Hamburger Charlie and the Early Days of the Hamburger
Who was “Hamburger Charlie”?
Charlie Nagreen was born in Hortonville, Wisconsin in 1870, where he spent his boyhood. He began his ground beef and onion career at age 15 when he loaded up his ox can and traveled 20 miles north to Seymour to sell meatballs at the fair.
Why was Charlie selling meatballs?
The meatball was easy to assemble and the young lad knew people would be hungry after walking around viewing the agricultural exhibits at the fair. What he didn’t realize was that people wanted to keep moving and visit the displays.
|The founding father of the Burger
How did the hamburger come about?
Charlie was a resourceful young man with an outgoing personality. After not experiencing much success selling the meatballs, he had an idea and located some bread. He realized people could take this meal with them if he simply smashed the meat together between two pieces of bread. He called it a “hamburger” and yes, in 1885 the burger was born at the fair in Seymour, Wisconsin.
How did he come up with the name “hamburger”?
Many German immigrants lived in the Hortonville area. Ground up beefsteak was a popular choice for the dinner table. This steak was named after the German city of Hamburg where it was commonly consumed. Since the name was easily recognizable; “Charlie” used it to get attention. He then spread onions on top and the word spread to taste the gastronomical delight that Charlie had to offer.
Did Charlie visit other fairs?
Charlie returned to the Seymour fair for the next 65 years, but numerous other fairs were added to his summer circuit. Evidence indicates he brought his meat treat to fairs in Shawano, Green Bay, Weyauwega. Oshkosh, New London and others. “Charlie’s” stand was a popular spot and people in neighboring communities came to believe they couldn’t have a fair without “Charlie”.
How do we know that Seymour is truly “the home of the hamburger”?
Numerous communities from New Your to Texas claim to be the birthplace of the burger, but no one can supply any evidence dating back to 1885 like Seymour. Early newspaper articles, interviews with contemporaries and Charlie’s daughter all verify the burger was served at the Seymour fair in 1885.
It was in this setting, the busy Seymour Fair of 1885, where Hamburger Charlie , a young lad of 15 first set up his stand selling meat balls that became “hamburgers.”
Seymour’s First Annual Fair an Unprecedented Triumph
As Printed in the Appleton Post, Appleton Wisconsin. Thursday, Oct. 15, 1885.
Every Man, Woman and Child in the Realm Exercised a lively Interest in Contributing to it’s Brilliancy.
Twenty-one miles north of Appleton is located the prosperous little city of Seymour. The county that intervenes is as fertile, and supports as many prosperous farmers as any section of territory, similar in range, within the state of Wisconsin. The elegant homes of the husbandmen surrounded by capacious barns; broad fields undulating and well fenced herds of blooded cattle and flocks of well bred sheep, towering stacks of hay and straw, and granaries filled to overflowing are the evidences that present themselves of the wealth of this area. The same may be said of the country ‘round about Seymour, and as it is of this particular section, as well as the municipality, and its accomplishments that we wish to treat, we will waste no words in the introduction of our story.
The City of Seymour
The city of Seymour is possessed of as many men of determined energy as its prescribed limits can well contain. In all things pertaining to the interest of the place they are united, so that when a measure comes up which is in the least calculated to rebound to the public weal it is developed and matured and worked for all the treasure it contains grounds suitable for such entertainments as were contemplated were purchased and enclosed, a half-mile track equal in excellence to any in the county prepared, and a splendid exhibition hall was constructed.
|Charlie and his crew back in the day
The First Annual Fair
Numerous agricultural products were exhibited at the fair — Fancy stocks of vegetables and grain. The vegetables and cereals made us contemplate with envy the luxuries of the high life. Prize cattle, sheep and hogs were the hit of the fair. Nothing on the grounds attracted as much attention as the bees displayed in glass hives by Mr. John Bull. The little insects appeared to appreciate the admiration bestowed upon them and toiled without rest to maintain their reputation for industry.
The exhibition hall was the central attraction for all visitors. Here it was that household comforts, ornamental work, flowers, fine art and the products of the factory and the foundry were arranged side by side to demonstrate the diversified industries of the people. Phillip Muehl’s furniture created a desire in spectators to make themselves comfortable while they inspected the hardware novelties and dry goods.
On the grounds outside there was a very great variety of laborsaving farm machinery. The goods exhibited there our farmers are familiar with, and any essay we might write on them, farther than to say they are the best produced, would be a useless waste of time.
The horse trot is a source of income that agricultural societies all over the country have been compelled to take advantage of, but in no instance represents the best interest of the farmers. On the other hand the improvement in the style of travel and speed of the horses is most impressive. The array of fine horses that were on the grounds during the fair is conclusive evidence that this section of the country is well stocked with champion steeds.
Of Seymour and its citizens and leading industries we will have something to say in the future. In the meantime we congratulate the town on the splendid success of the first annual fair. May each succeeding exhibition grow in importance until the expositions there held fully equal if they do not excel any in the country.
|Grilling the worlds largest hamburger
“Hamburger Charlie” Ready to begin 62nd Tour of Fairs
As Printed in the Appleton Post — Appleton Wisconsin, 1947
Back in 1885, ground beef patties were called meatballs, and then they became known as “hamburgers.” C.R. Nagreen 2102 S. Oneida Street, known as “Hamburger Charlie” avers he is the originator of the word “hamburger.î”Beginning Aug. 14 at the Outagamie Co. fair at Seymour and continuing through all the fairs, – Wautoma, Oshkosh, Shawano and Weyauwega, Charlie will dispense his famous hamburgers-this time from a brand new 12 by 14 foot tent and using new equipment. With the awnings up and benches on the side the tent will be 40 feet long.
When Charlie was 15, back in 1885, he began his career, which has reached its 62nd year this summer. He drove into the Seymour fair with a yoke of oxen in that year, and thereafter made his circuit to the fairs by horse, by train and finally by auto.
|The ketchup slide