revived when dachshunds were renamed “liberty pups” and the frankfurter was dubbed “liberty sausage” (sauerkraut became “liberty cabbage”). In the end, these were minor obstacles. After the war, the love for the breed quickly recovered and the hot dog by then had established itself as a metaphor for American eating habits.
The complete Feltman sausage and hospitality operation was sold in 1946. The famous restaurant finally closed its doors in 1954. Charles Feltman was not the only German immigrant who made Coney Island famous as a resort and entertainment center. At Green-Wood Cemetery a much simpler grave is reserved for William F. Mangels.
Having arrived as a German immigrant in Brooklyn in 1883, he started his career as a mechanic with a passion for machinery and entertainment. Known in his time as the “Amusement Park King,” Mangels invented many rides, including the Whip, the Tickler, and the Human Roulette Wheel. He also pioneered the Coney Island version of the Wave Pool (the system itself was apparently first seen on Lake Starnberg near Munich).
His invention of the jumping horse suspension on his signature carousels is still in use today, including the original merry-go-round that was ordered by Charles Feltman for his fun park. A visit to Green-Wood brings history to life.
Illustrations, from above: the Feltman mausoleum, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn; the Feltman mausoleum, Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn; Queen Victoria and her dachshund, c. 1885; Emil Reichel and Samuel Ladany’s Old Vienna stand [Official Views of the World’s Columbian Exposition courtesy Chicago Photo-Gravure Co., 1893]; a hot dog cart in New York; Feltman’s Restaurant on Surf Avenue, Coney Island; New York Times reporting on the Hot Dog Summit, June 1939; and Canvey Island’s ‘Luna Park’ around the beginning of the twentieth century.