The History of Sloppy Joe's

By LeafTV Contributor

The Sloppy Joe has been a staple in the household of many Americans well over a half-century.The combination of tomato sauce or paste with ground beef and a variety of spices served between two slices of bread or on a bun is easy to prepare and doesn't put a strain on the family food budget. Despite its popularity, there is some dispute as to how the Sloppy Joe came into existence.

Homemade BBQ Sloppy Joe Sandwiches
credit: bhofack2/iStock/GettyImages
The History Of Sloppy Joes

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One theory is that the Sloppy Joe was derived from the loose meat sandwich, which was developed by an Iowa restaurateur named Floyd Angell in the mid-1920's and consisted of loose ground beef, sauce and spices on two slices of bread. Throughout the 1930's recipes emerged that called for the addition of ingredients like ketchup or tomato sauce.

World War II Influence

Another theory is that since many consumer products, including ground beef, were rationed during World War II as a way to help the American war effort, homemakers were forced to look for creative ways to stretch the household food dollar. As a result, they would mix ground beef with various sauces to help make the supply last longer.


In 1969, Hunt's revolutionized the Sloppy Joe when it introduced its Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce. The combination of ingredients like tomato paste, dehydrated onions, oregano, garlic and red and green peppers in one can made the Sloppy Joe not only economical but also quick and easy to prepare. This made it especially appealing as the decades have progressed, since more households have evolved to where both parents work outside the home.

Modern Day

As of 2009, there are many Sloppy Joe recipes featuring a wide variety of ingredients. Some call for meats other than the traditional ground beef, such as chuck roast or even chicken. Others call for different spices like cinnamon or brown sugar. To view some of the many Sloppy Joe recipes, visit at,1-0,sloppy_joe,FF.html.


There are different ideas as to how the name "Sloppy Joe" evolved. One school of thought is that Joe was the name an Iowa cook in one of Floyd Angell's restaurants who helped develop the concept. Another theory states that the name spread to many restaurants serving the sandwich that opened in the 1930's in the wake of the success of Sloppy Joe's restaurant in Key West, Florida. Yet another hypothesis is that the name came from the appearance of a person named Joe after eating the messy sandwich.