First timer? In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48). I call this “landing.” I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near. I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.
Dan – Holy cow. Two USers in a row, and a big three for four, as I landed in . . . TX; 142/172; 4/10; 1; 157.4. I hope you noticed that after a run of 13 landings where I was 3/10 or worse, I’ve broken into the much more positive 4/10+ category. Let’s see how long I can stay . .
Anyway, here’s my landing map, showing that I landed just south of Athens:
Here’s a broader view:
Believe it or not, this was my third landing in the Coon Ck watershed, on to the Catfish Ck; to the Trinity R (11th hit).
Here’s my GE shot, showing that I landed on the Athens campus of the East Texas Medical Center!
Here’s a StreetView shot – I landed just to the right of the water tower.
Here’s a nice shot of the main building on the campus:
I learned that the East Texas Medical Center is a huge regional organization with facilities all over East Texas.
But enough of health care. This landing is actually more about . . . hamburgers. That’s right, hamburgers.
I was checking out the Athens website, and right on the home page was this inviting link:
So, of course, I clicked, and I found an interesting article by Frank Tolbert (as written in “Tolbert’s Texas.”)
Frank starts his article in dramatic style, thusly:
“It took me years of sweatneck research before I finally determined, at least in mine and in some other Texas historians’ estimation, that Fletcher Davis (1864-1941), also known as “Old Dave” of Athens, Texas, invented the hamburger sandwich.”
He goes on to tell a convincing tale of Old Dave’s little café in Athens that was serving what eventually was called a hamburger back in the late 1880s. But the hamburger’s break out moment occurred at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, when Old Dave set up a booth on the midway. His booth was noticed by a reporter for the New York Tribune, who mentioned the delicious sandwich.
Anyway, as I was reading this, I was thinking . . .
“Wait a minute! Last summer, I was driving south on I-95 in Connecticut with Jody (my wife) and Robbi (a friend). Robbi said she had a hankering for a hamburger, but she really wanted an extra-special burger that was not from a fast food joint or from any franchise for that matter. So Robbi called our friend Bob, who was back in New Jersey near his computer. She asked Bob to find us a good burger joint in New Haven (which was about 30 miles down the road). . . .
“Bob (being a good-natured, helpful kind of guy), hopped on his computer and then called back in a minute, telling us that we should eat at Louis’ Lunch.”
Here’s what you see after you Google “New Haven Hamburger” (which is what I assume Bob did):
No wonder Bob told us to eat there! And, of course, he told us that we’d be eating at the birthplace of the hamburger.
Anyway, it’s a very cool place, but I didn’t land near New Haven, so I don’t want to spend too much time describing Louis’ Lunch. You can Google it if you want to see pictures and learn more. But anyway, as I read more of Frank Tolbert’s hamburger history article, I became intrigued, because Frank actually went out of his way to debunk the Louis’ Lunch claim!
Here’s what Frank has to say:
In 1974, the New York Times ran a story in which one Kenneth Lassen claimed that his grandfather Louis Lassen “invented” the hamburger sandwich in 1900 in a small café in New Haven, Connecticut. And Kenneth Lassen complained that “the birthplace of the American hamburger, a tiny restaurant called Louis Lunch, was in danger of being replaced by a twelve-story medical complex. . .”
The New York Times story admitted that “a serious challenge to the title is a theory supported by the McDonald’s Corporation, the nationwide hamburger chain. McDonald’s historians have researched the problem and claim the inventor was an unknown food vendor at the St. Louis Fair in 1904.”
After this New York Times story was published I got a letter from a New Haven native, Neil E. Shay, now of Dallas. He wrote:
“A pox on the New York Times for bulldozing honest facts out of the way. Let me state that Looie (Louis Lassen) sold one fine steak sandwich but it was never a hamburger. Up until I left the City of the Elms and New Ideas, New Haven, circa 1933, Louis Lassen was still serving this steak sandwich – never a hamburger. It was probably beef off the rump, cut in thin slices. And it was really something to take to bed with you around midnight after a social event.”
When he heard about the New Haven Preservation Trust having plans to declare “the dimly lit, twelve-by-eighteen, Louis Lunch building a historic landmark,” Clint Murchison, Jr. [the grandson of an Athens banker who knew Old Dave and has been in contact with Frank Tolbert], told me:
“Let’s face it: if we let the Yankees [not the baseball team, but all of us damn northerners] get away with claiming the invention of the hamburger sandwich they’ll be going after chili con carne next. The New Haven claim as the birthplace of the American hamburger is a phony one, and the quicker they tear down that old building and raise the medical complex the better.”
Phew. Don’t mess with Texas . . .
So, Frank goes on with significant evidence that in fact it was Old Dave who had the booth at the World’s Fair. Anyway, one other interesting tidbit from Frank’s article is about how French Fries got their name. You’ll never believe it, but this is all tied in with Old Dave’s trip to the St. Louis World’s Fair. Once again, quoting Frank:
. . .Fletcher Davis was “interviewed by a fancy dan reporter for the New York Tribune who also asked about the fried potatoes served with thick tomato sauce.” Mr. Davis told the reporter that the sandwich was his idea but he learned to cook the potatoes that way from a friend who lived in Paris, Texas.
Clint Murchison, Jr., quoted his grandfather as saying: “Apparently the 1904 reporter thought Old Dave said Paris, France, in referring to the way the potatoes were cooked. For the New York Tribune story on the hamburger said the sandwich was served with french fried potatoes.”
Hey Dan, notice the “fancy dan” reference? Aren’t you a fancy dan reporter for the Denver Post?
Anyway, click here to read all of Frank’s hamburger history article:
I’ll close with this lovely picture of a Great Blue Heron, taken at nearby Lake Athens (Panaramio shot by Larry David Hodge):
That’ll do it. . .
© 2011 A Landing A Day