Texas Monthly Is Wrong: Barry Popik Knows The Hamburger Was Not Invented In Texas

The August issue of TexMo with the Best 50 Burgers in Texas cover story is out. And Barry Popik of Austin is hoppin’ mad. Not because Pat Sharpe thinks The Grape has the best burger in Texas, but because Blackie Sherrod wannabe Gary Cartwright claims the hamburger was invented in Texas.

Barry is a lawyer and lives in Austin and is a contributor-consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary, Dictionary of American Regional English, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, and the Yale Dictionary of Quotations. Since 1990 he has also been a regular contributor to Gerald Cohen’s Comments on Etymology. He is recognized as an expert on the origins of the terms Big Apple, Windy City, hot dog, and many other food terms, and he is an editor of the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. He posts commentary on Americanisms to the American Dialect Society email list, ADS-L, where he has over 7,000 archived posts since 1996. The dude knows what he is talking about, Cartwright.

Barry sent me an e-mail this morning at 1:38 a.m. It  reads:

It’s not true. Any simple Google for “Fletcher Davis” would have found my work. Anybody would have asked me. I have two young children now, but I work for free.

[Cartwright wrote:] “The documentary evidence supporting this claim is strong: An article filed from the World’s Fair by a reporter for the New York Tribune described a sandwich called a hamburger, made by an unknown vendor.”

Has he [Cartwritght] seen the actual article? Has any of us found the 1904 New York Tribune citation? Why is it missing in the ProQuest digitization of the New York Tribune? Why is it missing in the Chronicling America digitization of the New York Tribune? Even if shown to exist, the 1904 newspaper article wouldn’t prove anything. There is no other documentary evidence from any historical newspaper. Zero. Zip. Nada. STRONG EVIDENCE?

As I discovered several years ago, there is a citation for “hamburgers” in the 1883 New York (NY) Sun. Hamburger sandwiches were served in the 1890s in Chicago, in Los Angeles, in Dallas, and even in Montana and Hawaii.There is no reason whatsoever to conclude that everyone got the idea from tiny Athens, Texas.

[Cartwright wrote:] “There it was dubbed ‘hamburger,’ a term apparently coined in derision by St. Louis citizens of Teutonic extraction who viewed as barbaric the culinary practice, native to Hamburg, Germany, of devouring large handfuls of ground beef, sometimes raw.”

Yep, the name “hamburger” was coined in St. Louis in 1904. This is beyond incompetent.

The Texas Monthly has fact-checkers and access to Google searches, no?

I’m sure Mr. Cartwright wrote this piece just to get Barry all ticked off so that a wild fire of talk about his article would spread across the blogosphere. Facts be damned, it’s all about links and hits. Dishers, we might as well strike the first match.

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