Anti-German Fast Food

MT reader argues anti-German sentiment gave coney dogs their all-American moniker.

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Anti-German Fast Food
Courtesy photo.

We’re coming up on the 100th anniversary of the Coney Island restaurant, with Todoroff’s Coney Island in Jackson, opened in 1914, being the first restaurant to mark the anniversary, and Detroit’s American Coney Island’s anniversary coming up in 1917. But a question that seems lost to time is just why these hot dogs are called coneys, and why the restaurants serving them are called Coney Islands. One of our readers, Jerry Holowka, called us up with his theory: Anti-German sentiment was so strong in the 1910s, just when hot dog shops were being established in Michigan. Imagine a time when patriots called Germans “the hun” and dubbed all-American hamburgers “liberty sandwiches.” Companies, streets and even towns with German names were changed to English- and American-sounding ones. And so, Holowka argued, quite convincingly that, this new generation of hot dog shop owners couldn’t call their creations what they had been called — frankfurters — and so chose to instead trade off the fame of the all-American amusement park: Coney Island. Thanks for the tip, Jerry. We owe you a coney with freedom fries.

About The Author

Michael Jackman

Born in 1969 at Mount Carmel hospital in Detroit, Jackman grew up just 100 yards from the Detroit city line in east Dearborn. Jackman has attended New York University, the School of Visual Arts, Northwestern University and Wayne State University, though he never got a degree. He has worked as a bar back, busboy,...
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