Early life and career
Harland Sanders at age 20
Sanders was born to a Presbyterian
family in Henryville, Indiana
. His father, Wilbur David Sanders, died when Harland was five years old, and—since his mother worked—he was required to cook for his family. He dropped out of school in seventh grade. When his mother remarried he ran away from home because his stepfather beat him. During his early years, Sanders worked many jobs, including steamboat
, and enlisted in the Army as a private when he was only 16 years old (by lying about his age), spending his entire service commitment in Cuba.
At the age of 40, Sanders cooked chicken dishes and other meals for people who stopped at his service station
in Corbin, Kentucky
. Since he did not have a restaurant, he served customers in his living quarters in the service station. His local popularity grew, and Sanders moved to a motel
that seated 142 people and worked as the chef
. Over the next nine years, he developed his method of cooking chicken
. Furthermore, he made use of a pressure fryer
that allowed the chicken to be cooked much faster than by pan frying
He was given the honorary title
" in 1935 by Governor Ruby Laffoon
. He was re-commissioned in 1950 by Governor Lawrence Wetherby
. 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.
After the construction of Interstate 75
reduced his restaurant's customer traffic, Sanders took to franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, starting at age 65, using $105 from his first Social Security
check to fund visits to potential franchisees.