What you crave: The life of Walter Anderson

Friday, November 26th is the birthday of a Kansas man that changed the way we eat.

If you know me, you know that I don’t like hamburgers.  I never have, since I was a little kid.  I think it’s a textural thing.  There are two burgers that I don’t mind eating.  The Cozy Inn slider and the White Castle slider.  Most people in Wichita know that White Castle started in our fair city, but you might not know how important White Castle was to an unborn industry.

Courtesy Kansaspedia

Walter Anderson was born November 26, 1880, in St. Marys, Kansas. 

In 1916 Anderson began to sell hamburgers in Wichita, KS out of a remodeled streetcar at Douglas and Mead. Anderson’s greatest invention was said to have been an accident. One day he got so mad that his meatballs kept sticking to the grill… he smashed one with a spatula. Ta-daa, the flat patty was born. Within a short amount of time he was able to open up his own shop. 

This is an original White Castle. This picture has been used so many times I could not find proper ownership.

In 1921 Anderson joined forces with E.W. Ingram. Anderson’s fourth shop was the first to be named White Castle and it was designed with a nod towards the famous water tower in Chicago. It sat on the corner of 1st and Main in Wichita. It sold four items: hamburgers, Coca-Cola, coffee and apple pie.

Walter Anderson and E.W. Ingram

It was the first hamburger chain in the U.S.  They developed an assembly line styled kitchen. And in a time when many restaurants were dirty, they built a reputation for cleanliness.  Establishing company-wide standards that assured customers of a safe product and consistent service.  The white tile walls and table tops were used to display cleanliness and the kitchen was open so the public could see what was cooking.

Courtesy White Castle

Their chain is credited with many firsts including Anderson’s creation of the hamburger bun, using paper hats, and offering napkins.  They were also one of the first companies to offer health insurance to their employees.  One of their Cincinnati cooks came up with the idea of adding five holes to the patty to help it cook faster.

In 1933, Anderson sold his share of the business to Ingram.  Who moved the company to Columbus, OH in 1934.

I found this on pintrest, not sure who owns it.

Anderson continued to live in Wichita until his death on December 13, 1963.  Anderson was laid to rest at Old Mission Mausoleum.

In 2014, Time magazine declared the White Castle slider as the most influential burger of all time.  They credited White Castle with popularizing the hamburger.

From White Castle

Sadly, there are no White Castles in Wichita, or Kansas. The nearest White Castle is in Columbia, MO, a four and a half hour trip.

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