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Chicago’s Schmidt the real Mr. Footlong Hot Dog Inventor

Refreshment Corner, Riverview Park, about 1908.

Postcard view of the Refreshment Corner, Riverview Park, about 1908.

 
Part 8 of a series in honor of National Hot Dog Month.

Although it’s rarely seen at local fast-food restaurants today, Chicago originated that carnival favorite, the footlong hot dog. The 12-inch frank got its launch at the refreshment stand at Riverview Park, an amusement park that operated at 3300 N. Western Ave. from 1904 to 1967.

George Schmidt

George Schmidt

Riverview owner George Schmidt reportedly introduced the extra-long wieners as a cheap and filling meal for visitors too strapped to eat in the park’s restaurants. They helped attract families to the park, especially after the Great Depression arrived.

In a 1948 interview, Schmidt recounted that in the ’30s, “it was no odd sight to see a mother, accompanied by two children out at Riverview on a Tuesday afternoon, purchase one hot dog for 2 cents and a bottle of pop for the same price, and see all three have a bite of the hot dog and a few swigs of the pop. Times were that tough.”

Some challengers to Chicago’s footlong creation claim allege that The Original Famous Sandwich Shop in Pittsburgh invented the 12-incher, while others champion Eric’s Place in Los Angeles, but they appear to have been a little later than Riverview.

Footlongs don’t seem to have caught on much in Chicago outside Riverview. However, a few local places do serve them, including Murphy’s Red Hots in Lakeview, Miller’s Dog n Suds drive-in in Fox Lake and The Firkin and Pheasant, a Lincoln Park pub.

 
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