How The Po Boy Sandwich Got Its Name

Few sandwiches capture the essence of New Orleans like the po' boy. Loaded with crispy fried seafood or tender roast beef and dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and a generous slather of mayo, this iconic combination is a staple of Louisiana cuisine. But have you ever wondered about the origins of this delectable creation and how it got its name? As it turns out, the classic po' boy gained its unique place in American culinary history as a result of a difficult time.

Originally known as a "poor boy" sandwich, its history dates back to 1929 during the Great Depression. At this time, New Orleans streetcar conductors went on strike. The strike, known as the "Streetcar Strike of 1929," left many union workers without a steady income and they were struggling to make ends meet. That's when two former conductors made the most of the situation all while offering support to their fellow workmen.

It was a sandwich for the people

Amidst the turmoil, brothers Bennie and Clovis Martin opened a small shop called Martin Brothers' Coffee Stand. In a show of solidarity and support, the Martin brothers vowed to provide a free sandwich to any striking worker who entered their establishment. These sandwiches were made using a long, crusty French bread loaf, filled with inexpensive yet filling ingredients like roast beef and gravy, fried potatoes, or fried shrimp. The name was eventually shortened to "po' boy" in typical New Orleans vernacular, and thus, the po' boy was born. 

Ultimately, the delicious creation symbolized the generosity and camaraderie of the Martin brothers and the resilient spirit of New Orleans. So, the po' boy is more than just a sandwich — it is a testament to the power of food to bring people together, uplift spirits, and provide comfort during difficult times. The story of the po' boy's humble beginnings serves as a reminder of the kindness and generosity that make New Orleans such a special place. As you bite into a flavorful po' boy, take a moment to appreciate the rich history and heartfelt origins of this Louisiana classic.