In 1916, the frankfurter was stillvery new to America and Nathan Handwerker was more than a little skepticalwhen then-unknown actor, Jimmy Durante, convincedhim to open a hot dog stand onConey Island. But Nathan need not have worried - he was an enterprisingyoung businessman and used his ingenuity to elicit the help of a local hospital.The doctors received free hot dogs and in return were asked that they eatthe wieners at Nathan's stand, prominently displaying their white coatsand stethoscopes, denoting the quality clientele that Nathan served. Withunique marketing techniques like this and a great recipe for wieners, hisConey Island stand became an empire.
But Coney Island didn't become a hot dog haven overnight. Truth be told,the locals didn't think much of the sandwich's name. In fact, the phrase"hot dog" caused quite a stir because peoplebelieved it was actually made of dog meat. The Chamber ofCommerce even went so far as to ban the use of the name. 'Red Hots,' 'frankfurters'and even 'Coney Islands' were allowed, but not 'hot dogs.' The originalname proved resilient, however, when it became obvious to vendors that thebanned phrase had already taken hold with customers. They returned to thepopular title of choice and haven't switched back since.
Hot dogs have inspired multiplefestivals across the country, nationwide eating contests and seven versionsof the WienerMobile. It seems thatwehave an obsession. The question now is just how much of an obsession.The answers will be found in Footlong as we showcase America's infatuationwith the hot dog.