Illustrated Sandwich Timeline
1st Century B.C.
In Roman-occupied Jerusalem, Rabbi Hillel the Elder eats Paschal Lamb and bitter herbs on matzo. The herbs symbolize the Jews’ bitter enslavement in Egypt, and the unleavened bread symbolizes their hasty escape.The Hillel sandwich, minus the lamb—matzo with bitter herbs (parsley fresh horseradish, endive )—is still eaten at Passover seders.
Trenchers, thick slices of bread, serve as plates in medieval place settings and are topped with thick stews, meat pies, and roasted meats.
Too busy for a proper meal, John Montagu, the fourth Earl of Sandwich, requests salt beef on toast, thus launching a trend and lending his name to a style of food he picked up while traveling in Turkey and Greece, where filled pitas and mezes on bread are common.
Inventor Margaret Knight designs a machine that makes flat-bottomed bags out of brown paper, a form that, by the 1960s, shrinks to sandwich size for brown-bagging lunch.
The White House Cookbook prints early sandwich recipes, including one for a ham salad sandwich and one for a shredded cheese salad between biscuits or oatcakes.
General Electric engineer Frank Shailor patents the D-12, the first commercially successful electric toaster. Though British firm Crompton & Company had introduced an iron-wire toaster in 1893, it was GE’s use of a nickel-chromium alloy that rendered toasters reliable and nonflammable. The Toastmaster 1-A-1, the first pop-up model for home use, follows, in 1926.
The po’boy is born when a New Orleans shop feeds the sandwiches to striking streetcar workers, who are met in the kitchen with the cry, “Here comes another poor boy!”
The club sandwich enters the congressional record when an appropriations bill sets off a debate in the House of Representatives over the chicken club served in the members dining room. “Look at the size of this piece of chicken,” shouts Massachusetts’ Charles L. Underhill, measuring the club against a bigger one from a nearby restaurant, “and compare it with this piece of chicken!”
****Alladin Industries releases a lunch box decorated with television cowboy Hopalong Cassidy, thus commercializing the century-old practice of toting sandwiches in metal tins.
The first Subway sandwich shop opens in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Twenty years later, Subway goes international, with a shop next to a U.S. submarine base in Bahrain. Today, the world’s largest sub franchise has annual sales of $15.2 billion, from 34,000 stores in 96 countries, including Japan, where a chicken teriyaki sub is served, and India, where the chain offers a chicken tikka sub.
J.M. Smucker introduces Uncrustables, frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwich pockets on crimped, crustless bread, designed to thaw out in time for Junior’s lunch period.
Diana Duyser auctions off a ten-year-old grilled cheese sandwich half, which garners $28,000 on eBay for its depiction of the Virgin Mary. The Hollywood, Florida, resident had been midway through lunch when, she says, “I saw a face looking up at me.”