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According to, “The hamburger seems to have made its jump from plate to bun in the last decades of the 19th century, though the site of this transformation is highly contested. Lunch wagons, fair stands and roadside restaurants in Wisconsin, Connecticut, Ohio, New York and Texas have all been put forward as possible sites of the hamburger’s birth. Whatever its genesis, the burger-on-a-bun found its first wide audience at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, which also introduced millions of Americans to new foods ranging from waffle ice cream cones and cotton candy to peanut butter and iced tea.

“Two years later, though, disaster struck in the form of Upton Sinclair’s journalistic novel The Jungle, which detailed the unsavory side of the American meatpacking industry. Industrial ground beef was easy to adulterate with fillers, preservatives and meat scraps, and the hamburger became a prime suspect.

“The hamburger might have remained on the seamier margins of American cuisine were it not for the vision of Edgar ‘Billy’ Ingram and Walter Anderson, who opened their first White Castle restaurant in Kansas in 1921.”

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Key Stats

Source: 2012 Economic Census.

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Note: The table above is cropped at the bottom. Click on the image to see the full table that has 2,028 rows and covers the United States, all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The 2017 Economic Census data releases are September 2019 to December 2021.

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More Stats

Source: Monthly Retail Trade and Food Services (1992-2019).

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Source: 2016 County Business Patterns.

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From the Library:

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From the Newsroom:

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Source: 2012 Economic Census.

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Note: Data collection for the 2017 Economic Census takes place from May 1 to June 12, 2018. Data releases are September 2019 to December 2021.

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