Was the corndog, a stick impaled hotdog coated in batter and deep fried, invented in Oregon?
Versa and George Boyington say they came up with the idea for the tasty snack when a day of traditional hotdog sales was ruined by rain at Rockaway Beach, Oregon in 1938 or 1939.
George Boyington was feeding the mushy buns to the seagulls and asked himself, “Why not cook the bun when it’s needed?” After the weekend’s disaster, he went home to tinker with recipes for a batter-dipped, deep fried hot dog.
George Boyington, putative corndog pioneer, launched Pronto Pups, and began hawking the the wiener dun in the bun at fairs and parks and festivals throughout the country. According to the official history:
The Pronto Pup made its debut from a fountain shop window owned by the Boyingtons in Portland, Oregon. Right from the start, the tasty treat was a crowd favorite; in September 1941, over 15,000 Pronto Pups were consumed at the Pacific International Livestock Exposition.
Pronto Pups is still around, and still headquartered in Portland, Oregon.
But was the Pronto Pup the first corndog?
Most of the corndog histories I’ve found online (e.g. this one, and this one, and this one) assert or suggest that, in contradiction to the Pronto Pup story, the Texas State Fair of 1942 is where this classic American junk food made its first appearance.
However, a simple search through the New York Times’ archives reveals that “corn dog” stands are mentioned in a December 7, 1941 article, Florida on $30 a Week. This reference predates the Texas claim. The timing is such that those corn dogs could possibly be Pronto Pups, but the likelihood seems tenuous given that the generic term, corn dogs, was used on the other side of the country only 3 months after the company was launched.
So I dug still a little deeper. With out much trouble (thanks to Google!) I found patent number 1706491, which describes a Combined Dipping, Cooking, and Article Holding Apparatus. The application was filed in 1927 and the patent was issued in 1929. It includes an interesting claim by one Stanley S. Jenkins [emphasis mine]:
I have discovered that articles of food such, for instance, as wieners, boiled ham, hard boiled eggs, cheese, sliced peaches, pineapples, bananas and like fruit, and cherries, dates, figs, strawberries, etc., when impaled on sticks and dipped in batter, which includes in its ingredients a self rising flour, and then deep fried in a vegetable oil at a temperature of about 390° F., the resultant food product on a stick for a handle is a clean, wholesome and tasty refreshment . . .
Sounds an awful lot like a corn dog, no?
So the corndog was not invented in Oregon. Indisputably, however, Portland-based Pronto Pup was one of the earliest popularizers of the foodstuff. And Oregon can claim another corndog related invention that’s easier to corroborate, National Corndog Day! Inaugurated in 1992 in Corvallis, Oregon.
If Pronto Pup opened a food cart called “The Wiener Dun in the Bun” I’m predicting it would be wildly popular.
Mike – That phrase was perhaps my favorite discovery during the research 😉
Awesome! I don’t think I had ever tried a corn dog until I moved to Portland. And they were mini ones at that.
But I thought Pronto Pups are NOT corn dogs. They are made with a wheat based batter … like pancake mix… and not from a corn based batter. Makes a big difference in the way they taste compared to a corn dog.
SJP I also thought pronto pups were made from wheat flour not corm meal but I can’t fing a recipe that doesn’t include corn.meal.
I’ve been researching this. While I think you are correct that someone patented a machine that could fry battered foods, there is nothing to indicate the inventor actually made any corn dogs or sold any corn dogs. Further if 15000 corn dogs were consumed at the fair in 1941, you’d assume that probably wasn’t the first time they were being made and sold. The trademark Pronto Pup was first registered in 1942 (but that’s simply shows when the brand was used, not when the thing itself was invented). I have found nothing to indicate that anyone was making or selling anything like a corndog prior to 1938, so I think Rockaway Beach makes the best case for the birthplace of the corndog (or at least the battered, fried, hot dog on a stick).
Also, Rockaway Beach is about ready to be home to the World’s Largest Corndog. Which will sit atop the new Original Pronto Pup restaurant opening March 4, 2016.