The English have given the world many wonderful things. Food isn't one of them
God, I'm loving this.
Americans owe their famous hot dog to Midland milkman
Feb 26 2006
By Paul Cole
AMERICA'S best-kept secret is out. The hot dog was invented not by a New Yorker but by ... a milkman from the Midlands.
New research reveals that Harry M Stevens came up with the snack that has become a byword for all things American.
The hot dog is up there with bagels and burgers, Uncle Sam and Mickey Mouse as the very essence of the good ol' U S of A.
But the Yanks owe it all to Harry, who was born 150 years ago in Derby, where he delivered milk for a living.
Archivists in the town are so convinced their records are right that they're preparing to celebrate the anniversary with a series of events - and even plan to add Midland relish to America's National Hotdog Day on July 21.
What's more, Harry invented the baseball scoring cards still used to this day in the States, and there's a suggestion that he was also the first man to drink fizzy pop through a straw.
"Everyone assumes that the hot dog was invented by an American," said Marion Nixon, the woman in charge of promoting Derby as a tourist destination.
"But that's not the case at all.
"Harry has probably made more of an impact on the United States than any other Englishman, but he's been an unsung hero whose Midland roots have never been properly appreciated."
Family tree records show that Harry, born in 1856, was the eldest son of James Stevens, a foreman on Midland Railway Locomotive in Derby.
He grew up to become a caterer in his hometown supplying, amongst others, Normanton Barracks with milk.
Those who knew him said he had a knack of inventing things. In the 1880s, Harry and his family upped sticks and emigrated to Ohio, where he realised there was money to be made from catering at large sporting events in the US.
"Hot dogs were the result of a chilly April day at New York City's Polo Ground in 1901," said tourism chief Marion.
"By now, Harry already had the catering concession for major league baseball games - but he was losing money trying to sell ice cream and cold soda. Nobody wanted them.
"Wanting something to warm the fans up, he sent out his salesmen to buy up all of the 'dachshund' sausages they could find, along with rolls to put them in.
"Then he got his vendors to go round the ground shouting: 'They're red hot. Get your hot dachshund sausages while they're red hot!'
"A newspaper cartoonist named Tad Dorgan - short on ideas and working to a tight deadline - spotted the snack and drew a barking dachshund sausage nestling in a roll.
"Not sure how to spell dachshund, he scrawled the words 'hot dog' on his cartoon instead. The drawing became famous - and another American icon was born!"
Historians believe that sausages had been eaten in bread for centuries but the Derby milkman was first to put frankfurters in a roll and sell them as the famous hot dogs. Following Harry's death in May 1934, generations of the Stevens family maintained his traditions and developed the Harry M Stevens business into a catering giant.
In 1996, Harry's name was back in the headlines, when 166 items of his baseball memorabilia were auctioned off in New York.
They included a photograph of Babe Ruth hitting his 60th home run, inscribed "To my second dad Harry M Stevens from Babe Ruth, December 25th 1927", which sold for £10,000.
But the nostalgic lot that grabbed all the attention was a 1940's stadium hot dog vendor's fitted wicker basket, which fetched £5,000 - Harry Stevens would have been proud.
To mark the 150th birthday of the hot dog pioneer, Derby plans a Sausage and Ale Trail leading visitors on a tour of some of the most mouth-watering bangers and beer in Britain.
And they'll be singing the praises of the town's culinary hero when they set up stall at the British Travel Trade Fair, which runs at Birmingham's NEC on March 1 and 2.