A Life filled with up, downs, cross country moves, a shootout, a courtroom brawl with his own client and a spirit that drove him at age 65 to start a business and become a household name…
“The Story of Colonel Sanders” – (1890 – 1980)
Harland David Sanders was born on September 9, 1890 and was the oldest of three children.
Sanders’ father died in 1895. His mother got work in a tomato cannery, and Harland was left to look after and cook for his siblings. When he was 10, Sanders began to work as a farmhand.
1903 – at age 13, he left home and took a job painting horse carriages in Indianapolis.
1904 – at age 14, he moved to southern Indiana to work as a farmhand.
1906 – at age 16, he got a job as street car conductor, then enlisted is US Army.
1907 – at age 17, honorably discharged for falsifying his age and got a job as a blacksmiths helper in Alabama
1909 – Sanders found laboring work with the Norfolk and Western Railway and met and married Josephine King who he married.
- Went work as a fireman on the Illinois Central Railroad, and he and his family moved to Jackson, Tennessee. By night, Sanders studied law by correspondence through the La Salle Extension University. Sanders lost his job at Illinois after brawling with a colleague.
- Sanders moved to work for the Rock Island Railroad
- For 3 years Sanders practiced law in Little Rock. His legal career ended after a courtroom brawl with his own client
1916 – at age 26, he sold Life Ins. for Prudential Life in Jeffersonville and fired for insubordination.
1918 – at age 28, moved to Louisville and sold Ins. For Mutual Benefit Life
1920 – Sanders established a ferry boat company, which he canvassed for funding and operated on the Ohio River between Jeffersonville and Louisville becoming an instant success.
1923 – Sanders cashed in his ferry boat company shares for $22,000 ($330,000 today) and used the money to establish a company manufacturing acetylene lamps. The venture failed after Delco introduced an electric lamp. Sanders moved to Winchester, Kentucky, to work as a salesman for the Michelin Tire Company. He lost his job in 1924 when Michelin closed its New Jersey manufacturing plant.
1930 – Shell Oil Company offered Sanders a service station in North Corbin, Kentucky, rent free, in return for paying the company a percentage of sales. Sanders began to serve chicken and meals in his adjacent living quarters before opening a restaurant.
It was during this period that Sanders was involved in a shootout with Matt Stewart, a local competitor, over the repainting of a sign directing traffic to his station. Stewart killed a Shell employee who was with Sanders and was convicted of murder, eliminating Sanders’s competition.
1941 – Sanders was forced to close his Asheville motel.
1942 – He went to work in Seattle until the latter part of 1942. Sanders sold the Asheville business and later ran cafeterias for the government in Tennessee. He left his mistress, Claudia Ledington-Price, as manager of the North Corbin restaurant and motel. Sanders
Divorced his first wife in 1947 and two years later married Claudia.
1952 – Sanders franchised his secret recipe “Kentucky Fried Chicken” for the first time, to the operator of one of that city’s largest restaurants in Salt Lake, Utah. Sales more than tripled, with 75% of the increase coming from sales of fried chicken in the first year.
Don Anderson, a sign painter hired by Harman, coined the name Kentucky Fried Chicken. After Sander’s success, several other restaurant owners franchised the concept and paid Sanders $0.04 per chicken.
1955 – At age 65 Sanders sold his North Corbin restaurant and only left only with his savings and $105 a month from SSI, decided to begin to franchise his chicken concept in earnest and traveled the US looking for suitable restaurants.
Often sleeping in the back of his car, Sanders visited restaurants, offered to cook his chicken, and if workers liked it negotiated franchise rights. Although such visits required much time, eventually potential franchisees began visiting Sanders instead.
1959 – Sanders and Claudia opened a new restaurant and company headquarters in Shelbyville. He ran the company while Claudia mixed and shipped the spices to restaurants. The franchise approach became highly successful; KFC was one of the first fast food chains to expand internationally, opening outlets in Canada and later in the UK, Mexico and Jamaica by the mid-1960s.
1962 – Sanders obtained a patent protecting his method of pressure frying chicken.
1963 – He trademarked the phrase “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good.”
1964 – At 73 years old, he sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken corporation for $2 million ($16.5 million today) to a partnership of 2 Kentucky businessmen. Sanders became a salaried brand ambassador. The initial deal did not include the Canadian operations.
Sanders remained the company’s symbol after selling it, traveling 200,000 miles a year on the company’s behalf and filming many TV commercials and appearances. He maintained residence in Ontario until his passing in 1980 and as late as 1979 Sanders made surprise visits to KFC restaurants.