The Great American Hamburger: Where It Started and Where It Is Now

Zia Diner Serves a Killer Burger – Here’s a Little Info About the Famous American Hamburger

The origin of the hamburger is uncertain. Connecticut restauranteur Louis Lassen claimed that he ran out of steaks during lunch hour one day in 1900. And so he improvised, inserting leftover beef between toast slices. Charlie Nagreen, meanwhile, always maintained that he sold meat sandwiches at Wisconsin’s Seymour Fair in 1885. Several others made similar assertions during their lifetimes.

In any event, the hamburger earned widespread attention when it showed up at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Afterwards, burgers appeared all over the U.S., usually as cheap lunch entrees for laborers. The popularity of burgers waned after World War I, however, until White Castle was founded in 1921. This Midwestern chain specialized in sliders, small burgers that proved irresistible to patrons.

In 1940, a barbecue eatery opened in San Bernardino, Calif. Hamburgers became the top-selling item at this restaurant, which was called McDonald’s. During the 1950s, McDonald’s franchises started opening across America. The grilled hamburger’s popularity skyrocketed.

As other chains began selling hamburgers, variations arose. For example, when Burger King launched in 1954, the company flame-broiled its burgers. And fancier dining spots began serving thick, juicy burgers with an array of toppings.

Hamburger innovations persist. A popular recent trend is substituting doughnuts and other pastries for buns. More dramatic, on August 5, 2013, Dr. Mark Post and his team at the University of Maastricht, a school in the Netherlands, unveiled the in vitro hamburger that they grew in a laboratory. Who knows what the future holds for America’s most beloved meat patty?