The World's First
Kentucky Fried Chicken®
For many years, people from all over the United States and the world
have enjoyed the culinary creation of Corbin’s most famous citizen —
Harland Sanders, known worldwide as Colonel Harland Sanders.
Even though people all over the globe are familiar with the snow-white
bearded restaurant icon, few are familiar with how the Colonel got his
start in the restaurant business.
Sanders, who was born on Sept. 9, 1890 in Henryville, Indiana, lost
his father at the age of six. After completing the sixth grade,
Sanders quit school and went to work at a variety of jobs. During his
early years, Sanders worked as a farm hand, streetcar conductor,
steamboat ferry operator, railroad fireman, secretary, insurance
salesman, tire salesman and furniture store owner. However, it wasn’t
until 1930 that Sanders moved to Corbin, where he would one day forge
the culinary empire for which he was famous.
Once in Corbin, Sanders opened a service station, which was located on
a spot near where the current Kentucky
Fried Chicken® is located. In the back of that service station, he
operated a lunchroom which consisted of one table, surrounded by six
chairs. It wasn’t long, however, before word spread and Sanders found
it necessary to expand his capacity.
By 1937, Sanders had built Sanders' Cafe, which seated 142 customers.
At this restaurant, it was soon discovered that Sanders' fried chicken
was the most popular selection on the menu.
Sanders often told of his search for the right recipe. It was while
experimenting in his Corbin kitchen, that Sanders found his famous and
closely guarded combination of eleven herbs and spices which he
claimed “stand on everybody’s shelf.” It wasn’t only Sanders’ recipe
of herbs and spices that made his fried chicken unique. He also used a
pressure cooker to fry his chicken.
In 1939, fire destroyed the eatery, which Sanders then rebuilt as both
a restaurant and motel. For many years, the restaurant and motel
served as a popular stop for travelers driving along what was then the
major north-south route — US 25. Business continued to boom until the
completion of Interstate 75, which provided an alternative route for
motorists...a route which no longer directly passed Sanders’
Sanders subsequently auctioned the restaurant and motel off. At the
age of 66, he began to sell franchises based on his famous chicken
recipe. Although he was a pioneer in the relatively new
of franchising, initial sales were slow. His first franchisee went to
Pete Harman of Salt Lake City, Utah. By the late 1950s, more than 200
Kentucky Fried Chicken® franchises had been sold in the United States
During the administration of Kentucky Governor Ruby Laffoon, Sanders
was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel. He was re-commissioned in 1950
by Governor Lawrence Weatherby. Although he had been a Kentucky
Colonel for nearly two decades, it wasn’t until after 1950 that
Sanders began to look the part, growing his trademark mustache and
goatee and donning his white suit and string tie.
Sanders' oldest daughter Margaret suggested that her father start
selling fried chicken as a take-home item. The first KFC® carry-out
service was started at a restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida.
In 1960, Sanders moved
the headquarters of his growing company to Shelbyville, Kentucky. On
February 18, 1964, Sanders sold his franchise business to former
Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown Jr. and Jack Massey for $2 million.
Sanders was retained on salary as spokesman for Kentucky Fried
Over his lifetime, Sanders reportedly contributed money to religious
charities, hospitals, medical research, education, the Boy Scouts®,
Junior Achievement®, and the March of Dimes®.
Regardless of where he
appeared, Sanders was immediately recognizable. At the age of 87, he
testified against mandatory retirement before the U.S. House of
Representatives Subcommittee on Aging.
Sanders died on Dec. 16,
1980, after which his body lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda in
Frankfort. He was buried in Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery.
Each year, thousands of customers make a stop at the Corbin Kentucky
Fried Chicken® location, where they can view a variety of items from
the early days of Sanders’ restaurant business, including a barrel of
his famous recipe, a life-size statue of the Colonel, as well as a
replica of his original kitchen.
Open daily from 10 am
to 10 pm
Tour groups are welcome
Bus parking is available
Directions: From I-75 take exit 29, go south on 25E one mile, then
right on 25w one-half mile. Located at the junction of 25E and 25W
Information Please Contact the Sanders Cafe at (606) 528-2163.