(PCM) As we know the month of September is National Eat Chicken Month and in addition to famed road-side attraction Chicken Boy’s birthday being this month, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) founder Colonel Harland Sanders’ was also born in the month of September, on the 9th to be exact and he would have been 125 years old this year! Colonel Sanders started out selling fried chicken from a roadside restaurant in 1930 during the Great Depression. As his chicken continued to grow in popularity he saw the potential in the restaurant franchising business and the very first KFC franchise location opened in Utah in 1952.
The KFC franchise began to grow at a rapid pace and Colonel Sanders made the decision to sell the company to John Y Brown and Jack C Massey in 1964 for the amount of $2 million, however his name and image continue to be world-recognized symbols of the company to this day. Up until his death on December 16, 1980 Colonel Sanders continued to travel the world as the company’s goodwill ambassador, filmed countless TV commercials, and made massive amounts of public appearances.
As late as 1979 Sanders still made surprise visits to KFC restaurants, and if the food disappointed him denounced it to the franchisee as “God-damned slop” or pushed it onto the floor. Always recognized for his appearance, Colonel Sanders always wore a white suit with a black string tie and for the last 20 years of his life he never wore anything else in public. He even went as far as to bleach his goatee and mustache to match his white hair.
According to Wikipedia, Sanders was diagnosed with acute leukemia in June 1980. He died at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky of pneumonia at the age of 90. Sanders had remained active until the month before his death, appearing in his white suit to crowds. His body lay in state in the rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort after a funeral service at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Chapel, which was attended by more than 1,000 people. Sanders was buried in his characteristic white suit and black western string tie in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.
By the time of his death, there were an estimated 6,000 KFC outlets in 48 countries worldwide, with $2 billion of sales annually.
In honor of their legendary founder’s 125th birthday, KFC wanted to share “10 Things You May Not Have Known About Colonel Sanders:”
10 Things You May Not Have Known About Colonel Sanders
- The Colonel was so impressed by a local children’s mandolin band that he purchased mandolins and matching uniforms for everyone and dubbed them the “Colonel’s Mandolin Band;” he even helped them produce a record. You may remember seeing a re-creation of this band in the recent Kentucky Fried Chicken ads.
- The Colonel traveled an average of 250,000 miles each year visiting KFC locations worldwide to sell his fried chicken. During the 70’s the 2 most recognizable men in the world were both from Louisville, Muhammad Ali and Colonel Sanders.
- There are 4,000 statues of the Colonel at KFC stores in Japan, which are dressed up in seasonal and cultural costumes throughout the year. Urban legend has it that the Japanese baseball team the Hanshin Tigers suffered an 18-year losing streak after fans ceremoniously threw a Colonel Sanders statue in the Dotonbori River in 1985. It is known among locals as the “Curse of the Colonel.”
- Although the Colonel was the most famous chicken salesman in the world, he was not responsible for creating the name Kentucky Fried Chicken, the bucket, or the iconic Finger Lickin’ Good ® tagline. All were created with the help of the first franchisee, Pete Harman.
- The comic book KFC recently published for the 2015 San Diego Comic Con was not the first comic produced featuring Colonel Sanders. A 1960s comic featured the story of an imposter trying to impersonate the real Colonel. Over the decades, many actors (some famous and some not so famous) have played the iconic Colonel.
- A fried chicken visionary in his own right, the Colonel’s Original Recipe® chicken is fried in a pressure cooker to retain its distinct flavor and juiciness. The pressure-cooking process for frying chicken was invented and patented by the Colonel more than 75 years ago and is still used today at KFCs worldwide.
- Colonel Sanders has his very own Norman Rockwell portrait, however it almost didn’t happen. Rockwell stipulated that he would only paint the Colonel if he didn’t wear his glasses. After a colorful exchange, the Colonel relented and agreed to pose without his trademark spectacles and Rockwell began work on the portrait in the summer of 1973. This painting is one of the only known pictures to feature the Colonel without his glasses.
- The Colonel held an eclectic range of professions throughout his life before cashing in his social security check at age 65 to become the world’s greatest fried chicken entrepreneur. Prior to his fried chicken fame, the Colonel spent time as a locomotive fireman, a lighting salesman, an amateur obstetrician, and a ferry boat operator, among many other things.
- Not someone to turn his back on a friend, the Colonel once shot a man while protecting his employee at Sanders Superior Gas Station, which he owned and operated. He was never charged with a crime though, as it was done out of self-defense. The gunfight dramatization can be seen at colonelsanders.com.
- When the Colonel built the KFC headquarters in Louisville, KY, he made sure it boasted a replica facade of the White House in Washington, DC. His office, which was re-created and featured in the May 2015 campaign ads, was equipped with a big sturdy safe to house his top-secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices. The Colonel’s White House is still home to both the KFC US Headquarters and the secret recipe, with his office having been converted into a free museum chronicling his life.