Colonel Sanders was a real living person who invented KFC. The real Colonel was larger than life, and has recently been played by several super-famous actors, which is why it can be hard to believe he existed. Well you better believe it pal, because he existed and he was awesome. Read all about his adventures below.
During his tenure as KFC proprietor and founder, and world’s greatest chicken salesman, Colonel Sanders was a regular household name, appearing in commercials, recording albums with his mandolin band, and generally being a national treasure. But in the years following his death in 1980, younger folks only saw the Colonel’s illustrated face on KFC buckets and restaurants. To a newer generation of fried chicken lovers, the Colonel was considered a mascot and a symbol of KFC, and not a real person who actually wore a white woolen suit and string tie every day. Today, when you start typing “is Colonel” into a Google search bar, “is Colonel Sanders real?” is the second suggested phrase that pops up, right after “is Colonel Sanders related to Bernie Sanders?” (The answer to that one is no.) Considering the extraordinary life Colonel Sanders lived, it’s no surprise that his persona could take on a mythical, fairy-tale quality. But like our chicken, Colonel Sanders was 100% real and 100% awesome.
Here are the details of his amazing life:
- Colonel Harland David Sanders was born September 9, 1890, in Henryville, Indiana.
- He quit school in the sixth grade to earn money for his mother, brother, and sister after his father died.
- In 1906, at 16 years old, he lied about his age so he could enlist in the army.
- He started working for the railways in 1907, first as a blacksmith and then as a fireman.
- From 1920 to 1930, Sanders started a ferryboat company, worked as an insurance salesman, a lighting salesman, a lawyer, a tire salesman, an obstetrician, and a secretary at the Chamber of Commerce in Indiana.
- In 1930, he opened a service station and added fried chicken to the menu.
- Governor Ruby Laffoon loved Sanders’ chicken so much that he made Sanders a Kentucky Colonel.
- The Colonel didn’t begin franchising his restaurant until 1955, when he was 65 years old.
- After selling the franchise in 1964, Colonel Sanders remained the company’s symbol. He visited KFC restaurants into his later years, inspecting the quality of the food and sometimes tossing gravy on the floor if it didn’t meet his high standards.
- Sanders was diagnosed with acute leukemia in June 1980 and died of pneumonia in Louisville, Kentucky, on December 16, 1980 at the age of 90.
- The Colonel remained active until the month before his death, appearing before crowds in his signature white woolen suit and string tie, which he was also buried in. His body was laid in state in the rotunda of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort. More than 1,000 people attended the beloved Colonel’s funeral.
Whew. So, was Colonel Sanders real? You bet. As you can see, his life was too unusual and fascinating to be fiction. The Colonel was a real, self-made man whose success symbolizes the promise of the American Dream. Though no longer with us, the Colonel’s very real spirit lives on in anyone who values hard work, grit, self-determination, and delicious fried chicken made the Hard Way.