April 17, 2024

7 Weird Facts About Colonel Sanders | Strange Heartland History

 September 9th, 1890, Henryville, Indiana. Harlan David “the Colonel” Sanders is born in a four-room house to parents, Wilbur and Margaret Sanders.

His father was a farmer until he broke his leg and became a butcher, and his mother was a devout Christian and strict parent who warned her children against the evils of alcohol, tobacco, gambling, and whistling on Sundays. There’s no word on how she felt about fried chicken, though.

From there, the Colonel went on to live a pretty crazy, disjointed life. So since we’re craving fried chicken right now, we thought we’d look at seven of the weirdest facts about that famous Kentuckian.

1. He actually wasn’t from Kentucky. He was born and raised in Indiana until he was honorably discharged from the Army in 1907.

Then he finally ended up in Alabama where he remained until he finally moved back to Henryville, Indiana in the mid 1910s. But by the early 1920s, he finally moved to Winchester, Kentucky. He stayed in the Bluegrass State until 1939 when he acquired a motel in Asheville, North Carolina.

2. Speaking of the Army, Sanders falsified his date of birth so he could enlist at age 16.

He served as a Wagoner in Cuba, but was not a colonel . That designation came from Kentucky Governor Ruby Laffoon , who commissioned Sanders as a “Colonel” in 1935. 

3. Sanders had a  ton of jobs throughout his life. If you feel bad about struggling to find your purpose, here’s a list of jobs Colonel Sanders held before becoming a famous fried chicken purveyor.

Here we go: 

  • Farmhand 
  • Street car conductor 
  • Aforementioned Wagoner in the Army
  • Blacksmith’s helper
  • Train ashpan cleaner 
  • Lawyer
  • Railroad laborer
  • Insurance salesman
  • Ferry boat company founder and operator
  • Lamp manufacturer 
  • Tire salesman
  • Service station operator
  • Motel owner and operator
  • Fried chicken secret recipe creator. (11 herbs and spices, baby. Yeah.)

4. Let’s pause to mention something about that law career. It lasted but a wee three years and ended when he brawled with a client in the courtroom, which probably helps explain… 

5. When Sanders’ service station competitor was convicted of murder. This, after he and Sanders got into a literal shootout, and the competitor shot and killed one of Sanders’ employees. All I have to say is don’t f^&* with the Colonel. All right. Onto…

6. The first KFC was not actually in Kentucky. It was in South Salt Lake, Utah, because…

7. The Colonel was more of a franchiser than he was an owner. In fact, overwhelmed, at age 73, he sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation for $2,000,000 to Kentucky businessmen, John Y. Brown, and Jack C. Massey.

And from there on, the Colonel remained a salaried brand ambassador, sometimes traveling 200,000 miles in a year promoting that finger-licking chicken. What’s your favorite bit of fast food history?

Get our latest updates sent to your inbox