Colonel Sanders KFC Collector
Sanders mystique still alive
to sell his KFC-related items
Helen E. McKinney
SHELBYVILLE, Ky. (April 2003) At the time
of his death in 1980, Col. Harland D. Sanders had achieved international
recognition for his success in the restaurant industry. His popularity
ranked him alongside such notable figures as Muhammad Ali and Elvis
Born on Sept. 9, 1890, the legacy the Henryville, Ind., native left
behind continues to pique the curiosity of millions of people. Upon
the death of his second wife on Dec. 31, 1996, Claudia Ledington Sanders,
Col. Sanders earthly possessions were auctioned off from Claudias
Shelbyville, Ky., home.
by Helen E. McKinney
left, collector Joe Ruble
and Larry K. Rogers with
Col. Sanders memorabilia.
Shelbyville resident Joe Ruble purchased a large portion
of the Colonels private collection. Ruble said he felt the items
would be of collector-value someday because the Colonel, Put Kentucky
on the map overseas, and literally everywhere.
The collection includes more than 100 black-and-white photographs of
the Colonel, the Colonels original briefcase (containing a Canadian
air label), Claudias gloves, paintings created especially for
the Colonel, an engraved punch bowl set, and many framed portraits of
the couple, as well as other numerous items.
Ruble has now decided to part with his collection, teaming with local
Realtor Larry K. Rogers, to do so. Both men want to offer the items
for sale to any interested parties. Both said they would prefer the
entire collection to be sold to one individual to preserve its unity
but may eventually offer them on Ebay, if no buyers are found.
Rogers said he would like to see Kentucky Fried Chicken franchisees
get the first shot at the items. In his 1974 autobiography, the Colonel
wrote, The business I developed was a personal one. I knew the
franchisees by their first names. We (were) just one big family.
When not traveling to franchisees, with my broilers, tubs of spice
and other cooking gear in the back of my car, the Colonel would
often invite prospective franchisees into his home and cook chicken
for them himself.
He boasted to his first franchisee, Pete Harmon, as he made him a batch
of chicken and gravy in Harmons Salt Lake City home, This
gravys so good you can throw the chicken away and eat the gravy.
Never lacking confidence in his product, the Colonel defined his own
niche in history by bringing his convenience product to
the forefront of American society. He referred to it as, Sunday
dinner, seven days a week. Ruble and Rogers said this collection
might also be of interest to museums or historical societies.
Other items that were auctioned from Claudias 3,600-square-foot
Brentwood Estate home included: a black lacquered baby grand piano,
cherry china cabinet, china, mink stole and cape, oriental vases, crystal
stemware, horse prints, julep cups, Derby glasses and the Colonels
The Colonels chicken empire had humble beginnings in the 1930s
in Corbin, Ky. His Sanders Café grew into a 142-seat enterprise
with an attached motel. Rather than rebuild after the business burned,
and due to a bypass built around Corbin in the early 1950s that decreased
his business, the Colonel eventually relocated to Shelbyville.
In the meantime, he had been perfecting his KFC recipe. In his autobiography,
he wrote that he was afraid to change the ingredients. I had worked
on it, perfecting it every way I could.
At age 65, the Colonel was faced with the prospect of retiring and living
on his $105 Social Security checks. Persistency paid off for the Colonel
as he began to market his product.
In 1964, Jack Massey and John Y. Brown Jr. paid the Colonel $2 million
for his business. The Colonel also pocketed $40,000 a year from the
deal until his death. Brown and Massey are credited with instigating
the huge advertising campaign that drew the worlds attention to
On July 8, 1971, the two men sold KFC Corp. for $285 million to Heublein
Inc., a food and liquor conglomerate. Heublein Inc. was in turn acquired
by what is now RJR Nabisco Inc. in 1982, and then PepsiCo Inc. in 1986.
Today, there are more than 11,000 KFC restaurants in more than 80 countries
and territories around the world.
For more information or to view this private
collection, call Rogers at (502) 682-0707.
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