In 1916 Nathan Handwerker opened his stand on Coney Island selling hot dogs for just 5 cents each. It might not be surprising that folks were a little uneasy about munching cheap street meat. Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” an expose of the meat processing industry, had been published only 2 years earlier and people were jumpy about the contents of their sausages.
What’s a savvy street sausage seller supposed to do? (I’m going for the alliteration likes here!)
Nathan spread the word that local doctors and nurses could get free hot dogs from his stand as long as they ate them while in their uniforms. Folks arriving at Coney Island would see medical workers enjoying the cut-rate hot dogs and assume they were healthy, thus securing his position as the king of Coney Island’s hot dogs.
Nathan’s Famous now hosts a yearly hot dog eating contest every 4th of July. Yay?