Who Invented the Cheeseburger?

There seems to be numerous claimants on who invented the cheeseburger. Beginning with the late 18th and early 19th centuries, some forms of hamburgers had already been existing in different countries. It would be interesting to know who pioneered cheeseburgers in their respective places. And also, how they ended up with the kind of cheeseburger people enjoy today.

Hamburg Steaks
Hamburg steaks became famous in the ports of Hamburg in Germany in the late 18th century. Germany then had the biggest sea ports in Europe. Later on, these burger steaks found themselves sold in America. The earliest burger version, the Hamburg steaks, were not ground beef. They were salted and smoked beef chunks embellished with bread crumbs and onions. So some claim the first cheeseburger maker who invented the cheeseburger was a German. As to who in particular, nothing is mentioned.

American Hamburgers
European and German immigrants to the US brought with them Hamburg steaks. Later, instead of smoked steaks, they beef was ground and made into patties. They were cooked by frying on flat pans in cooking oil. In 1891 the burgers were put between slices of bread or Oscar Weber Bilby buns and inserted with slices of cheese, lettuce, and onions.

American Contributors and Claimants
In 1885 Charlie Nagreen sold meatballs in county fairs in Wisconsin. Later he flattened them, placed them between slices of bread and sold them as hamburgers. In Ohio in the same year, Frank and Charles Menches substituted their sausages with ground beef and put them in buns. They sold them in Hamburg, New York in circuses and called them hamburgers.

In 1904, Fletch Davis of Texas introduced onions on top of his hamburgers and sold them in his café. However, in 1920 two claimants answered the query of who invented the cheeseburger. Lionel Sternberger and Steve Harvey, both from LA, experimented on the idea of hamburgers with slices of cheese.

Kaelin’s Restaurant, claiming to be the one who invented the cheeseburger, came out with the new meat selection in 1934 in Kentucky. A year later, Louis Ballast got a trademark for using “cheeseburger” in Colorado. Incidentally, a different kind of cheeseburger, called Jucy Lucy, introduced the concept of cheese mixed right inside the burger patties in Minnesota.

So who invented the cheeseburger? Not one person can probably lay claim to this. Perhaps, each country and region has its own first cheeseburger maker. They differ in some ways, especially in the time and circumstances they came up with their unique cheeseburger style. Nonetheless, all cheeseburgers basically have slices of cheese, onions, and lettuce between two buns.