There are a few stories to be found about how the hoagie got its name.
1. The hoagie originated on Hog Island, now home to Philadelphia International Airport. During World War One, the island was the home of shipbuilding for the American war effort and men (like this riveter) often ate Hog Island sandwiches made by putting meat, cheese and lettuce between two slices of bread. The Hog Island sandwich became shortened to Hoggies and from there to the Hoagie.
2. When HMS Pinafore was performed in Philadelphia in 1874, bakeries made a new long loaf called a ‘pinafore’ to cash in on public interest. Equally entrepreneurial street vendors, called hokey-pokey men, who sold antipasto meat and salad, now sliced open the pinafore loafs and loaded in the antipasto, creating a new sandwich they called the hoagie.
3. The Italian community in South Philly in the late nineteenth century described homeless men as ‘on the hoke’. Generous deli owners would hand out sandwiches – odd scraps of cheese and meat in a bread roll. This became known as a hokie and, in time, as a hoagie.
And because this is, above all, a transatlantic blog, here is a picture of the man who allegedly created the sandwich, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. The story goes that Sir John was too busy gambling to stop to eat. In order to keep playing cards and not get his fingers greasy he asked for some meat pressed between two pieces of bread. Fellow gamblers liked the idea and called for ‘the same as Sandwich.’