As with any icon, the history of the hamburger is a long and sordid tale, from the minced meat that Mongol horsemen gnawed on during conquests to the iconic patty’s much-contested state-fair beginnings. Like most American foods, the burger has immigrant roots—meaty prototypes sailed over from Germany in the mid–19th century. But it became the sandwich we know and love today through all-American innovation. Dig into the archives and brush up on your hamburger history.
1200s The earliest burger ancestor is invented (modern historians surmise) by Mongol horsemen, who stash raw meat under their saddles while wreaking havoc across Asia. Postride, the pounded meat is tender enough for the cavalry to eat raw.
1747 A hamburger prototype—called Hamburg sausage—crops up in the pages of Hannah Glasse’s English cookbook, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy. The recipe calls for minced beef seasoned with suet, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, garlic, wine vinegar, bay salt, red wine and rum, smoked for a week in a chimney.