Herald and Journal
Herald & Journal, October 12, 1998

The real home of the hamburger


There seems to be a hall of fame for everything ­ baseball, football, rock 'n' roll, country music, you name it.

But down the road about 15 miles from the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, just past the Oneida tribes casino, in tiny Seymour, Wis. is the Hamburger Hall of Fame . . . really. I saw it this past summer.

In 1885, at the age of 15, Charlie Nagreen came to the fair at Seymour, Wis. and set up a food stand selling meatballs.

Nagreen soon learned that his meatballs were of little value to his customers, simply because they were difficult to eat while trying to enjoy the fair. So Nagreen flattened the beef and placed it between two slices of bread. And that was the first hamburger.

His idea was a success and soon he was known to many as "Hamburger Charlie." Charlie returned to the fair every year until his death in 1951.

As a tribute to Charlie Nagreen and the legacy he left behind, the community of Seymour built the Hamburger Hall of Fame.

You may ask, what in the world would you find in a hall of fame for a hamburger? Artifacts, paraphernalia, records and books relating to the history of the hamburger.

Jeffrey Tennyson, author of "Hamburger Heaven" has been collecting hamburger memorabilia for over a 20-year period and has chosen Seymour's Hamburger Hall of Fame to display his extensive collection.

Outside, in the back, is the grill which cooked the world's largest hamburger at Seymour's 1989 Burger Fest. The burger was recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records at 5,520 pounds and enjoyed by over 13,000 visitors. Burger Fest is held on the first Saturday of August each year. In order to season the giant burger someone swung on a rope, and a forklift was used to top it with 750 pounds of cheddar. Other events during Burger Fest include a hamburger bun tossing contest, and a ketchup slide, in which contestants run full speed and then belly-flop onto a ketchup-covered surface. Sounds like fun.

Back inside the hall of fame, you'll find place mats, and uniforms and advertising from restaurants throughout the world. There are cookbooks and items honoring Popeye's hungry friend, Wimpy (I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.") Also a tribute to Clara, who became very famous toward the end of her life by shouting on TV commercials, "Where the beef?"

You may ask, "If the hamburger was invented in Seymour, Wis., why isn't it called 'Seymourburger' instead of hamburger after Hamburg, Germany?" It seems that the term "Hamburg steak" was already used to describe ground beef. It seemed only natural, then, to call a sandwich made from it a hamburger.

All over Seymour, there are signs proclaiming "Home of the Hamburger." But I noticed something on the way into town. One restaurant on the highway had a sign proclaiming the special of the day as chicken ala king. The special at another restaurant was pork tenderloin. Could be that they were suffering from a hamburger overdose as it was just a week after Burger Fest when we were there.


Now the latest - a couple of guys have a bratwurst eatery in the Watertown, Wis. area. The guys, who call themselves the Wurst brothers, say they plan to build a brat hall of fame in Watertown.

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