16 Jan 2007

Invention of the Hamburger in Contention

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A Texas State legislator has introduced a bill challenging the traditional claim of New Haven, Connecticut’s Louis’ Lunch to the invention of the hamburger. Representative Betty Brown’s contention that the hamburger was invented in Athens, Texas by a local resident named Fletcher Davis at a luncheonette he operated in the late 1880s is based upon research by a local Texas historian and newspaper columnist named Frank X. Tolbert.

John E. Harmon

If Fletcher Davis invented the hamburger at a luncheonette in Athens, Texas, one might suppose that an invention so successful would have kept that luncheonette in operation.

Despite the passage of time, progress, and New Haven’s inexorable downtown development, Louis’ Lunch remains in business after more than a century. John Harmon’s dismissal of Louis’ clam is not well-reasoned, in my view. Since Louis’ has declined to switch from using their archaic vertical gas broilers, and has refused to switch from using toast to buns, and has refused even to countenance such innovations as ketchup, how can one possibly assume that Louis’s sandwich has ever changed from something else to ground beefsteak?

8 Feedbacks on "Invention of the Hamburger in Contention"

Tom Pieragostini

Here are some facts to back up Louis’ claim to have invented the hamburger in 1900. William Perkins received patent #408,136 for a hinged gridiron in 1889. My Great Uncle Luigi Pieragostini received the 1st of his 3 patents #2,148,879 for a hinged broiler in 1939. Both men worked for New Haven Wire Co.later called American Steel & Wire. Luigi’s broiler was designed for a vertical stove. The vertical stove was built to cook the meat more quickly & evenly by broiling from both sides & it also minimized counter space. The original Pieragostini broiler & 1898 Bridge & Beach gas powered stove are still in use today by Jeff Lassen at Louis’ Lunch.

Necessity is the Mother of invention


A living tradition in American cuisine! I would love to experiment with a Bridge and Beach Manufacturing Company vertical gas broiler of the period, wouidn’t you? It might be refitteable for propane. The closest thing to it now isn’t close at all, it’s the gyro broiler.

Lance Mullholland

McDonald’s hamburger chain claims the inventor was an unknown food vendor at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Tolbert’s research documented that this vendor was in fact Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas. Dairy Queen spokesman Bob Phillips made a similar claim for Dairy Queen in a commercial filmed in Athens in the 1980s calling the town the birthplace of the hamburger. There is a photo which shows the exact location of Uncle Fletch’s booth at the 1904 World’s Fair.

Mike Nathan Kattawar

I would like to buy one of the Pieragostini broiler 1898 Bridge & beach gas powered vertical stoves. Can you tell me where i can get one. i’m not a professional cook. i would like to add one to my personal outdoor kitchen.

Mike Kattawar Sr.
1664 Courts Meadow Cove
Collierville, Tn. 38017

Larry Cornett

You all can fight over who did what and I will enjoy the battle. I just want a source for their verticle grills if one exists today.

T. Gordon Mayhall, Jr.

Tom, if what you say is true, then your claim is already off topic. It even says in the article that ‘Uncle Fletch’ created it in the late 1880’s. Your Uncle Luigi’s friend was 10 years too late. Backed by DQ and McD’s, how is it even plausible for you to defend such blasphemy. LOL! No hard feelin’s though.


My guess it that you’d have to have one of these broilers custom-made and I’d think you’re only hope is to photograph the originals at Louis’ in New Haven, and have a skilled steel-forger create one for you. I’ve though of this before – just never acted on it. Good luck to all. Louis’ get my vote though!


Louis gets my vote as well. The burgers are the absolute best and I’ve yet to find another that doesn’t need to be floating in conements to have great flavor. Meat and Bread! Simple usually is best!


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