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It’s so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk…

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Fashion models posing in bathing suits floating in a swimming pool. Photography by Toni Frissell

As summer approaches and the days heat up, we get an influx of “Why is it hot in the summer?” questions in our reference queue. 

 In the Northern Hemisphere, our summer months (June-September) are usually hot because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis. It is popular belief that it is hot in the summer because the earth is closest to the sun during this season. In fact, the earth is farthest from the sun during the summer months. Because we frequently receive this question, we have featured it in our Everyday Mystery website – see “Why it is hot in the summer (and cold in the winter)?” for a more detailed explanation.

Women frying eggs near U.S. Capitol

On a similar note, when temperatures in the United States soar well over 100 degrees, we receive questions asking “Is it ever hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk?” Theoretically you can fry an egg on the sidewalk, but you have to have the right conditions, such as a sidewalk that can maintain 158°F (eggs need at least 158°F to  coagulate and cook). Generally speaking, sidewalks can reach temperatures up to 145°F, which is not hot enough to fry an egg. However, this does not stop people from celebrating the concept. Folks in Oatman, Arizona have an annual sidewalk egg fry, where participants can use aids, such as mirrors, aluminum reflectors, or magnifying glasses to help cook the egg. To learn more about cooking eggs on sidewalks see our Everyday Mystery “Is it ever hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk?”

Comments (3)

  1. The woman, on the left in the photo “frying eggs”, is my mother Mildred Irene Hurley and was taken on the steps and wall of the LOC cira 1929-1931. She worked at Weiss Captol Hill Cleaners on 1st Steet SE (LOC annex now occupies site) and her family lived at 412 or 419 1st Street SE…John Philip Souza’s sister lived next door. (The row house still exists). Thank you for printing this photo. My Mother spoke about the picture being taken but lost the copy of “frying eggs”! Yes, summer heat in DC, before air conditioning, was a sufferable existance to endure. The photo is proof!

    • Mildred, this is a Wow moment. Thank you for replying and providing more information about this photograph. You might want to submit this information to the Library’s prints and photographs office

  2. I have a distinct recollection of a Life Magazine cover of
    the early 1930s (couldn’t find) showing two senators
    frying an egg on the US Capitol steps! Perhaps someone
    could post it!?

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