A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 04, 2007
Cannibal Sandwich ("hamburger in the raw” or “beef tartar")

The “cannibal sandwich” is another name for ”hamburger in the raw” or “beef tartar.” This type of sandwich (said to be less healthful than cooked meat) was somewhat popular from the 1890s in cities such as Philadelphia and Detroit.


3 January 1889, Baltimore (MD) Sun, supplement, pg. 2:
“The horrid thing,” they both faintly gasped, and the German chorister took his departure and his friend along, shaking out the delightful aroma of cannibal sandwiches as he passed down the aisle.

27 April 1891, San Antonio (TX) Daily Light, pg. 11?, col. 1:
SANDWICH-EATING DETROIT
The Combination of Bread and
Meat the Leading Delicacy.
Detroit Free Press.
“How many sandwiches are consumed in Detroit daily?” was asked of a dealer in the more or less toothsome articles yesterday.

“You will not believe me,” he answered, when I tell you that Detroiters eat daily 10,000 sandwiches, yet that is a low estimate.”
(...)(Col. 2)
The sandwich man concluded his philosophic homily on life and eating with a seductive list of the various kinds of sandwiches that tickle the public palate. As he gave them they are as follows: Turkey,
chicken, ham, oyster, sardine, salmon, ox tongue, roast beef, egg, orange marmalade, double deckers and cannibal—The latter meaning a raw beef sandwich, being especially adapted to prize-fighters, and so forth.

20 November 1899, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, pg. 8:
The Saunterer felt ravenously hungry yesterday noon, and intimated as much to a friend who was with him.

“Come lunch with me,” promptly responded the latter. “I’ll take you to a place you’ve never been in before, and give you a meal that you’ve never had before. And that meal will consist of one sandwich. Come along.”

And the Saunterer did. The other man led the way to a place in the heart of the city, the entrance to which was on a side street. The place looked eminently satisfying, and the Saunterer felt prepared for anything.

“Bring us a couple of cannibal sandwiches,” said the friend to the waiter. “And don’t put any onions in.” It sounded rather guessable and the Saunterer waited in apprehensive silence. Presently the waiter returned with the sandwich. It consisted of two slices of bread about nine inches long and five in width buttered a quarter of an inch thick. One of the slices was covered by a half-inch layer of red meat minced. Both started to eat, but after the Saunterer had gulped down four mouthfuls through a face that was painful in its efforts to smile he demanded emphatically to know what it was.

“Cannibal sandwich,” answered his friend.

“I know that,” was the answer.

“Well, it’s made of raw beef, chopped very fine, and it’s very good for you. See, they’re eating them all around us.” and they were, so the Saunterer worked at his a little while longer. The sandwich fully lived up to its reputation. For the Saunterer hasn’t really felt hungry since.

Live Search Books
Canning and Preserving of Food Products with Bacteriological Technique
by Edward Wiley Duckwall
Pittsburgh, PA: Pittsburgh Printing Company
1905
Pg. 164:
Many people eat uncooked meat in the so-called “cannibal sandwiches,” smoked sturgeon and halibut, and in the same meal eat canned goods. If poisoning results, too often the blame is fastened on them.

24 February 1907, Fort Worth (TX) Telegram, pg. 9:
Cannibal Sandwiches of Rye Bread.—Put half a pound of raw beef thru a meat chopper; add a teaspoonful of salt, a dash of red pepper and a tablespoonful of onion juice. Spread this over buttered rye bread, cover with another piece of bread and trim away the crusts.

Google Books
The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book:
400 Ways to Make a Sandwich
by Eva Greene Fuller
Chicago, IL: A. C. McClurg & Co.
1909
Pg. 66:
CANNIBAL SANDWICH
Chop raw beef and onions very fine, season with salt and pepper, and spread on lightly buttered brown bread.

Google Books
Mental Adjustments
by Frederic Lyman Wells
New York, NY: D. Appleton and Company
1917
Pg. 79:
The same feeling of triteness, or, perhaps, “desire to astonish” with an unexpected and individual expression, brings about a number of slang terms for articles of food, e. g., hot dog (Frankfurter sausage), pair of white wings wid de sunny side up (poached eggs), cannibal sandwich (beefsteak tartare), three diamond studs (portion of Hamburger steak).

Live Search Books
Handbook of Medical Treatment
by John Chalmers Da Costa
Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis Company
volume two
second edition
1920
Pg. 421:
Some prefer the juice of the raw meat and the raw scraped beef, which maybe given properly seasoned in the form of a cannibal sandwich, on thin stale or toasted bread.

Google Books
The Edgewater Sandwich Book
by Arnold Shircliffe
Chicago, IL: J. Willy, Inc.
1930
Page 120:
Raw Beef Sandwich—Cannibal Sandwich
Spread thin slices of bread with finely ground or chopped (...) This is called tartar or cannibal sandwich at times.

Google Books
Health, Hygiene and Hooey
by William Waldo Bauer
Indianapolis, IN: The Boobs-Merill Company
1938
Pg. 30:
The cannibal sandwich of our student days, consisting of raw hamburger and a slice of onion, was a hazardous dietary stunt, because of the danger of parasite infestation from raw meat.

Google Books
Outdoor Cooking
by Cora Lovisa Brackett Brown, Rose Johnston Brown, and Bob Brown
New York, NY: The Greystone Press
1940
Pg. 369:
CANNIBAL SANDWICH, OR BEEF TARTAR

ROUND STEAK, FRESH AND FINE
ONION, METICULOUSLY SLICED
RYE BREAD, WELL BUTTERED
PARSLEY, CHOPPED

Pg. 370:
But lest we be led astray, it is well to remember that Cannibal Sandwiches are naught but hamburgers in the raw, and when the onion is mixed in and the meat…

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Thursday, October 04, 2007 • Permalink