The story of the first American hamburger

We all love a hamburger, right? It’s become the staple fast food of America, and many of us have a specific burger of choice. But, have you ever wondered where these delicious cultural icons came from? From Wimpy, McDonald’s, and Burger King, to Five Guys, Wendy’s, and In-N-Out, burgers have become the cornerstone of fast food in the United States.

But, you may not know where these delicious patties in a bun came from, and which genius realized that grilled meat patties and bread were the perfect combination! You might think it’s Hamburg, Germany because of the name, right? Well, let’s look at some of the claims surrounding the origin of the hamburger.

The story of the first American hamburger

George Motz: Hamburger documentarian

If you think Super Size Me was the ultimate doc about burgers, you’ve clearly never heard of George Motz! Author and documentarian Motz presented his documentary series Burger Land, back in 2013, where he travels the United States in search of the best burger in each state. Motz suggests that the definition of a hamburger should be ‘ground beef that has been patties, cooked, and put on bread.’ So, when looking at the story of the first ever hamburger, we have to look at who was the first to attempt this process.

The case for Connecticut

There is certainly a case to be made for Connecticut being home to the first proper hamburger. Jeff Lassen claims his great grandfather Louis Lassen created the first-ever hamburger out of his lunch wagon back in 1900, after running low on steak. Apparently, the dish was nameless until some sailors from Hamburg sampled it and named the dish after themselves! This is certainly a claim disputed by some, but we sort of like this version. Some claim this isn’t really a hamburger as he toasted the bread, but we feel like that’s splitting hairs somewhat!

Fletcher Davis

Another who lays claim to having invented the hamburger was a man named Fletcher Davis, based out of Texas. In the 1880s he is alleged to have opened a lunch counter serving fried ground beef patties, with mustard and onions in between two slices of bread. Fletcher and his wife ran a stand at the World Fair, and this is considered a possible place of creation for the hamburger, which of course means it could have been created by more than one person.

The story of the first American hamburger

The birthplace of the hamburger

There is also the family of Oscar Weber Bilby, who state the claim that he created the first-known hamburger in a yeast bun, in the city of Sapulpa, Oklahoma, which he served in July of 1891. How true this account is remains to be seen, but it does have some believes, as Governor Frank Keating famously claimed Tulsa, Oklahoma to be the ‘Real Birthplace of the Hamburger,’ back in 1995!

So, though we’re still no closer to a definitive answer, we have at least managed to shed a little light on some potential theories. The next time you bite into a succulent and steaming burger, spare a little thought for all the men who claimed to have created this wonderful invention!