Meet Stanley S. Jenkins, the American Who Invented the “Clean and Healthy” Corn Dog


Hail Stanley S. Jenkins, the state’s fair fare king.

The Buffalo, NY businessman, civic leader, and part-time inventor envisioned — and then defined in poetic detail — the all-American Corn Dog in 1927.

He pioneered a brave new world of sausages in which hot dogs are lovingly pampered in a delicious cornmeal batter and then bathed in hot oil, a treat fit for culinary royalty.

Jenkins’ dream of a more refined frankfurter quickly spread across the country. Today, corn dogs are enjoyed by millions of Americans every year at street festivals, carnivals and state fairs from coast to coast.

Fletcher’s Original Corny Dogs sells up to 600,000 cornmeal-encrusted wieners each fall at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas, said third-generation corn dog queen Amber Fletcher, to cite a notable example of her popularity. .

Jenkins (1884-1967), the beaten happiness baron, boldly defended his heart attack on a stick. He called his concept of emulsified, deep-fried tube meat “clean” and “healthy”.

This champion of America’s appetite channeled his deep genius for the public good. He served on the Buffalo City Council, where he heroically fought for the rights of Joe Six-Pack and “a good glass of beer” – demanding regulations that limited the amount of frothy froth atop a beaker. mousse.

The sausage and pint patriot Jenkins is largely forgotten by history. He seemed to leave neither wife nor children. But it stands astride the nation today as the colossus of American folk cuisine.

“A clean, healthy and tasty refreshment”

The United States celebrated its 151st birthday on July 4, 1927.

The next day, pig-in-a-blanket pioneer Stanley S. Jenkins filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a device that allowed him to impale battered food with “a stick or handle” and to fry them in oil.

“I found that foods such as, for example, sausages, boiled ham, boiled eggs, cheese, sliced ​​peaches, pineapples, bananas and similar fruits, and cherries, dates, figs, strawberries, etc., when impaled on sticks and dipped in a batter, which includes in its ingredients self-rising flour, and then fried in vegetable oil at a temperature of about 390 F., the resulting food product on a stick or handful is a clean, wholesome, tasty refreshment,” Jenkins proudly wrote on his patent application.

In his toil, he discovered that virtually anything edible could be impaled and fried. His frying skewer epiphany, as the patent application notes, was not limited to sausages.

Stanley S. Jenkins stands astride the nation as the colossus of American folk cuisine today.

Items like the corn fig never caught on with the American public – the far superior Newton fig had been introduced in 1891.

But Jenkins predicted the nation’s obsession with frying everything for decades. The corn dog was the first to catch the public eye. A whole new category of American casual dining was born.

Rise of the Corn Dog in World War II

Jenkins received the patent for his contraption in 1929, two years after filing the application. There is no evidence that he ever produced his patented machine or sold a single corn dog.

But in the early 1940s, as the United States entered World War II, versions of the corn dog as he had described them in his application began to appear almost simultaneously in the most remote corners of the country – for reasons that remain a mystery even to those in the corn dog community.

Oregon hot dog dealers George and Vera Boyington trademarked the name Pronto Pup, their version of the corn dog, and began selling them in 1941 at the Pacific International Livestock Exposition in Portland.

They sold 15,000 Pronto Pups in that first year alone, according to the Pronto Pup website. The oddity’s success made headlines even on the East Coast.

People line up for corn dogs at the Minnesota State Fair.
Getty Images

“If you’ve never heard of Pronto Pups, brace yourself. They show signs of becoming as ubiquitous as Tom Thumb golf, at least in the West,” wrote the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor in 1945.

“[Boyington] impale a “hot-dog” on a stick, dip the “dog” in the dough, stick it for a few moments in boiling fat, and voila! You have a Pronto Pup.

The Pronto Pup is now most closely associated with the Minnesota State Fair, where more than 25 million have been consumed since 1947, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

The year after the Boyingtons skewered a helpless battered frankfurter in Oregon, brothers and former vaudeville performers Neil and Carl Fletcher did the same at the State Fair of Texas, seemingly unaware of Jenkins’ invention. or the Oregon Pronto Pup. It’s a coincidence that few can explain.

“My mom always said that sometimes an idea is in the air and a lot of people seem to get it,” Amber Fletcher said of her grandfather Neil’s invention. “I can’t imagine how anyone in Dallas at the time could have heard of it from anyone. [like Jenkins] in the Northeast.

State fairs have become laboratories over the past few decades for efforts to fry every food imaginable. None have supplanted the corn dog.

“Every year there are new fried food concoctions, and every year we’re the #1 seller at the State Fair of Texas,” Fletcher said. “We’ve been doing it for 80 years with a product that has hardly changed.”

The family business is innovating, however. His year-old mail-order business will, beginning Friday, June 10, ship corn dogs to all 50 states for the first time in its 80-year history.

Buffalo: Incubator of excellence in casual American cuisine

The corn dog may have proliferated in the most remote corners of the country.

But the fact that Jenkins first conceived this all-American delicacy in Western New York makes a lot of sense to food enthusiasts who champion Buffalo as a great American center of casual dining excellence.

“Buffalo is by and large a little-known food town, but one with a very rich culinary heritage,” proclaimed Michael Stern, author and publisher of Roadfood.com. He has criss-crossed the country for nearly 50 years chronicling American food culture.

He churned out a slew of delicacies unique to Buffalo in addition to his namesake hot wing: beef on weck, sponge cake and “some of the finest chocolatiers on the continent.”

“Sometimes an idea is just there in the air and a lot of people seem to get it.”

It’s also one of the nation’s premier hot dog towns, Stern added.

“For anyone who loves good American food, it’s hard to top Buffalo, New York, as a destination,” proclaimed Buffalo History Museum spokesperson Brian Hayden, author of the forthcoming book, “111 Places in Buffalo That You Must Not Miss”. for release in 2023.

The city has a “robust hot dog culture,” he said, while the Visit Buffalo Niagara trade group offers a hot dog trail on its website, saying “Buffalo has more than 250 years of history. ‘collective history of the hot dog’.

Sahlens’ has been selling hot dogs in Buffalo since 1869, Hayden said. In 1927, the same year that Jenkins filed his patent for the corn dog contraption, Greek immigrant Theodore “Ted” Spiro Liaros opened Ted’s Hot Dogs on Buffalo’s west side near what is now the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ontario.

Hayden said Ted’s is Buffalo’s “iconic” hot dog chain, famous for its wood-grilled wieners.

It seems inventor Jenkins was hard at work on his invention at a time when hot dogs were at the forefront of Buffalo’s culinary culture – nearly 40 years before the Anchor Bar first drizzled with sauce spicy on a chicken wing.

The struggle for a good glass of beer

Insight into Jenkins comes from a handful of clippings from local newspaper articles, including a Sept. 25, 1967 obituary, published in the Buffalo Courier-Express.

Jenkins, born in Louisville, Ky., was 83 when he died in Buffalo “following a long illness.” He would have been 42 or 43 when he filed the patent for his frying machine.

His patented cooking device with its eloquent description of the very first corn dog was not his only invention. Jenkins filed a patent for an “invalid foothold” in 1923.

It seems that inventing was a hobby. His obituary records that he was the president of the Samson Plaster Board Co. and that he was “elected general councilor in 1930 and after serving one term was appointed chairman of the Municipal Civil Service Office of Buffalo in 1934”.

As a member of the city council, the Corn Dog King tried to take another stand for ordinary Americans.

He proposed to “limit the size of the foamy neck on a glass of beer” – apparently fearing that too much foam in the glass would mean too little delicious golden beer for his constituents.

“I don’t think we should get into that kind of heckling,” said anti-foam platform opponent Jenkins, the Buffalo Evening News reported on July 25, 1934.

“The man just wants a good glass of beer,” a Jenkins supporter shot back at the city council.

His measure, however, was rejected by the council, prompting Jenkins to lash out with a deep-seated critique of the political classes.

The beer foam, he said, “like a lot of the talk we hear on the board, means nothing,” the Buffalo Evening News reported.

Jenkins’ obituary does not mention a wife or children. He was survived only by his niece Elizabeth Jenkins and his nephew William Jenkins, both of Chicago.

His dream, however, is not dead. Jenkins’ vision of an America made better by battered, searing fried hot dogs on a stick lives on at every carnival and state fair across the country today.


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