“Making Our Future” by former West Virginia state folklorist Emily Hilliard dives deep into the niches of Mountain State culture, from songs of the labor movement to the history of hot dogs. The book was released on Nov. 22, 2022.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Harold: There's so much that we could cover. I would like to talk about something that's near and dear to my heart — your chapter on hot dogs. Can you tell me about how the craze began?
Hilliard: It's linked to industry and immigration, popularization of mass culture, urbanization and European migration. There were a lot of instances where Greek and maybe Italian immigrants were setting up hot dog stands in West Virginia. And mostly, that was in major urban centers in industrial areas. I think that's why we see the hot dog really being popular in West Virginia in the southern coalfields, the northern coalfields and then industrial cities like the Ohio river towns of Huntington and Parkersburg. Hot dogs really seemed to boom in the 1910s and 1920s in West Virginia.