“Boner Billy’s” Famous Hot Dogs and Risque Ads

Risque ads at bottom.

Although the birth of Boner Billy was unexpected, hence the name “Boner”, a Vaudeville term for a “silly mistake.” As you will soon learn, Boner “Bronco” Billy, a true American hero was anything but a silly mistake.
 Documenting the life and times of American hero Boner Billy is a bit of a challenge due to the fact that Boner Billy’s son, grandson, and great grandson have the same name without a name suffix, Junior, Senior, or Roman numerals, etc. Due to this lack of a suffix in their name, si it can be a little tricky documenting the rich history of this American hero.
 Here is how the story goes; in the early summer of 1845 a young Boner Billy, along with John Frémont, Kit Carson and 54 other men left St. Louis on an expedition. The stated goal was to “map the source of the Arkansas River on the east side of the Rocky Mountains.” Upon reaching the Arkansas, expedition leader, John Frémont suddenly made a hasty trail straight to California, without explanation arriving in the Sacramento Valley in early winter of 1846. 

Records suggest shortly after arriving in the Sacramento Valley, Boner Billy owned and operated a popular trading post on a road leading from San Francisco to Sacramento. It is now believed America’s first hot dog, then called a tube steak was created and sold at Boner Billy’s trading post.  This popular food consisted of a specially spiced and seasoned tube steak on a fresh bread roll, and was called the “Big Boner” due to its size, and named after Boner himself.
 In January of 1847, Boner Billy, his wife, Frannie and young daughter, Bella were traveling to San Francisco on business when they had to make an emergency stop at Sutter’s mill in Coloma, California to give birth to the Billy’s first son, known as, “little Boner.”  Folklore has it that a local man, James Marshall, and Boner Billy stepped outside to smoke a cigar to celebrate the birth of the child. James Marshall then spotted a sparkly object in the American River, which ended up being a small gold nugget that launched the great California Gold Rush.  That nugget of gold was named after Boner Billy’s new born son and was thereon known as, “little Boner.”

Folklore has it that in the spring of 1858, Boner Billy and ranch hands, Bill “Dirty” Smith and James Finney, nicknamed “Old Virginy” were rounding up stray cattle in the foothills just NE of what is now known as Carson City, Nevada. At this point, ranch hand Finney located and later was credited with discovering the Comstock Lode, one of the largest silver ore deposits in the world.  Over the next several years Boner Billy successful partnered in investments in the mining boomtown, Virginia City, Nevada. He also opened, a series of eating establishments serving tube steaks letter known as hot dogs in Nevada and throughout California.

America’s first Hot Dog cart, – Sacramento, CA 1855
Billboard in Flagstaff Arizona mid – 1950’s

Around 1928 a Boner Billy cousin, Betty Bonnie Billy owned a string of Boner Billy’s Hot Dogs stands throughout California. Sadly without the secret recipe that made Boner Billy’s tube steak such a hit the food was run of the mill. A short lived television show, the Boner Billy Play House did drive up sales for a bit but in 1962 the last Boner Billy’s Hot Dog stand closed.

The Big Boner airplane with full bar and glass bottom dance floor was a hit with the Hollywood elite 1950-64

It has recently been announced that Boner “JR” Billy the great, great, great grandson of Boner “Bronco” Billy has stepped forward with support and involvement in the launch of Boner Billy’s new Viva Las Vegas restaurant. In a recent interview, JR stated; “My great grandpapa who from a little trading post on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains served-up America’s first hot dog to hungry forty-niners heading to the goldfields. “I cannot tell you how proud I am to now help bring the Boner Billy name and the greatest hot dogs in the world to Las Vegas”  –Boner “JR” Billy 

The risque and suggestive hot dog ads from the 1940’s and 1950’s.

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