Colonel Sanders, October 1972
|Born||Harland David Sanders
September 9, 1890
Henryville, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||December 16, 1980
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
|Cause of death||Complications from pneumonia and leukemia|
|Board member of||Kentucky Fried Chicken (founder)|
|Religion||Disciples of Christ|
|Spouse(s)||Josephine King (divorced)
|Children||Harland David Sanders, Jr.
Mildred Sanders Ruggles
|Parents||Wilbur David Sanders
Margaret Ann Sanders (née Dunlevy)
Sanders was born on September 9, 1890 in a thin-walled, four room shack on a country road 3 miles (4.8 km) east of Henryville, Indiana. He was the oldest of three children born to Wilbur David and Margaret Ann Sanders.
Sanders' father was a mild and affectionate man who tried to make a living as a farmer, but fell and broke his back and a leg and had to give it up. For two years he worked as a butcher in Henryville. One summer afternoon in 1895, he came home with a fever and died later that day. Sanders' mother obtained work in a tomato-canning factory; the young Harland was required to cook for his family.
Sanders dropped out of school when he was 12. When his mother remarried in 1902, his stepfather beat him. Therefore, with his mother's approval, Harlan left home to live with his uncle in Albany, Indiana.
Life before KFC
Sanders falsified his date of birth and enlisted in the United States Army at the age of fifteen, completing his service commitment as a mule handler in Cuba. He was honorably discharged after four months and made his way to Sheffield, Alabama where an uncle lived. His brother Clarence had also moved there, in order to avoid his stepfather. During his early years, Sanders held many jobs, including being a steamboat pilot, insurance salesman, railroad fireman, and farmer.
Sanders married Josephine King in 1908 and started a family, but after his boss fired him for insubordination while he was on a trip, Josephine stopped writing him letters. He then learned that Josephine had left him, given away all their furniture and household goods, and taken the children back to her parents’ home. Josephine’s brother wrote Sanders a letter saying, "She had no business marrying a no-good fellow like you who can’t hold a job." He had a son, Harland, Jr., who died at an early age, and two daughters, Margaret Sanders and Mildred Sanders Ruggles.
In 1930 Sanders opened a service station in Corbin, Kentucky where he cooked chicken dishes and other meals such as country ham and steaks for customers. Since he did not have a restaurant, he served customers in his adjacent living quarters. His local popularity grew and Sanders moved to a motel with a 142 seat restaurant, later designated the Harland Sanders Café and Museum. Over the next nine years he developed his "Secret Recipe" for frying chicken in a pressure fryer that cooked the chicken much faster than pan frying. In 1939 food critic Duncan Hines visited Sanders’s restaurant incognito and was so impressed he listed the place in “Adventures in Good Eating,” his famous guide to restaurants throughout the US. As his success grew, Sanders played a more active role in civic life, including joining the Rotary Club, the chamber of commerce, and the Freemasons. In 1947, he and Josephine divorced and Sanders married his secretary Claudia in 1949, as he had long desired. He was "re-commissioned" as a Kentucky Colonel in 1949 by his friend, Governor Lawrence Wetherby.
Around 1950, Sanders began developing his distinctive appearance, growing his trademark mustache and goatee and donning a white suit and string tie. He never wore anything else in public during the last 20 years of his life, using a heavy wool suit in the winter and a light cotton suit in the summer. He bleached his mustache and goatee to match his white hair.
At age 65, after Sanders' store failed due to the then-new Interstate 75 reducing his restaurant's customer traffic, he took $105 from his first Social Security check and began visiting potential franchisees.
In 1952 he successfully franchised "Kentucky Fried Chicken" to his friend Pete Harman of South Salt Lake, Utah, the operator of one of that city's largest restaurants. In the first year of selling the product, restaurant sales more than tripled, with 75% of the increase coming from sales of fried chicken. For Harman, the addition of fried chicken was a way of differentiating his restaurant from competitors; in Utah, a product hailing from Kentucky was unique and evoked imagery of Southern hospitality. Don Anderson, a sign painter hired by Harman, coined the name Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The franchise approach became successful and in 1964 Sanders sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken corporation for $2 million to a partnership of Kentucky businessmen headed by John Y. Brown, Jr. The deal did not include the Canadian operations. In 1965 Sanders moved to Mississauga, Ontario to oversee his Canadian franchises and continued to collect franchise and appearance fees both in Canada and in the U.S. (He was active in Ontario even as he aged. For example, his 80th birthday was held at the Inn on the Park in North York, Ontario, hosted by Jerry Lewis as a Canadian Muscular Dystrophy Association fundraiser.) In September 1970 he and his wife were baptized in the Jordan River. He also befriended Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell.
In 1973, he sued Heublein Inc. — the then parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken — over the alleged misuse of his image in promoting products he had not helped develop. In 1975, Heublein Inc. unsuccessfully sued Sanders for libel after he publicly described their gravy as "wallpaper paste" to which "sludge" was added.
Death and legacy
Sanders later used his stock holdings to create the Colonel Harland Sanders Trust and Colonel Harland Sanders Charitable Organization, which used the proceeds to aid charities and fund scholarships. His trusts continue to donate money to groups like the Trillium Health Care Centre; a wing of their building specializes in women's and children's care and has been named after him. The Sidney, British Columbia based foundation granted over $1,000,000 in 2007, according to its 2007 tax return.
Sanders died at the Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky of pneumonia on December 16, 1980. He had been diagnosed with acute leukemia the previous June. His body lay in state in the rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort after a funeral service at the Southern Baptist Seminary Chapel, which was attended by more than 1,000 people. He was buried in his characteristic white suit and black western string tie in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.
Since his death, Sanders has been portrayed by voice actors in Kentucky Fried Chicken commercials in radio and an animated version of him has been used for television commercials.
The Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball league has developed an urban legend of the "Curse of the Colonel". A statue of Colonel Sanders was thrown into a river and lost during a 1985 fan celebration, and (according to the legend) the "curse" has caused Japan's Hanshin Tigers to perform poorly since the incident.
A manuscript of a book on cooking, which Sanders apparently wrote in the mid-1960s, has been found in KFC archives. It includes some cooking recipes from Sanders as well as stories. KFC plans to try some of the recipes, and to offer the book online.
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- The Human Tradition in the New South By James C. Klotter 130
- ColonelSanders.com - Welcome
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- KFC.co.uk | About Us | KFC History
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- The Human Tradition in the New South By James C. Klotter 153
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- Schreiner, Bruce (2011-11-10). "Colonel Sanders harbored more than one secret". News & Record. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-11-12.[dead link]
- Pearce, John, The Colonel (1982) ISBN 0-385-18122-1
- Kleber, John J. et al. (1992). The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press. ISBN 0-8131-1772-0.
- Encyclopedia of Kentucky. New York, New York: Somerset Publishers. 1987. pp. 185–186. ISBN 0-403-09981-1.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Harland Sanders|
|Wikinews has related news: Colonel Sanders statue lost in 1985 recovered from river in Japan|
- Kentucky Fried Chicken
- Harland "Colonel" Sanders at Find a Grave
- CBC Archives CBC Radio talks with Colonel Sanders about Canadian food and cooking (from 1957).
- FBI file on "Colonel" Sanders
- Sanders on What's My Line? when he was unknown nationally
- Colonel Sanders at the Internet Movie Database