The Suitcase Lady

Hamburgers

September 25, 2018, 8:09 pm

Small towns in America love to promote themselves with claims to fame. Within a small radius of our home we have:

  • The Birthplace of the Ice Cream Sundae
  • The Home of the Hamburger
  • The Cheese Capital of the World

If this sounds all too amazing to be true, you are probably right. Each of these titles have been claimed by towns outside our state, and I believe the Netherlands might have a thing to say about Plymouth, Wisconsin, being the World’s Cheese Capitol. But many small towns in America are struggling, and these boasts bring some welcome fun and needed dollars into their communities.

Here’s a first hand report on our state’s supposed birthplace of the hamburger. First, let’s clear up the distinction between a hamburger and a hamburger. In America, a hamburger is defined as a meat patty on a bun. However, the original hamburger was an expensive chopped beef steak with onions, salt and pepper mixed in. It was named for the city that invented it, Hamburg, Germany, and was a gourmet food.

The floods of German immigrants who came to America in the mid to late 1800’s knew all about those classy Hamburg steaks. German American restaurants served them; food carts outside factories where many German immigrants worked did as well.

At least five American cities claim the all important addition of bread, thus making the Hamburg steak a hand-held food. But Seymour, Wisconsin, can document its claim back to 1885 when Charlie Nygreen (born 1870) went by oxcart from Hortonville to Seymour to sell meatballs at the Seymour Fair. The meatballs were a flop, but ingenious young Charlie just flattened them out, stuck them between bread and called them hamburgers. With many Germans in the area, the new hamburger sandwich was a huge success. Charlie returned to the fair every year until his death in 1951, a record in itself.

Ironically, my husband and I are not meat eaters, but we are lovers of history and roadside attractions. Here’s what we found in Seymour, 18 miles west of Green Bay.

 

 

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