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.
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.
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.