Sanders, Harlan

Sanders, “Colonel” Harlan

(1890–1980) food franchiser; born in Henryville, Ind. When he was 12, his mother remarried and his stepfather sent the children away; Harlan became a farmhand in Greenwood, Ind. With a sixth-grade education, he began 25 years of odd jobs, which included service as a U.S. Army soldier in Cuba. In 1929 he opened a gas station and small restaurant in Corbin, Ky. His cooking grew so popular, he closed the gas station to open Sander's Cafe, which soon added a motel. By 1939, with the invention of the pressure cooker, he had discovered the method for cooking chicken quickly. World War II and a new interstate led to a decline in customers and mounting debts required the sale of his restaurant (1956). He began demonstrating the Colonel Sanders method and his secret seasoning to other restaurant owners; in return for his secrets, they became franchises. In the first two years he sold five franchises; by 1960 he had sold 200, and by 1964, when he sold his company to John Y. Brown and Jack Massey, he had sold more than 600. He became a spokesman for the Colonel Sanders enterprise. The Governor of Kentucky conferred on him the honorary title of Colonel in 1936 in recognition of his contribution to the state's cuisine.