Murray Handwerker, 89, Dies; Made Nathan’s More Famous
May 15, 2011

Famous Nathan of Nathan's Famous
submitted by Megan Neilsen
Hi there Fearless Leader,

Just wanted to let you know that we did buy a package of Nathan's Hotdogs. First
ones we have had to eat. They are good!!!!!!!!! Will put them on our grocery list

Thanks for helping us plan our menu.

Grace Hertz
Quiz #488 Results
Bookmark and Share
Answers to Quiz #488- August 16, 2015
1.  What is the address of this fast food place?
2. On what date and occasion did the place close for the day
for the first time since it was originally opened?
3. Only one of the company's many locations has been destroyed.
What was the date and how was it lost?
TinEye Alert
You can find this photo on,
but the quiz will be a lot more fun if you solve the puzzle on your own.
1.  Nathan's Coney Island
1310 Surf Ave,
Brooklyn, NY 11224
2. It was closed because of Hurricane Sandy
October 29, 2012
3.  It was located in the World Trade Center and was destroyed Sept 11.
Comments from Our Readers
I have seen a lot in NYC, but never Coney Island nor Nathan's Famous Franks.
Closest I have ever been to a Nathan's is a package of skinless franks at my local
Safeway.  Someday....maybe...
Nelsen Spickard
This was immediately recognizable as Nathan's Famous at Coney Island, located at
1310 Surf Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224. There are lots of historical photos of
Nathan's at

I remember at least once when in college in Boston we decided to drive to NYC
about midnight because we really wanted Nathan's, so we drove to Times Square,
where it was open 24 hours. I guess it was fun at the time.

We don't always eat hot dogs, but when we do, we choose Nathan's.  :)
Roger Lipsett
You are getting this from someone who doesn't even care at all for hotdogs.  My
mother babysat my cousins children while I was growing up.  The cousin worked
at a meat packing plant.  She would bring bags of hotdog ends for our lunches.

Judy Pfaff
Easy-peasy!  Despite having never been to Coney Island, I recognized Nathan's
immediately. I'll have to eat a hotdog for lunch today. Alas, I'm not going to be near
an official Nathan's Coney Island.
Tom Collins
Because no one in my family eats hot dogs except me, I had never known that
Nathan's product is sold right here in beautiful downtown Anacortes at Safeway!  
We keep learning!
Kitty Huddleston
How many hot dogs could you eat in a hot dog eating contest? I could get one
down - that would be the limit! What do you like to put on your hot dogs? Catsup?
Mustard? What condiments? Thanks for another interesting quiz.

I did find a page that lists hotdogs that are considered gluten free. We're going to
have to try some of the Nathan's hotdogs. We'll see if they are really as good as
Grace Hertz & Mary Turner
The Fabulous Fletchers
You didn';t make mention of the most exciting event - the annual hot dog eating
contest!  That's a big deal! ;)  When I checked out the website, I saw that they
have a countdown clock for next year's event.  I have watched it before on ESPN,
and never realized it was such a big deal that it would even make it to ESPN.  Who
doesn't like nitrate meats??  ;)
Beth Long

There is enough of the Nathan's name showing on the sign for me to recognize it.
Google-image search for "nathan's famous frankfurters first location" turned up the
vertical sign and its address.
Collier Smith
That looks like Nathans to me, the one on Coney Island.  The address is 1310 Surf
Avenue at Stillwell in Brooklyn, New York.  The location that was lost was one of
many businesses and people that were lost when the World Trade Center buildings
were attacked and destroyed on September 11, 2001.  (Gosh, it is hard to believe
that was almost 14 years ago.  It is still so vivid in my memory.)  The Nathans in
the photo is the original Nathans.  When hurricane Sandy hit, it was forced to close
on October 29, 2012, but I believe it was for longer than a day.  When the Google
car with the camera on it drove by in January 2013, there was a big sign on the side
of the building.  It read:  After 100 years no hurricane will get us down!  While we
are rebuilding, visit our location on 86th Street [in] Bay Ridge.  They reopened in
May 2013.  Should I get a hankering for a Nathans hot dog, all it takes is a trip to
the corner grocery store.
Carol Gene Farrant
Hah! I'm finally getting one ready to submit earlier than four days too late!  Now I
can finish building the newspaper ads for Pier One Theatre's final production of the
season (three one-act plays), in which I have a role; do some line study; and still get
to bed at a reasonable hour. Or watch a movie.
Peter Norton
Nathan's Famous. Nathan's eliminated a gluten ingredient from the company's hot
dogs several years ago, making them gluten-free to at least 20 parts per million. The
company says it produces the products in a gluten-free facility. Contact Nathan's at
Tynan Peterson
I have been to NY several times and my wife was born in Philadelphia. We have
never been Nathan's. Not sure if they make Gluten free hotdogs.

When I saw your photo, I googled "Serving Frankfurters Since 1916" and found
Nathan's. I though the "S' in the photo belonged to Nathan's.
Gus Marsh
Nathan's are kosher, I think. Would that also make the gluten free?  I mean, if it is
only meat and animal by parts, Nathan's dog couldn't have any gluten.  I'll have to
check the next time in the market.  

I didn't think the weekly quiz got into such deep thinking!  
Tom Collins
I don't think I ever knew there was a Nathan's in WTC --- and I was in there daily,
for years!!  lol
Bob Riopel
N. B. Yes I was surprised about that too.  It was in the food court in the 107th
floor. - Q. Gen.
Well, then, that explains it.  I guess my business never brought me beyond the
106th floor!
Bob Riopel
Wait, aren't you the one who posted an image of an amusement park in Sydney? By
the way, I was fooled by that one for quite a while thinking it was near Coney
Island. There was something in the image, I don't remember what, that pointed me
in that direction.

And, Nathan's does not appear to make gluten-free dogs.
Roger Lipsett
Despite many visits to the USA, the first for a year in 1960-61 (which included two
visits to NYC) I had never heard of Nathan's.  I guess that's because I never got to
Coney Island.  And the Lucky Wishbone in Athens, GA (which predated the
Colonel) only sold you know what ... not a dog in sight that I recall. But they did
sell root beer (an item which is totally Americanocentric), so once I spotted that in
the pic I knew I was looking at something in the USA.  But I needn't have done that
analysis.  Simply googling <famous frankfurters> gives it all.
Megan Neilsen

Congratulations to Our Winners!

Nathan Spickard                Elaine C Hebert
Ellen Welker                Gus Marsh
Debbie Johnson                Roger Lipsett
Judy Pfaff                Cindy Costigan
Tom Collins                John Thatcher
Bob Riopel                Jim Kiser
Kitty Huddleston                Maggie Gould
Margaret Paxton                Betty Chambers
Art Siegel                Beth Long
Collier Smith                Rebecca Bare
Tynan Peterson                Carol Gene Farrant
Peter Norton                Gus Marsh
Megan Neilsen
               Milene Rawlinson

Grace Hertz and Mary Turner
The Fabulous Fletchers!
If you enjoy our quizzes, don't forget to order our books!
-- Start Quantcast tag -->
If you have a picture you'd like us to feature a picture in a future quiz, please
email it to us at If we use it, you will receive a free analysis of
your picture. You will also receive a free
Forensic Genealogy CD or a 10%
discount towards the purchase of the
Forensic Genealogy book.

How Peter Solved the Puzzle
I didn't recognize the place, never having been there nor, as far as I
remember, having seen a photo, but it seemed to scream Coney
Island. The question including "destroyed" immediately suggested
WTC, especially since my brain was already in the NY area in
association with Coney Island. Looking up "famous frankfurters
since 1916" made the rest dead easy, including the map on
Nathan's web site with all restaurant locations.

Peter Norton
Nathan's Famous Hotdogs's_Famous

Nathan's Famous History

Nathan’s Famous was founded by a Polish immigrant, Nathan
Handwerker, and his is truly an authentic “only in America story.” He
started his business in 1916 with a small hot dog stand in Coney
Island, New York. He sold hot dogs that were manufactured based
on a recipe developed by his wife, Ida.

In the over 96 years that have passed since opening day, Nathan’s
has gained worldwide recognition for the unequaled quality and taste
of its product. Today, Nathan’s has gained a reputation for being
among the highest quality hot dogs in the world.

Nathan’s popularity was almost instantaneous, and in its earliest days
had legendary characters such as Al Capone, Eddie Cantor, Jimmy
Durante, and Cary Grant as regular customers. It gained its first
international exposure when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
served Nathan’s Famous hot dogs to the King and Queen of England
in 1939. Later, Roosevelt had Nathan’s hot dogs sent to Yalta when
he met with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. Years later, Nelson
Rockefeller, Governor of New York, stated that, “No man can hope
to be elected in his state without being photographed eating a hot dog
at Nathan’s Famous."

Politicians, show-business personalities, and sports celebrities are
often seen and photographed munching Nathan’s dogs, and heard
singing its praises. Barbra Streisand, actually had Nathan’s hot dogs
delivered to London, England for a private party. A trip to Nathan’s
was the focus of a Seinfeld episode created by comedian Jerry
Seinfeld. More recently, the ex-mayor of New York City Rudy
Giuliani declared Nathan’s the “World’s best hot dog.” Shortly after
that, Nathan Handwerker was named to the city’s top 100- joining the
ranks of Joe Namath, Irving Berlin, Andrew Carnegie, Joe DiMaggio
and others. Even Jacqueline Kennedy loved Nathan’s dogs, and
served them at the White House. In his final last will and testament,
actor Walter Mathau requested Nathan’s hot dogs to be served at his
funeral – they were! The point is Nathan’s is not just a hot dog, it has
history and it is Americana!

Last year there were over 435 million Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs
sold! Today, Nathan’s is sold and enjoyed in all 50 States and sold at
over 40,000 food service and retail outlets.
Nathan's began as a nickel hot dog stand
in Coney Island in 1916 and bears the
name of co-founder Nathan Handwerker
(June 14, 1892 – March 24, 1974), who
started the business with his wife, Ida
Handwerker, née Ida Greenwald. Ida
created the hot dog recipe they used, and
Ida's grandmother created the secret
spice recipe.

Jewish immigrant Handwerker arrived in
New York City in 1912 and soon found
work at the Coney Island, Brooklyn,
restaurant Feltman's German Gardens.
By one account, he was encouraged by
singing waiters Eddie Cantor and Jimmy
Durante to go into business in
competition with Feltman's; as United
Press International noted in 1974, "There
are many stories about Nathan and how
the business began, but this is the way
he told it..." The company's official
history does not mention the future stars'
encouragement. Nathan and Ida spent
their life savings of $300 to begin the

Handwerker undercut Feltman's by
charging five cents for a hot dog when
his former employer was charging 10
cents. At a time when food regulation
was in its infancy and the pedigree of the
hot dog particularly suspect, Handwerker
ensured that men wearing surgeon's
smocks were seen eating at his stand to
reassure potential customers. The
business proved immensely popular.

The expansion of the chain was overseen
by Nathan Handwerker's son, Murray
Handwerker. A second branch on Long
Beach Road in Oceanside, New York,
opened in 1959, and another debuted in
Yonkers, New York, in 1965. Murray
Handwerker was named the president of
Nathan's Famous in 1968, the year the
company went public.

All locations were sold by the
Handwerker family to a group of private
investors in 1987, at which point
Nathan's was franchised and a great
number of establishments were opened
around New York City and beyond.

In the 1990s, the company acquired
Kenny Rogers Roasters and Miami Subs
Grill, both of which were later divested.

As of September 2001, the company
consisted of 24 company-owned units,
380 franchised or licensed units and
more than 1,400 stores in 50 states,
Guam, the District of Columbia and 17
foreign countries. One unit was lost due
to the collapse of Two World Trade
Center from the September 11, 2001,

International master franchise
agreements were signed (circa 2006)
with Egypt and Israel. The company also
owns the exclusive co-branding rights to
the Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips

As of 2015, the original Nathan's exists
on the same site as in 1916. Having been
open for business every day, 365 days a
year, the stand was forced to close on
October 29, 2012, due to Hurricane
Sandy. Despite a small fire on May 4,
2013, the stand reopened later that
month. Service is provided year-round
Nathan's c. 1940
Nathan's c. 1950
Nathan's c. 1920
Nathan's c. 1960
Nathan's c. 1980
inside, and during the summer additional walk-up windows are opened to serve the
larger seasonal crowds.

Hot dog eating contest

The Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest has been held at the original location on Coney
Island since the early 1970s. Contestants try to consume as many hot dogs as possible
in a ten-minute time period. The Nathan's event is at the center of the competitive eating
circuit. Recent winners include Takeru Kobayashi (2001–2006).[citation needed]. And
Joseph "Jaws" Christian Chestnut (2008–2014) in July 2008, Chestnut tied Takeru
Kobayashi in the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Contest after eating 59 HDB in 10 minutes.
The tie resulted in a 5-hotdog eat-off, which Chestnut won by consuming all 5 hot dogs
before Kobayashi. (chestnut was beaten by Matt "Megatoad" Stonie in 2015). After
Kobayashi left Nathan's, the hot dog contest was down year-to-year. With an average
0.7 HH U.S. rating, it was off just a tenth of a point from 2012, when it aired on ESPN.
ESPN averaged 1.949 million viewers for 2011's Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating
Contest, but went down 41 percent to 1.15 million viewers in 2013.
Nathan's menu today
But what of Nathan himself?  Can we
confirm the story?  The census stuff for
him, Ida, and children is
straightforward.  What about his arrival?  
It seems it was 7 April 1912 on the
Campanello from Rotterdam.  That is
what his naturalization says, first page
Murray Handwerker, who
transformed his father’s
Brooklyn hot dog business,
Nathan’s Famous, into a
celebrated national fast-food
chain, died Saturday at his home
in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He
was 89.

His son William confirmed his

Nathan’s Famous, at Surf and
Stillwell Avenues in Coney
Island, was opened by Mr.
14 Hot and Juicy Facts About Nathan’s Famous
In 1912, Nathan Handwerker immigrated from Poland to the U.S. and took a
job in the kitchen at Feltman’s restaurant on Coney Island. Convinced he
could serve up a better hot dog than the ones Feltman’s made, Handwerker
took a $300 loan and set up a stand serving five-cent dogs—half the price of
To make his hot dogs stand out from the competition, Nathan seasoned
them using a secret blend of spices handed down from his wife Ida’s
grandmother. The result: great success. By 1920, when the subway was
extended out to Coney Island, Nathan’s Famous was selling 75,000 hot
dogs each weekend.
To convince customers his hot dogs weren’t a health hazard, Handwerker
handed out flyers offering free samples to hospital workers, who showed up
wearing their protective smocks. Because if doctors are eating there it must
be safe, right?
When Nathan’s Famous was hopping, cars would often be double and triple
parked along Surf Avenue. But nobody ever got a ticket because Nathan had
local policemen on the dole. According to the documentary Famous Nathan
(filmed by Nathan’s grandson Lloyd), Handwerker paid officers $2 a day to
give people a break, but to step in if things got rowdy.
Nathan’s original stand grew and grew, until it took up almost the entire
block. But it wasn’t until his son, Murray, took over the business in 1968
that Nathan’s Famous began to extend the brand. A shrewd businessman,
Murray established a chain of restaurants along with the packaged hot dog
business. Today, there are more than 300 Nathan’s Famous restaurants, and
the hot dogs appear in supermarkets in all 50 states.
Frequent patrons to the Coney Island stand included Al Capone and Cary
Grant (presumably not together), and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who
managed to serve Nathan's hot dogs to the king and queen of England in
1939 as well as Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin. Modern-day stars have
continued the love. Barbra Streisand, for one, had them shipped to London
for a dinner party.
Nathan’s Famous bought the chicken joint in 1998 after it went bankrupt
(Kenny’s still sad about that). Ten years later, Nathan’s sold it to a
Malaysian franchiser, and now the chain is enjoying a profitable second life
in Asia.
  Although he died in California, the Grumpy Old Men star stayed loyal to his
New York roots, requesting Nathan’s hot dogs by name in his will. There
were also fortune cookies, celebrating his Oscar-winning turn in Billy Wilder’
s The Fortune Cookie.
After soaring through the '70s, when the company stock hit a high of $41
per share, the market for hot dogs grew stale, and Nathan’s stock dwindled
to $1 in 1981. Despite calls to further diversify the menu, Murray
Handwerker stuck with the original hot dog, and slowly the company
improved. In 1986, it sold its 20 stores and packaged products business to
investment firm Equicorp for $19 million.
Nathan’s two sons, Murray and Sol, didn’t see eye to eye on how to run the
business. So in 1963, Sol broke away from Nathan’s Famous and started
his own hot dog shop, Snacktime, on 34th Street in Manhattan. It closed in
1977—three years after Nathan passed away. "My father could not handle
the conflict between Murray and myself," Sol tells his son Lloyd in Famous
Less than six months after Hurricane Sandy flooded the Coney Island
location, Nathan’s Famous was back in business, and better than ever. The
multimillion-dollar renovation allowed the company to add some upscale
flourishes, including an oyster bar and a selection of beer and wine.
According to legend (and the company), the first ever hot dog eating contest
took place on July 4th, 1916 between four men arguing over who was the
most patriotic. They set to scarfing down Nathan’s hot dogs, with the
winner, James Mullen, eating 13 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Which, while
impressive, is nothing compared to what today’s professional eaters can
cram down.
Since 2007, there’s been one men’s division winner at the annual 4th of July
hot dog eating contest: Joey Chestnut. The Californian ate 61 hot dogs in 10
minutes last year, and 69 the year before that (his goal is to eventually hit
70). Ranked the No. 1 competitive eater in the world, Chestnut holds a slew
of nauseating 10-minute records, including 148 hard-boiled eggs, nearly 13
pounds of deep-fried asparagus, and a whole turkey.
Nathan’s $1-a-share days are well in the past, with sales and revenue up
year over year. The company has stayed in the high-margin businesses of
franchising and brand licensing, and its iconic hot dogs are sold in
restaurants and stadiums around the country. It’s also gone international,
with locations in Russia, Mexico and Malaysia. How do you say "pass the
mustard" in Malay?
attached (via Ancestry). And this gives us Ida, and Murray who
expanded the business.  But if I go to the passenger manifests for the
Campanello arr 7/8 April 1912 I cannot find him.  He doesn't come up
on the excellent search facility on Steve Morse's One-step, which is
the go-to, but nor do I find him by trawling through all the 100+
image pages for that arrival on Ancestry,
including those who were detained.
These records have mangled names (not
because of the Ellis Island officials who
are usually blamed, but because of the
shipping agents in Europe who got it
wrong). Yet I saw nothing that seemed a
possible corruption of Nathan Handwerker.  Perhaps he reinvented
himself.  But I know, from previous encounters with the Ellis Island
records, that when someone gets naturalized, the date gets stamped
on the manifest record as part of the authentication process.  I don't
have the time or patience to go through again to look for that date
pinned to another name ... :-).  

And what does it really matter?  What I did find in the New York
passenger lists was Nathan and Ida
Handwerker, US citizens returning from
Bermuda in 1936. Presumably a
well-deserved holiday.

Thanks, as always, for a fun quiz,

Megan Neilsen
Handwerker’s father and mother in 1916 and soon became an
American legend, its name virtually synonymous with hot dogs.

Mr. Handwerker spent his childhood at Nathan’s Famous. “I was
raised behind the counter of the Coney store,” he told The New York
Times in 1986. “My playpen was a 3-by-3 crate the hot dog rolls
used to come in.”

His father, Nathan, a Jewish immigrant from Poland, and his mother,
Ida, had opened the stand with $300 borrowed from the entertainers
Jimmy Durante and Eddie Cantor, friends of his father’s who had yet
to become stars. Nathan’s sold all-beef hot dogs at a nickel, half of
what its Coney Island competitor was charging.

“We were the original fast-food operation,” Mr. Handwerker recalled
in an oral history, “It Happened in Brooklyn,” by Myrna Katz
Frommer and Harvey Frommer, rereleased in 2009 by SUNY Press.
“We called it finger food; you didn’t need a knife and fork. But it was
always quality. My father insisted on that.”

It was Murray Handwerker who turned the family business from a
famous hot dog stand to a famous national chain, which went public
in 1968. After returning from World War II Army service, Mr.
Handwerker joined Nathan’s Famous in 1946 and, his son William
said, “had many ideas of expanding.”

In “It Happened in Brooklyn,” Mr. Handwerker recalled returning
home with other soldiers in the 1940s and wanting to add other foods
to the Nathan’s Famous menu.

“I realized the American soldier had been exposed to French food, his
tastes had become more sophisticated,” he said. Despite his father’s
objections, Mr. Handwerker successfully introduced shrimp and
clams to Nathan’s menu. He later added a delicatessen line.

There were other disagreements with his father, including one over
whether to let restaurant managers have days off during the summer.
At the time, Murray Handwerker said, the managers were working
seven days a week, and he insisted they be given a day off. The first
week, they all got terrible sunburns and could not come into work the
next day. “My father gave me hell,” he recalled in “It Happened in

Mr. Handwerker was born in Brooklyn on July 25, 1921, and
graduated from New York University in 1947 with a degree in
French. “I loved languages,” he told The Times in 1986, “but the only
time I used French was during the old World’s Fair when a lot of
French people came to Coney Island for hot dogs.”

By the mid-1960s Nathan’s had three restaurants, and Mr.
Handwerker, who became president of the company in 1968,
oversaw its expansion over the next decade by adding dozens of
company-owned restaurants and franchised units. He also published a
cookbook featuring Nathan’s Famous recipes. He became chairman
in 1971.

By the early 1980s, Nathan’s was struggling. Its stock, which had
reached $42 in 1971, had fallen to $1 by 1981. Mr. Handwerker was
forced to close some of the restaurants and abandon the idea of a
franchise that would offer a more limited menu. “Nathan’s forte is
supposed to be variety,” he said at the time. The company also ran
into trouble with some of its franchisees.

The business survived, however, as Mr. Handwerker continued to
emphasize its main menu item. “The hot dog,” his son said, “was the

Mr. Handwerker ran the business until the family sold its stake to the
Equicor Group, a private investment company, in 1987. He then
retired to Florida.

Mr. Handwerker’s wife, Dorothy, died in 2009. He is survived by his
sons, Steven, Kenneth and William; his brother, Sol; and several

At the company’s 70th-anniversary celebration near the Times Square
Nathan’s in 1986, Mr. Handwerker was being given a hard time by
Mayor Edward I. Koch, who complained about the demise of the five-
cent hot dog. Grabbing the microphone, Mr. Handwerker explained to
the crowd that the five-cent frankfurter went out with the five-cent
subway ride.

Correction: May 20, 2011

An obituary on Monday about Murray Handwerker, the former
chairman of the Nathan’s Famous hot dog chain, misidentified the
company whose hot dogs President Franklin Delano Roosevelt served
to the king and queen of England when they visited the United States
in 1939. They came from Swift & Company, not from Nathan’s.