[PW] Burger, Shakes and Fries

Mon Aug 26 08:11:53 PDT 2019

Typically, the easiest way to access location-specific information about historical usage is through local newspapers.  Unfortunately, it's hard to find Hawaii newspapers from 1941.  Newspapers.com has none.  NewspaperArchive has two, the Honolulu Ka Hoku O Hawaii (The Star of Hawaii) and the Wailuku Maui News, and those present only limited information.   For those two newspapers in 1941, I see three references to "hamburgers" and one to "French fries" but none to "fries," "shakes," or "milkshakes."  I don't think that's enough data to draw useful conclusions beyond the fact that at least some people in Hawaii were eating hamburgers and French fries in 1941.

Casting our net a bit wider, we can see that "shakes" were popular in 1941 in the United States, but most people still referred to "hamburgers" and "French fries," not "burgers" and "fries."  Here are the first four quotations for "burger" in the OED:

1939   Amer. Speech 14 154.
1941   Word Study Nov. 7/1   A favorite broth of the word-brewers..forms like -burger, -krieg, -teria.
1946   Amer. Speech 21 88   Burger, hamburger sandwich. 'Burger steak' is hamburger steak.
1960   Observer 28 Feb. 13/4   Recently the Hamburger has become just a 'burger', and there are 'beefburgers', 'chefburgers', 'cheeseburgers', 'eggburgers' and even 'kingburgers'.

We can't tell how it was used in American Speech in 1939 (which is unusual), but burger = hamburger was still novel in 1946 and was considered a recent usage even in 1960.  So this suggests that people going out for "burgers" was, at best, not particularly prevalent anywhere in 1941.

Turning to archived newspapers for validation, we see that "burgers" usually referred to the surname Burger.  It is, however, possible to find "burger."  For example, in the (Jefferson City, Mo.) Daily Capital News for April 26, 1941, there is an advertisement for "'Burger in Basket with French Fries" (note the apostrophe before "burger," signaling a contraction) at the newly opened Vandilly's Drive-In, for 20 cents.  So going out for "burgers" was rare, but not unknown on the mainland.

For fries = French fries, the OED has nothing before 1947.  A quick look at Newspapers.com does nothing to dispel this, although perhaps a more diligent search would find an antedating.

As for shake = milk shake, the OED takes that back to 1909, and there are many examples on the ground in 1941, including the "jumbo shakes" at Steak-N-Shake, although "milk shake" was still more popular.

John Baker

From: Project-wombat [mailto:project-wombat-bounces at lists.project-wombat.org] On Behalf Of Sarah Bonner
Sent: Monday 26 August 2019 10:02 AM
To: list at project-wombat.org
Subject: [PW] Burger, Shakes and Fries

There is a book called *Hamburger: A Global History* by Andrew F. Smith
(published 2008)

Although there is only one reference to Hawaii in this book we can make
some general references about the popularity of each food item in the
United States.

*Hamburgers *(pp. 18-23)

They became popular in the United States in the late 19th century on lunch
wagons during the Industrial Revolution.

The book specifically states that "Hamburgers were even enjoyed in Hawaii
before the islands were annexed by the United States (p.21)" Hawaii was
annexed in 1898

By the 1920s burgers were considered to be a staple food in American homes
and indoor burger joints started.

*French Fries *(pp. 37-8)

French Fries were around before WWII but were not popular because the
technology used to cook them was not economical for fast food restaurants.
However, during WWII food rationing caused a shortage of beef and an
abundance of potatoes causing french fries became popular.

*Milkshakes* (pp. 85-6)

Milkshakes and malts became popular during prohibition and fast-food
restaurants started selling them in the 1930s.

Another suggestion is to listen to or read oral histories about Pearl

I am not sure how much these oral histories will talk about the food and
culture of Hawaii in 1941, but the Veterans History Project
<https://www.loc.gov/vets/stories/ex-war-pearlharbor.html<https://www.loc.gov/vets/stories/ex-war-pearlharbor.html>> at the Library
of Congress has a lot of interviews from Pearl Harbor survivors that you
can watch or listen to online.

*Sarah Bonner*
Reference Librarian/ Instruction Coordinator
Whitaker Library | Chowan University
252.398.6533 | bonnes at chowan.edu | chowan.edu/lib<http://chowan.edu/lib> One University Place,
Murfreesboro, NC 27855
Project Wombat - Project-wombat
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