Colonel Sanders

From Academic Kids

Missing image
A portrait of Col. Harland Sanders

Colonel Harland David Sanders (September 9, 1890December 16, 1980), better known as Colonel Sanders, was the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). His picture appears on their boxes to this day, and a stylized graphic of his face is a trademark of the corporation.

Sanders was born on September 9, 1890 in Henryville, Indiana. His father died when he was six years old, and since his mother worked, he was forced to cook for his family. During the teen years of his life, Sanders worked many jobs, including firefighter, steamboat driver, insurance salesman and a private in Cuba.

At the age of 40, Sanders made chicken for people who passed by his service station in Corbin, Kentucky. He didn't have a restaurant then, but served the diners in his living quarters in the service station. Eventually, his local popularity grew, and Harland moved to a motel and restaurant that seated 142 people and began working as a chef. Over the next nine years he perfected his method of cooking chicken that used the same eleven herbs and spices that are used today at KFC. He also made use of a pressure cooker that enhanced the flavor and allowed the chicken to be cooked much faster than pan-frying. He was made an honorary Kentucky colonel in 1935 by Governor Ruby Laffoon.

This stylized likeness of the Colonel serves as the logo and mascot of his restaurant chain.
This stylized likeness of the Colonel serves as the logo and mascot of his restaurant chain.

Sanders was forced to sell his property in order to make way for Interstate 75. He lived off of his Social Security checks, and based his entire career off his ability to cook. Confident of the quality of his fried chicken, the Colonel devoted himself to the chicken franchising business that he started in 1952. He traveled across the country by car from restaurant to restaurant, cooking batches of chicken for restaurant owners and their employees. If the reaction was favorable, he entered into a handshake agreement on a deal that stipulated a payment to him of a nickel for each chicken the restaurant sold. His devoted work turned his small business, Kentucky Fried Chicken, into one of the largest fast food chains in existence. He himself became one of the most recognizable people in the world.

Sanders moved the headquarters of his business to a new location near Shelbyville, Kentucky and in 1964, sold it to a group of investors headed by future Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown, Jr. Sanders, after retiring as a cook, worked as its company spokesman for most of the rest of his life. He appeared in many of his company's television commercials between the 1950s and 1970s, but remained outspoken about the quality of the KFC product, and did so with a lively vocabulary.

He also retained ownership of the headquarters building and soon opened a new restaurant in it. KFC's new owners owned the name Colonel Sanders as it pertained to the restaurant business, so Sanders decided to name his new restaurant Claudia Sanders' Dinner House after his wife. This restaurant is still operating today and is decorated with many photographs and memorabilia from the Sanders family.

Sanders died at the age of 90 on December 16, 1980 of leukemia, and was buried in his famous white suit and bow tie in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. A later cartoon version of Colonel Sanders (voiced by actor Randy Quaid) has appeared in more recent KFC commercials, as has an almost-identical impersonator, the latter to the considerable consternation to many in the Sanders family.

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