The hot dog is Chicago’s most important food icon. Not only is it a food sold in vast numbers of outlets, but the hot dog is a metaphor for the city’s food culture. Hot dogs and stands are also pieces of vernacular art and architecture that tell us a lot about America ideas and general culture.

Hot dogs have a long history because they are species of sausages. The meat trade began in Chicago at its earliest years with people such as Archibald Clybourne, Sylvester Marsh and George Dole slaughtering and selling products, including sausages. Full-blown sausage making and eating came to Chicago and the Midwest with the arrival of great numbers of German immigrants beginning in the 1850s. German butchers made sausages for sale in their shops, for their beer gardens, and for street vendors.

Frankfurters, wieners, red hots, and hot dogs are all interchangeable terms. This 1909 cartoon from a San Francisco newspaper shows not only the name but the devil atop the fence is “Red Hot.”

San Francisco Call cartoon

The San Francisco Call, 1909. Library of Congress historical newspaper collections: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/.