Island celebrates immigrant roots of American hot dog
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[June 29, 2017]
By Gabriella Borter
NEW YORK (Reuters) - When
Americans think of summer, a few standbys come to mind:
Baseball games, fireworks shows and hot dogs.
Like many American families, the humble hot dog
can trace its roots to New York's Ellis Island, where an exhibit
called "Hot Out of the Melting Pot: A History of the Hot Dog in
America" is set to run through July at the National Museum of
Twelve million people took their first steps on U.S. soil at
that island's immigration processing center from 1892 through
1954, including those who went on to found hot dog makers Hebrew
National, Nathan's Famous, Sabrett, Vienna Beef, and Walter's.
"The focus is on the American hot dog, which would not exist if
our forefathers had not come over here from Europe," said Scott
Ladany, Vienna Beef's vice president of sales and grandson of
the company's Hungarian founder.
Samuel Ladany and business partner Emil Reichel came through
Ellis Island from Hungary in 1893 before introducing the first
Vienna Beef hot dog at that year's Chicago World's Fair.
Called wieners, frankfurters, and dachshund sausages in their
native countries, hot dogs came with the great wave of European
immigrants in the late nineteenth century. The American hot dog
was born when these immigrants began selling their sausages in
They found eager eaters. Americans are expected to consume some
7 billion hot dogs from Memorial Day in May through Labor Day in
early September, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage
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Some of the most enthusiastic -- and fastest --
hot dog eaters can be found each July 4 at Nathan's Famous hot
dog stand in New York's Coney Island. The 101-year-old
beachfront shop, started by Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker
four years after he landed at Ellis Island, now hosts an annual
hot dog eating contest that draws competitors from around the
The founders of Sabrett and Hebrew National were Greek, German
and Russian immigrants to Ellis Island and also started business
in the early 1900s.
For Gene-Christian Baca, whose great grandfather Walter founded
Walter's Hot Dogs when he came through Ellis Island from Italy
in 1919, the exhibit celebrates an important family legacy.
"It is an overwhelming feeling," Baca said. "Just to know the
history behind it and to know what he went through and that he
came here virtually with nothing from Italy as a three-year-old
(Reporting By Gabriella Borter; Editing by Scott Malone and
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