FOOD HISTORY: White Castle

In 1916, Walter Anderson, a fry cook living in Witchita, KS develped a unique way of preparing small hamburgers by cooking them on one side, 'flipping' them, adding shredded onions on top and placing both halves of the buns he developed over the sizzling meat. The bun he developed was made from dough that was heavier than ordinary bread dough which allowed the aroma and juices of the cooking meat to permeate the bun and provide a unique taste and texture to his hamburgers. Soon thereafter, Anderson used his savings to buy a trolley car which became a diner in which he featured his hamburgers. While hamburgers were not very popular at that time, due in large part to the publication of Upton Sincliar's 1908 book, "The Jungle" which described the extremely dirty and unsanitary conditions that were common in the slaughterhouses of that day, the businessman Bill Ingram saw the future potential for hamburgers prepared in the Anderson manner. Ingram and Anderson became partners and Ingram financed the expansion of Anderson's restaurants across the U.S. Their first joint venture, which opened in 1921, was in a building designed to convey cleanliness and sanitation, above all else. The building was gleaming white, the customers could view the cooking process and they would be served by "the most courteous personnel" dressed in clean uniforms with caps covering their hair. The name "White Castle" was chosen for the new white buildings - White, to denote purity and "Castle" to suggest strength, stability and permenance.White Castle  became the first fast food hamburger chain, the first to sell over one billiion burgers and the first to sell hamburgers made from frozen beef.  In 1933, Anderson sold his interest in the company to Ingram. The use of the "five hole' hamburger, familiar to all today, was introduced in 1949 to reduce the cooking time and to avoid having to "flip" the burger. The chain still is owned by members of the Ingram family and the company's headquarters are now located in Columbus, OH. Curiously, no White Castles exist in Kansas today. Kansans have to leave their state to get the famous fast food that originated in one of their own cities.