New York City, NY

Ghost Signs of NYC: Hygrade’s Frankfurters

Frank Mastropolo

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261 Sixth AvenuePhoto ©Frank Mastropolo

Sir Winston Churchill Square is a half-acre garden and sitting area at the juncture of Bleecker and Downing Streets and Sixth Avenue. The site was purchased by the city’s Parks Department in 1943. The garden and sitting area, designed by George Vellonakis, was rebuilt in 1998–1999, adding a garden, an armillary sphere and a decorative fence. The square is named in honor of the British Prime Minister who guided the UK through World War II.

Churchill was declared an honorary citizen of the US in 1963 but little is known of why the peaceful garden is named after him. Some speculate that its proximity to Downing Street may be the reason; 10 Downing Street is the London address of the British Prime Minister’s office and residence.

Overlooking the square is a ghost sign advertising Hygrade’s All-Beef hot dogs, a brand that dates back to 1914. Hygrade Food Products was founded by Samuel Slotkin, a Russian immigrant who was one of the first to produce consumer packaged meats. “Mr. Slotkin’s first loyalty was always to the quality frankfurter,” notes Slotkin’s 1965 New York Times obituary. “Early in his career he frowned on mixing meats in frankfurters and developed an all-beef frankfurter.”

The company made a variety of processed meats, but the book Food Cityexplains that Slotkin’s “first loyalty” was to his original product, the frankfurter: “His were always all beef and came with a skin, because otherwise ‘all the juice leaks out.’”

Hygrade hit a marketing home run in 1975 when it developed Ball Park Franks for the Detroit Tigers. Its slogan: “They plump when you cook them.” Ball Park Franks became a successful national brand and led to Sara Lee’s acquisition of Hygrade in 1989.

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Mastropolo is the author of Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever; Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York's Past; and Ghost Signs 2: Clues to Uptown New York's Past

New York, NY
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