Retrotisements: The Early Days of Kentucky Fried Chicken

One of the many things that makes Kentucky Fried Chicken unique in fast food history is that its growth as a powerhouse franchise was not quite as direct as, say, McDonald’s. For one thing, the chain began not as a dedicated franchise location but rather as a menu of items out of a regular restaurant. In this case, KFC was essentially born in a pair of motels/restaurants in Asheville, North Carolina and Corbin, Kentucky. Colonel Harland Sanders, who owned both in the 1930s, rebuilt his Corbin location as a motel with a 140-seat restaurant after a fire struck in late 1939.

Here is a June 1940 newspaper ad for the Sanders Court & Café, published in the Asheville Citizen Times. Note how there is no reference to chicken:

June 1940 newspaper ad for the Sanders Court & Café (Kentucky Fried Chicken)

The first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise opened on September 24, 1952 in Salt Lake City, Utah. But in the first several years of KFC’s franchise operations, it was not comprised solely of standalone buildings. Rather, what happened was that Col. Sanders licensed the right to sell chicken with the KFC brand and recipe to individual restaurants. Here are a few examples of how that looked in advertisements, starting with a March 1955 ad for the Ross Inn in the Cumberland, Indiana area. Take note of the first nationwide KFC logo:

March 1955 ad for the Ross Inn in the Cumberland, Indiana area, selling Kentucky Fried Chicken

Come meet Colonel Sanders!

Here’s a 1956 ad for The Huddle restaurant with some wonderful ad copy featuring “The Story of Kentucky Fried Chicken” from Lafayette, Indiana:

1956 Kentucky Fried Chicken ad

And here’s a 1958 Tillman’s Plaza ad featuring KFC’s famous tagline, “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good”:

1958 Tillman's Plaza ad featuring KFC's famous tagline, "It's Finger Lickin' Good"

Lastly, here’s a slightly grainy but great 1957 ad from KFC ground zero — Salt Lake City. It’s one of the first ads I’ve seen to prominently feature one of the iconic brand elements of KFC, the striped bucket. The Harman Cafe was owend by Pete Harman, who was the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchisee. Harman worked with Colonel Sanders to develop and prepare the KFC system for franchising, working to develop training manuals and product guides. His other claims to fame are the development of the bucket packaging and the emphasis on the “Finger-lickin’ good” motto.

1957 Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)/Harman Cafe ad

Retrotisements — A Year in the Life (1967)

In past ad galleries I’ve typically stuck with a particular theme or product, such as holiday-themed ads or new car lineups. I’m going to try something new and product an ad gallery from a single year, covering a wide range or products and services. Basically, a sort of visual shorthand to see what someone would’ve seen in print or TV ads in a particular year. Think of this as a virtual department store of sorts.

For the first edition I thought I’d travel back exactly 50 years to 1967. Let’s browse!


1967 Chrysler ad

1967 Chrysler

1967 Chevrolet Chevelle ad

1967 Chevrolet Chevelle

Consumer Electronics

1967 Kodak Instamatic ad

Kodak Instamatic

1967 Westclox ad


1967 Automatic Royal ad

Automatic Royal


The Dirty Dozen ad

The Dirty Dozen

1967 Jimi Hendrix Purple Haze ad

“Purple Haze” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience


1967 Arrow ad


1967 Career Club Shirts ad

Career Club

Food and Beverage

1967 Nabisco Snackmate ad

Nabisco Snack Mate

1967 Michelob ad


1967 7Up ad


1967 Arby's ad


Health and Beauty

1967 Maybelline ad


1967 Alka-Seltzer ad


1967 Lustre Creme ad

Lustre Creme

Household Goods

1967 One-Step Floor Care ad

One-Step Floor Care

1967 Dash ad


1967 Admiral Duplex ad

Admiral Duplex


1967 Best Western ad

Best Western

Hawaii ad 1967

Hawaii via Pan Am and American Airlines

1967 Pan Am ad

Pan Am


Logo Evolution: Taco Bell

Taco Bell was founded in 1962 by Glen Bell, who had owned hot dog stands and other taco stands as far back as 1946. The first Taco-Tia stands opened in the early ’50s and were the forerunner of Taco Bell. The first Taco Bell opened in Downey, California on March 21, 1962, and today the franchise boasts over 7,000 locations.

As with any of my other logo capsules, dates may not be totally accurate. As is often the case with logos, older logos can stick around in advertising and building design for a while after their official expiration dates.


Taco Bell logo: 1962-1972

Taco Bell logo and sign: 1962-1972

The original Taco Bell logo design had two separate elements — there was a colorful, blocky wordmark and a festive sombrero/bell sign. This was in widespread use for the first decade of Taco Bell’s existence. Despite its first use in the 1960s, the original Taco Bell retains a decidedly 1950s aesthetic. It’s the most fun logo the company used, although lacking any kind of sophistication.

Here’s a great example of the logo (albeit in black and white) along with some other imagery that would probably not fly today, from a 1968 newspaper ad:

1968 Taco Bell newspaper ad

The Taco Bell Five!


Taco Bell logo - 1972-85

Taco Bell flew headlong into the earth tones of the 1970s with this update. Not much to say about this one.


Taco Bell logo - 1984-1994

Hmm, now I can’t decide if the original logo is my favorite or if this one is. Anyway, the intent of this redesign was to help the chain become more mainstream yet not become so Americanized as to lose its ethnic identity. Another part of this marketing blitz involved a glassware giveaway tie-in with Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, as Burger King had done with Star Wars movies in previous years.


Taco Bell logo (1992-94)

The 1990s finally came to Taco Bell with this logo, which was rolled out around 1992 and used, among other places, on the chain’s Taco Bell at Home line of prepackaged foods. It also was a sneak preview of things to come.


Taco Bell logo - 1995-present

Yeah, not feeling this one. Never liked it or the color scheme at all.


Taco Bell logo (2016-present)

The newest Taco Bell logo was unveiled to coincide with the opening of its flagship restaurant in Las Vegas. Which is kind of strange when you think about it, as this logo is minimalist in the extreme and not loud or gaudy at all. Let’s just say I don’t care for it any more than the previous one. Oh well, that’s progress I suppose.

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McDonald's Filet Fish card, 1967

The Secret of McDonald’s’ Success? Not Hiring Women

Ray Kroc 1959 quote on McDonald's not hiring womenI know it’s kind of a cheap tactic to hold someone accountable for views they held decades ago, when society was very different, but I did a double-take when I read a quote from McDonald’s patriarch Ray Kroc.

Kroc, in an Associated Press interview published in several papers on September 15, 1959, cited several factors as to why McDonald’s was such a runaway success.

There were economic considerations such as a simplified menu and no in-store dining, but Kroc also seemed to focus on the type of image the chain should portray and the type of people they wanted working and dining.

In Kroc’s own words:

“We don’t allow juke boxes, cigarette machines or phone booths — and we don’t hire female help,” he said.

“In picking a site we count the churches and schools in the area, rather than the traffic. We appeal to a family trade, not transients. We want to become a real part of the community.”

So take note, transients and females, you should most definitely not bother looking for the Golden Arches.

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45 Years of Selling the McDonald’s Big Mac

Although it was invented in 1967 by McDonald’s Uniontown, Pennsylvania franchise owner Jim Delligatti, the Big Mac didn’t enter the national consciousness until 1968. That was the year McDonald’s added the sandwich — originally dubbed the Blue Ribbon Burger and the Aristocrat — to its national menu.

In doing some quick research into how the Big Mac was marketed, I found what I believe to be the oldest national print advertisement for it. It ran in the March 14, 1969 issue of Life magazine and looked like this (click for a larger version):

McDonald's Big Mac ad (1969)

So unless someone has information that says otherwise, I consider this month to mark the 45th anniversary of Big Mac advertising in America. Here’s a TV ad that ran around the same time (the uploader says it’s from 1967 but I doubt it very much). Gotta love that crisp, fraish lettuce.

Unfortunately I can’t make out the copyright date on this ad, if there is one, so it’s possible that this does predate the print ad above. If anyone knows differently than what I’ve typed here, please let me know in the comments.

McDonald's ad, 1964

Let’s Look At Some Vintage 1960s McDonald’s Advertisements

McDonald's ad, 1961

So I’m cruising through eBay looking for more vintage ads to share, and I happened upon a group of excellent ones from the early-to-mid 1960s. They’re not flashy by any means, but they offer just a little slice of Mickey D’s life from the Kennedy era and beyond.

Most importantly, all of these black-and-white print ads feature vintage McDonald’s branding and building designs as seen in my post detailing the history of some fast food logos, so it should come as no surprise that I had to share these.

First up are four ads printed throughout 1961 in the Cincinnati Enquirer. All but one feature the classic mid-century arch building design, and we even get an appearance from Speedee! (Click on any ad to be taken to a full-size version on my Flickr page.)

McDonald's ad (Cincinnati Enquirier, 1961)

A free bagpipe band concert! How cool is that? I doubt you’d ever see something like that now.

McDonald's ad (Cincinnati Enquirier, 1961)

McDonald's ad (Cincinnati Enquirier, 1961)

McDonald's ad (Cincinnati Enquirier, 1961)

The “All American” was basically an early version of a combo meal. 45 cents in 1961 is worth about $3.51 these days, so the current price is actually comparable.

McDonald's ad, 1964


Here you can see the original Golden Arches logo, which debuted in 1962. The architecture of the restaurants had not changed much at all.

McDonald's ad, 1965


The Filet-O-Fish was invented in Cincinnati in 1962, and rolled out nationwide in 1965. I like the little nautical twist on the McDonald’s logo in this ad.

McDonald's ad, 1967


I wish I knew who “Lonesome” George was, but when I do a Google search all I get are hits on that Galapagos tortoise who died last year.

1960s Burger King Logo Sign in Charleston, South Carolina

Great Photo of a Vintage 1960s Burger King Sign in the Wild

I stumbled across this interesting black and white photo on eBay. It depicts what is otherwise a pretty ordinary street scene in North Charleston, South Carolina in the 1960s. But look closer, and you’ll see what caught my eye:

1960s Burger King Logo Sign in North Charleston, South Carolina

Yes sir, that is indeed a vintage Burger King sign on the right. Now if you recall from my fast food burger chain logo gallery, the king on top of the burger BK logo was in use from roughly 1957 through 1969. Given the look of some of the cars in the picture, however, I’m going to peg this from the mid-to-late ’60s period. If only this were a color photo, that would be oh so sweet. But still, it’s pretty cool.

Dick's Drive-In Hamburgers, Seattle 1955

Vintage Photo Wednesday, Vol. 34: Dick’s Drive-In, Seattle, 1955

Courtesy the Seattle Municipal Archives Flickr feed, here’s a neat shot of a rather ordinary scene. It’s Dick’s Drive-In Hamburgers on Broadway East. This was taken in 1955, not long after this location opened. Dick’s started right around the same period that McDonald’s started to take off with their franchise model.

Click for a larger version.

Dick's Drive-In Hamburgers, Seattle 1955

This location is still open today, and it certainly doesn’t appear as if things have changed all that much. There are more trees and the prices are higher, of course, but you can’t expect hand-dipped malts to cost 21 cents forever.

Dick's Drive-In Hamburgers, Seattle 2013

1960s Hardees logo

The Evolution of Fast Food Burger Chain Logos: The Video

I just had so much gosh darn fun putting together my retrospective of fast food burger chain logos that I decided to turn it into a YouTube slideshow. Because some people just love slideshows. And as a special bonus I included audio extracts from vintage TV ads for some of the chains, like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Dairy Queen, Arby’s, Sonic, Jack in the Box, Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., and Checkers/Rally’s.