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KFC-Sanders Cafe/Museum




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’ restaurant.

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 business 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 and Canada.

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 Chicken®.

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 in Corbin.

For Further Information Please Contact the Sanders Cafe at (606) 528-2163.




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