Today is the 126th birthday of the fast food genius Colonel Sanders. I am very nostalgic for his commercials, even though we didn’t eat there much or if at all as kids. Even as a kid, I loved iconography and Kentucky Fried Chicken had some of the best in the fast food genre. I have included a gallery below of immediately-recognizable imagery connected to his brand. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
BEST KNOWN FOR: Colonel Sanders is best known for creating a fried chicken recipe that would become the world’s fast-food chicken chain, Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Best known for founding the fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken, Colonel Harland David Sanders was born on September 9, 1890, in Henryville, Indiana. After his father died when he was 6 years old, Sanders became responsible for feeding and taking care of his younger brother and sister. Beginning at the age of 10, he held down numerous jobs, including farmer, streetcar conductor, railroad fireman and insurance salesman.
At age 40, Sanders was running a service station in Kentucky, where he would also feed hungry travelers. Sanders eventually moved his operation to a restaurant across the street, and featured a fried chicken so notable that he was named a Kentucky colonel in 1935 by Governor Ruby Laffoon.
After closing the restaurant in 1952, Sanders devoted himself to franchising his chicken business. He traveled across the country, cooking batches of chicken from restaurant to restaurant, striking deals that paid him a nickel for every chicken the restaurant sold. In 1964, with more than 600 franchised outlets, he sold his interest in the company for $2 million to a group of investors.
Kentucky Fried Chicken went public in 1966 and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1969. More than 3,500 franchised and company-owned restaurants were in worldwide operation when Heublein Inc. acquired KFC Corporation in 1971for $285 million. KFC became a subsidiary of R.J. Reynolds Industries, Inc. (now RJR Nabisco, Inc.), when Heublein Inc. was acquired by Reynolds in 1982. KFC was acquired in October 1986 from RJR Nabisco, Inc. by PepsiCo, Inc., for approximately $840 million.
Sanders continued to visit the KFC restaurants around the world as a spokesman in his later years. He died of leukemia on December 16, 1980, at the age of 90, in Louisville, Kentucky.