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Chicagoans Have Been Obsessed With Hot Dogs For More Than a Century

By Mina Bloom | August 6, 2015 8:47am | Updated on August 7, 2015 8:58am

OLD TOWN — Chicaogans have been obsessed with hot dogs for a really long time, and we've got the photos to prove it.

In anticipation of the Chicago History Museum's third annual Chicago Hot Dog Fest this weekend, the museum shared some old photographs of Chicagoans with hot dogs in hand.

Three ladies serving hot dogs at a VFW post at Honore and Cortland streets on Memorial Day in 1988. [All Photos Courtesy/Chicago History Museum]

A man selling hot dogs at the Maxwell Street market, held at Maxwell and Union streets, on Oct. 9, 1955. 

Two teenage girls drinking soda and eating a hot dog at Promontory Park in 1947.

Women eating hot dogs at White City Amusement Park in 1920.

A waiter serves mini hot dogs to a couple at Pump Room in the Ambassador East Hotel on April 12, 1955.

Chicago White Sox baseball players (from l.) Ernie Smith, Irv Jeffries, Ted Lyons and Johnny Watwood, among others, eating hot dogs at a Comiskey Park stand in 1930.

Chicago's love affair with encased meats started in the 1890s, when street vendors selling popcorn, hot dogs and other street food started to pop up in cities across the country, according to hot dog expert Dr. Bruce Kraig, who co-authored the book "Man Bites Dog" and will be at the fest educating attendees.

Later, in the 1920s during the Great Depression, even more hot dog stands opened in Chicago. That's also around the time experts believe Italian beef and deep dish pizza were invented.

"After [World War II], people wanted big food and they wanted it cheap. That's when the dog was loaded up and it became a Chicago thing," Kraig said.

By the 1950s and '60s, the city stopped allowing street vendors, causing a lot of those stands to become permanent neighborhood joints, which brings us up to today.

To learn more about the history of the hot dog and sample some dogs yourself, head to this weekend's three-day fest, held at the corner of LaSalle and Clark streets. There will be hot dogs galore from vendors across the city like Fatso's Last Stand and Boricua Dog and live music all three days. On Sunday, Kraig and other hot dog experts will give a history lesson. 

When the fest debuted in 2013, there was a shortage of hot dogs. But museum spokeswoman Emily Osborne said this year they'll be "monitoring [the] onsite supply closely."

"We have an arrangement with a supplier to purchase additional hot dogs if necessary," she added.

This year, the museum expects 20,000 people to come out to the Vienna Beef-sponsored fest, which is a far cry from the first year, when only about 1,400 people attended.

For a full list of vendors, live music acts and historians, check out the fest's website.

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