A Coney Island pie maker invents the hot dog

Feltmans1890swestland.netLike so many wonderful New York stories, this one comes from Coney Island.

It was after the Civil War, and this spit of land jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean was fast becoming a summer resort favorite for the city’s middle class.

Enormous hotels opened; a boardwalk was built with bathing pavilions and restaurants to accommodate crowds.

FeltmantheconeyislandblogSupplying pies and other baked goods to those restaurants was a German immigrant named Charles Feltman, who ran a bakery on Coney Island.

Feltman, who is also described as a butcher (like most things in history, the details are a little fuzzy), wasn’t the first person to mix a slender sausage called a frankfurter with bread and sell the concoction from a cart.

“By the 1870s, small [sausage] stands were to be found along the beach, to the dismay of conventional restaurant owners who regarded them as unsanitary, fire hazards, and a competitive threat,” explains Savoring Gotham.

Feltman’s genius, the story goes, is that he pioneered the elongated bun that fit the frankfurter perfectly and made it the top-selling street food for hungry beachgoers.


“Feltman and a wheelwright named Donovan conceived the idea of installing an oven in Feltman’s pie wagon, which enabled him to sell boiled sausages wrapped in pastry rolls up and down the beach,” wrote Michael Immerso in Coney Island: The People’s Playground.

Nathans1939andrewhermanmcnyAs Coney boomed, he replaced his cart with Feltman’s, a beer garden–like restaurant on Surf Avenue, selling his hot dogs for a dime a piece.

By the 1920s, Feltman was undercut. A former employee, Nathan Handwerker, opened his own hot dog stand a few blocks away and charged a nickel per dog.

Feltman’s survived until 1954. Nathan’s—like hot dogs all over the city—is still going strong.

[Top postcard: westland.net; second image: the Coney Island blog; third postcard: New York World’s Fair Carousel; fourth photo: Andrew Herman/Federal Art Project/MCNY (1939)]

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8 Responses to “A Coney Island pie maker invents the hot dog”

  1. Bella Stander Says:

    You buried the lede: Nathan was a gonif.

  2. sweetsound Says:

    Interesting! Love your blog

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you!

  4. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    For insight from Michael Quinn, who owns the Feltman’s brand and trademark, I’ve pasted a comment he sent in below:

    Dear Ephemeral,
    Charles Feltman’s bakery was never on Coney Island. His first bakery in 1865 was on Classon ave. When Feltman invented the hot dog in 1867 his bakery had moved to 10th st in modern day Park Slope. Although the sausage has been around for decades the sausage that Feltman used (curved sausage with thin casing) which was a precursor to the modern hot dog first appeared in Frankfurt, Germany in 1852. According to Feltman’s son the hot dog roll that Feltman created to accommodate the Frankfurt Sausage was originally used as a breakfast bun.
    My grandfather delivered bread to Feltman’s Restaurant during the Depression. He told me
    that Feltman’s hot dogs were manufactured on Flushing ave. near the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

    Feltman’s of Coney Island LLC is alive and well. As I am the owner of the Feltman’s brand and trademark. We’re manufacturing Feltman’s hot dogs using the original Frankfurt Sausage spices. Try it sometime.

    Michael Quinn
    Feltman’s of Coney Island, LLC

  5. A Coney Island pie maker invents the hot dog | Ephemeral New York | First Night History Says:

    […] Source: A Coney Island pie maker invents the hot dog | Ephemeral New York […]

  6. Feltman’s Hotdogs? | Bygone NYC Says:

    […] From Ephemeral New York: “A Coney Island pie maker invents the hot dog” […]

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