Hot Dog! The Harry M. Stevens Concessions Experience

"Commemorating 50 Years of Friendship" - From left: Mr. Harry M. Stevens 2nd, Miss Faith Stevens, Mrs. Frank M. Stevens, Mr. Frank M. Stevens, and Mrs. Harry M. Stevens ​​​photographed with a bowl presented by the Saratoga Association (Bert Morgan/Museum Collection)

Have you ever sipped on a cold drink through a straw and enjoyed a delicious hot dog while watching the races at the track? We can all thank Harry M. Stevens for our modern food concessions at sports venues throughout the country. Harry Mozley Stevens was born in London, England, in 1855. He moved to the United States in 1882 and settled his family in Niles, Ohio. Out of work because of a steel mill strike, Stevens became a traveling book salesman. While in Columbus, he attended his first baseball game in 1887 and recognized the need to clearly identify players. He obtained permission from the team’s owner to produce and sell an improved scorecard. Inspired by this early success, Stevens expanded the business to include food and drink concessions.

Harry M. Stevens, Inc. catered to 20 racetracks throughout the country, including Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, Hialeah Park, Pimlico Race Course, and Saratoga Race Course. “From the Hudson to the Rio Grande” became the company’s slogan after opening its concessions at the racetrack in Juarez, Mexico. As an industry pioneer, some credit Stevens for innovations including the introduction of straws for soda bottles and even the hot dog. Stevens died in 1934, leaving the growing business to his sons. When Aramark purchased the company in 1994, it still operated food and drink concessions at some of the nation’s largest sports venues.

This exhibit predominantly focuses on Harry M. Stevens concessions at racetracks in the first half of the twentieth century. As you look at the panoramic photographs, you can almost hear food vendors calling out as the crowd gathers for the races.

Thank you to Mary Jane Hunt, horsefeathers!, the Harry M. Stevens Family Foundation, Inc., and Ken Grayson for their generous loans to the exhibition.

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