The sandwich is named after the Earl of Sandwich. In spite of great political achievements, he is remembered for the sandwich. There is not even a clear indication of when it all started. Did he order the food as he was involved in a 24-hour gambling session? Probably not. Or was he simply working hard on his military career? More likely.
What is clear is that he was a very famous man and that the word certainly got around and was present at the top tables. The first authenticated use was in a diary entry on 24 November 1762 of a top club in London when a “respectable body … affords every evening a sight truly English. Twenty or thirty perhaps of the first men in the kingdom, in point of fashion and fortune, supping at little tables covered with a napkin in the middle of a coffee room, upon a bit of cold meat, or a sandwich and drinking a glass of punch.”
Earl Sandwich provided strong support to Captain Cook who repaid the compliment by naming the Sandwich Islands (now part of Hawaii) after him.
Sandwich trays were first advertised about 1800, the same time that Jane Austen makes a diary entry about eating sandwiches with mustard. By 1836 the sandwich was so common that in Sketches by Boz Dickens could casually comment that “the supper consisted of small triangular sandwiches in trays”. In the same year in Pickwick Papers he even coins the term “sandwich bags”.