America’s Favorite Sandwich: The History of the Hoagie

The History of the Hoagie

In 1992, Philadelphia officially declared the hoagie to be the city’s official sandwich. But hoagie sandwiches are loved across the nation.

With such an unusual name, you’ve probably wondered about the history of the hoagie sandwich. Well, today’s your lucky day.

Read on for an entertaining look at America’s favorite sandwich.

What is a Hoagie?

A hoagie is a sandwich on Italian bread filled with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion. It is drizzled with an oregano-vinegar dressing.

While some people think a hoagie is the same as a sub or a hero sandwich, a hoagie is different from either. For one thing, a hoagie is never toasted. And the sauce is always an oil-based sauce with plenty of spices.

Trust us, the oregano vinegarette is the only sauce you’ll ever want on a hoagie.

What’s in a Name? Is a Hoagie Always a Hoagie?

Shakespeare pondered if a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The same debate applies here.

The name hoagie is the official name of this sandwich in Philadelphia. But in other parts of the US, the hoagie goes by other names.

It is sometimes called a sub, poor boy, grinder or hero sandwich (even though those names aren’t accurate). In some areas, a hoagie is even called a zeppelin.

No matter what you call it, there’s no denying that Boos Philly Cheesesteaks serves some of the best hoagies around.

The Origin of the Hoagie Sandwich

With a name like hoagie, you know there’s got to be a story behind the name. Well, actually, the hoagie has four origin stories.

Origin Story #1 – Italian Shipworks

One of the origin stories for the hoagie goes like this.

The Philadelphia Navy Yard used to be called Hog Island and the workers were nicknamed hoggies. (Now the shipyard is long gone and currently the home of the international airport).

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Many of the Italian immigrants that worked on building ships often brought freshly baked rolls stuffed with cold cuts, veggies, spices, and oil.

So people started to nickname their special sandwiches hoggies. In other words, the hoggies who worked on Hog Island would eat Hoggies for lunch.

No one is quite sure when or how hoggie morphed into hoagie, but it just did. Maybe it just sounds less insulting and pig-like.

Origin Story #2 – A Moocher Named Hogan

Another version of the hoagie sandwich origin story also takes place at Hog Island, the largest shipyard in the world.

This story claims that one of the workers on the shipyard was an Irish worker named Hogan. This Hogan wasn’t worried about manners, apparently.

When he saw the delicious sandwiches his co-worker’s wife packed him, he couldn’t resist. Every day he would ask his co-worker to please pack an extra sandwich for him. He did pay for them, apparently.

Because the sandwich was for a man named Hogan, it got nicknamed hogan and eventually turned into hoagie.

But isn’t it odd that the sandwich wouldn’t be called by the co-worker’s name? After all, he’s the one always bringing in that delicious sandwich.

Or maybe it should have been named after the wife. The one who made not one, but two, appetizing sandwiches each day.

Both origin story number one and two are likely not true. For one thing, the Hog Island Navy Yard shut down in January 1921. Research tells us that the term hoagies don’t appear in print until the 1940s.

So both of these shipyard origin stories are unlikely.

Origin Story #3 – Jazz Musician Turned Shop Owner

The most likely origin story is about a jazz musician named Al De Palma. During the Depression, De Palma was desperate to find work. One day, he went to Hog Island looking for a job.

He noticed the workers on lunch break were eating giant sandwiches. De Palma thought, “you’d have to be a hog to eat a sandwich that big!”

So instead of applying for work at the shipyard, he decided to open a sandwich shop that featured sandwiches. He called the biggest sandwiches “hoggies” after the workers he saw eating them.

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A few years later, De Palma collaborated with a bakery to develop a roll that was eight-inches (the perfect size of a modern hoagie).

De Palma became know as “The King of Hoggies.”  He even went on to open several chains across the city.

At some point, the “hoggie” became the “hoagie.” So why did hoggie turn into hoagie? It probably has to do with the Philly accent.

Origin Story #4 – Late Night Snack Attack

The final origin story for the hoagie sandwich is about a couple who owned a grocery store in Pennsylvania. Apparently, this grocery store would stay open late to serve gamblers who played cards at a bar nearby.

One night, a gambler walked in to buy a package of cigarettes. He smelled some delicious food cooking and asked the owner’s wife to make him a sandwich.

He looked into the deli meat case and asked for a bit of everything. The woman took a long load of Italian bread and added in all the kinds of meats she had.

Then she added some sweet and hot peppers from her skillet to the sandwich. The man paid and left.

An hour later, the grocery store had a line up of hungry men wanting the exact same sandwich. According to family lore, the shop owners sold out of meat and bread that night. And the hoagie was born!

Last Word

There you go! Now you know everything there is to know about the hoagie.

Come back again soon for more lifestyle and hobby blogs for you to enjoy.

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