Character of the Week: Colonel Sanders

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Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken

Colonel Sanders was born Harland Sanders in Indiana in 1890.  At the age of six, his father died, and his mother had to go to work.  Sanders was responsible for feeding the family, and this began his lifetime love of cooking.

After a few years, Sanders ran away from home and began working a series of odd jobs.  For example, he worked as a streetcar conductor, a steamboat pilot, and an insurance salesman.  It was when he was working at a service station in Corbin, Kentucky in 1930, that he was able to use his love of cooking.  Sanders would cook for travelers that stopped by the station.  He had no room to serve them, so he would serve their meals in his own living quarters.

He marketed his food to busy families as “home meal replacement” and called them “Sunday Dinner, Seven Days a Week.”  Sanders’ meals grew in popularity, and he soon moved his business into a restaurant across the street from the service station.  Over the next few years, he worked on perfecting his cooking process and recipe for fried chicken.  He developed his secret blend of 11 herbs and spices.

Sanders’ meals continued to grow in popularity, and in 1935, Governor Ruby Laffoon made Sanders a Kentucky Colonel in recognition of his excellence in contributions to the state’s cuisine.  After this, Sanders referred to himself as “Colonel” and began wearing a Southern gentleman style of dress with his white suit and black string tie.

He used this image as self-promotion as he began to develop his chicken franchising business.  By 1955, he had over 600 Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the US and Canada, and each of them used the Colonel as the advertising icon and spokesperson.

Although he sold his corporation for $2,000,000 to a group of Kentucky businessmen in 1964, he remained the official face for KFC and continued to visit franchises and act as the spokesman for the company.

Colonel Sanders passed away in 1980, but he will never be forgotten.  His legacy lives on with his “secret recipe” and the many KFC restaurants around the world.  The Colonel is part of our culture, and will forever remain one of the most recognizable faces in advertising history.

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Last updated: Apr 29, 2009
Filed under: Retro Characters Tagged with: Colonel Sanders, Kentucky Fried Chicken, KFC