To: Mr. John DeStefano Jr., mayor of New Haven, Connecticut; Mr. Thomas J. Moses Sr., mayor of the Village of Hamburg, New York; Mr. Kenneth Rottier, mayor of Seymour, Wisconsin

Dear Sirs,

It has come to our attention that the localities of which you are the elected representatives have for many years persisted in a fraudulent claim to being the birthplace of the hamburger. Though these dubious boasts are in violation of no trademark, copyright, or known legal agreement, they nonetheless grossly flout the historical record. As anyone who has bothered to spend ten minutes investigating the matter knows, the hamburger was invented in Athens, Texas. Your claims thereby represent a serious infringement on the rightful heritage of all Texans, and we hereby demand that you cease and desist immediately from any further posturing.

I refer you to the dispatch by Gary Cartwright on page 98, in which the author, seeking nothing but the truth, took himself to Athens to investigate the proposition that the world’s first hamburger was served at a cafe in this charming East Texas hamlet during the 1880’s. Though Cartwright is quick to point out minor historical inaccuracies in the Athens claim, thus burnishing, it seems to me, his credibility as an honest reporter, his conclusion is unmistakable: The burger was invented in Henderson County. In consideration of this finding, we insist that you summon your city councils to discuss the immediate cessation of all festivals, cookoffs, and other activities (e.g., sack races, Dunk-a-Cheerleader, etc.) related to your erroneous status.

Mr. DeStefano, surely you have not the stomach, following that business with the firefighters, for another lengthy court battle. Let’s keep this simple: The hamburger in question was a steak sandwich. End of story. Besides, your city is the unchallenged birthplace of the lollipop and the Erector Set. Don’t overreach.

And you, Mr. Moses, what is to be said about your monstrous temerity? You ask us to believe that two traveling sandwich salesmen made their so-called discovery at a local jamboree, implying that the name “hamburger” is a mere whim of fate. The peddlers might as easily have washed up down the road at the Cattaraugus County Fair. It is impossible to imagine, sir, that the United States of America could have defeated fascism, won the Cold War, and become the richest nation on Earth all while celebrating our independence every July by grilling hot dogs and Cattaraugussers.

Which brings me to your infractions, Mr. Rottier. It was apparently not enough for you and your chamber of commerce to have stolen a title rightfully belonging to Texas, so you decided to go and rub our faces in it. I am speaking, of course, of the theme of your burger festival this year. “Burger Fiesta”? In Wisconsin? As if that weren’t enough, the marketing copy mentions a “roving mariachi band.” You have gone too far, Mr. Rottier.

Consider the words of your counterpart, the honorable Randy Daniel, mayor of Athens, Texas. Asked his opinion of the competing claims, Mayor Daniel stated: “I think they’re ridiculous. There’s proof positive that the hamburger was invented right here. In 2007 the Legislature passed a resolution naming Athens the home of the hamburger. And anytime you can get one hundred and fifty of the best politicians money can buy to agree on one thing, it’s got to be true.”

Messrs. DeStefano, Moses, and Rottier: If you are not yet convinced, I can think of only one other means of settling the matter, which is to call your attention to the fifty hamburgers our gut-busting research has determined to be the greatest in our state (see page 90). Any one of them will suffice as a closing argument.

We have nothing further to express but this: In view of the substantial evidence buttressing the Athens claim, and in view of the not inconsiderable level of foolishness or plain audacity of the claims relating to New Haven, the Village of Hamburg, and Seymour, we require that you forthwith acknowledge our historical primacy. Should you wish to settle this matter amicably, we are prepared to accept your abject apologies and your assurances that you will henceforth desist from any future transgressions. Otherwise, you can expect to hear from our lawyer.

I look forward to your replies,

Jake Silverstein

Next Month

Senior editor Nate Blakeslee explores why some schools succeed where others fail; special correspondent S.C. Gwynne watches tape with Texas Tech coach Mike Leach; senior executive editor Paul Burka visits Galveston one year after Ike; senior editor Karen Olsson puts the tortilla chip under a microscope; and senior editor John Spong probes the mysterious disappearance of the mayor of San Angelo.