Colonel Harland Sanders Biography: Inspiring History of KFC

Colonel Harland Sanders Biography

Colonel Harland Sanders

In this success story we are going to share Colonel Harland Sanders biography and history of KFC, an American restaurant chain that he founded. Enjoy reading a life story about entrepreneurship, delicious food, trials and failures and brilliant success.

Colonel Harland Sanders (September 09, 1890 – December 16, 1980) is an American entrepreneur who founded the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant chain. KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is one of the oldest fast food restaurant chains in the United States. It is famous for its fried chicken to the whole world.

Early Childhood

Harland David Sanders was born on September 09, 1890 on a country road three miles (4.8 km) east of Henryville, Indiana. It must be said that Sanders’ childhood was tough. First, he was not the only child in the family, who was not very rich. He was the oldest of three children born to Wilbur David and Margaret Ann Sanders.

His father worked part time, doing some errands of farmers in Henryville. Mother did not work, as she had to take care of the children.

The problems began when the father of Harland Sanders suddenly died. In 1895 one summer afternoon, Sanders’ father came back home with a fever and died later that day. This occurred when the future founder of KFC was only 6 years old. His life changed dramatically. First, his mother went to work to a tomato-canning factory to feed the family somehow. And Harland Sanders was required to be a babysitter and take care of younger brother and sister at home.

This fact was the key to his life. Since these factors have contributed to the development of Sanders as the chef. All the relatives began to notice that the little boy was a real talent in this case.

When his mother remarried, he escaped from home because his stepfather beat him. Sanders falsified his birth date and volunteered for the U.S. Army at the age of 15 years. He served a full term and ended his service in Cuba. During his early years Sanders had to work as a steamboat pilot, insurance agent, farmer and etc. Finally, he found a good regular job as a fireman in the U.S. railway company.

Life is Getting Better

Colonel Harland Sanders Biography

Josephine King Sanders, the 1st wife of Colonel Sanders

In 1908, having stable income Harland Sanders married Josephine King. He had three children, a son, Harland, Jr., who died at an early age, and two daughters, Mildred Sanders Ruggles and Margaret Sanders. After a while he was fired for insubordination. His wife Josephine left him taken the children back to her parents’ home. Her brother later wrote Harland a letter where he said: “She had no business marrying a no-good fellow like you who can’t hold a job”. Over the years he tried a lot of other jobs, but did not find any, which he could work at for a long time.

At 40 years Harland had to change dozens of occupations. One time Harland Sanders was trying to obtain an education enrolling in law courses, but for an unknown reason he did not finish them.

However, when Harland was already in his 40s, he had little capital accumulated over the years. For a long time Sanders was in despair. Most of his life already passed, but he still was a man, who made no difference, did not have enough money to live in pleasure and wealth. He was disappointed in life. And, of course, he wanted to change it.

Harland Sanders bought a service station, motel and cafe at Corbin, a town in Kentucky about 25 miles from the Tennessee border. It must be noted that Harland seriously thought about the location of his service station, selecting the best place for it. Along this road people traveled to Florida and other locations from northern states and the flow of customers was endless.

Colonel Harland Sanders Biography

The restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky where Colonel Sanders developed Kentucky Fried Chicken

Soon, Colonel Sanders began serving meals to his clients in the living quarters, because he did not have a restaurant. He was cooking chicken dishes and other meals such as country ham and steaks in the kitchen. Soon his service station became famous throughout Kentucky. It was called “Kentucky Fried Chicken of Harland Sanders.” All customers noted the quality of its seasoning, which he prepared from 11 different spices. Life began to improve.

Colonel Sanders Biography

Colonel Sanders demonstrates a new-fangled gizmo – the pressure cooker.

In order to increase his income, Harland bought a pressure cooker. It was a time when this type of pans just appeared on the market. He was one of the first chefs assessed the advantages of pressure cookers. Usually it took about 30 minutes to prepare chicken, but now it’s time has been reduced to 9 minutes. That meant that customers did not have to wait so long for a meal and it increased number of orders.

A significant event in the life of Sanders happened in 1935, when the governor of Kentucky, Ruby Laffoon, awarded Harland the title of Kentucky Colonel for services to the state. And indeed, they were great: in fact people all over the county were talking about the “national dish” of the state from Colonel Harland Sanders.

At that time, Sanders realized that he needed to refocus his business from the service station to something bigger. In 1937, he opened the motel Sanders Court &  Café, which was also an independent fast food restaurant. However, fast food restaurant McDonald’s and Sanders Court & Cafe were not comparable. Because Colonel Sanders spent about 10-15 minutes to prepare an order. So it could not be called a fully functional fast food restaurant.

Colonel Harland Sanders Biography

Sanders Court and Café

In 1947, Harland and Josephine divorced. And in 1949, Sanders finally married his secretary Claudia Ledington. In 1949, Sanders was honored once again with the title of Kentucky colonel, this time by Lieutenant Governor Lawrence Weatherby.

Being a Colonel, Harland Sanders developed his appearance starting to wear a white suit and black bow tie. And nowadays Harland Sanders is portrayed on the logos of KFC. This image quickly entered the hearts of ordinary Americans, who loved a small restaurant of Sanders. He had so many clients and net worth as he had never had before. He felt success.

Colonel Sanders Biography

Colonel Harlan Sanders and his wife Claudia

Of course, from time to time there were minor technical difficulties and problems with suppliers. Once even the building of motel burned down. It was built up again quickly and resumed its job within a few months after the accident. In addition, the state government tried to help Harland because his fried chicken was a showplace in Kentucky.

But life dealt a blow to Sanders. In 1956, there was completed the construction of Interstate 75, bypassing Corbin. Sanders’ restaurant was out of sight from passing by travelers. The number of customers decreased dramatically. The once-successful business rolled down. He was forced to sell the property for $75,000 to pay his debts. He was almost broke when he was 66 years old, living off a monthly Social Security check of $105 and some savings. After a while Sanders decided to move to Shelbyville, Kentucky.

KFC Secret Recipe Sold to Restaurants

Upon reflection, he came to the conclusion that can sell his recipe to other restaurants. With nothing to lose, Sanders took his spices and pressure cooker and traveled throughout the U.S. in his 1946 Ford.

He started visiting other restaurants of America. When meeting a potential franchisee he talked about the recipe of cooking chicken and its seasoning. It took a long time before he could find the first customer. Under the contract, Sanders received just 5 cents for each of his sold chicken. Not bad, considering that the volume of orders grew steadily. Needless to say that in the early 60’s Colonel Sanders had a few hundred franchisees across the U.S. restaurants.

And after 4 years Kentucky Fried Chicken was at the peak of glory and the old Colonel decided to sell the corporation to a private investor John Y. Brown, Jr. Under the deal, he received $ 2 million in cash and remains the official face of the company for which he was paid about 250,000 dollars a year. Colonel Sanders net worth estimated at $3.5 million. He just had to meet with the media, customers, employees, in general to lead marketing.

In 1980, at the age of 90 years, Harland Sanders died. In recent years he was traveling, playing golf and ran their own restaurant Claudia Sanders’ Dinner House with his wife. He got disappointed at KFC, because he thought that in the pursuit of the lowest price and speed – the owners went to a compromise on the quality of chickens. However, after the death of Colonel the story was not over.

KFC Nowadays

Colonel Harland Sanders Biography

KFC Logo

In 1986, it was acquired, by the famous Pepsi Co. In 2002 the KFC was acquired by Yum! Brands. In addition to KFC, the company owns Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurants. David C. Novak is the current Chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands.

The chain of more than 39 000 restaurants operates in more than 50 countries around the world. Yum! Brands prefer to use the strategy of co-branding. There are many varieties of foods such as fried chicken, chicken burgers (chicken sandwiches, US), wraps, French fries, soft drinks, salads, desserts, breakfast and etc.

Colonel Harland Sanders Biography

David C. Novak, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Yum! since January 2001

Currently, Yum! Brands employs more than 1,500,000 employees and the net income as of 2013 amounted to $1.091 billion.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Colonel Harland Sanders biography and amazing history of KFC Company and it’s inspired you to new discoveries.

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Tags: Biography

  • LOGANO KOMARO

    actually, his mother never remarried and a person from the army aproached him, he never went to the army to try to get in. i learned this from his autobiography

    • astrumpeople

      Hi Logano,

      We always open for comments and new facts.

      Before we write biographies we check dozens of sources. Our sources confirm that Sanders’ mother remarried in 1902 and the he falsified his date of birth and enlisted in the United States Army in October 1906.

      Here is the link to Colonel Harland Sanders autobiography book:

      http://goo.gl/AJx4fo

      On the page 18, you will find all the facts that prove all the said above.

      Let me know if you have any other comments.