While perusing the “Roster of Notables” buried at Maple Grove Cemetery I stumbled on William Dye, “Chili King of the West.” I had to investigate. I found plenty of info but no pictures. Shout out to Mike Maxton for his excellent help in finding some photos of Mr. Dye.
William Dye was born on March 2, 1877.
At age 11, he moved with his family to Wichita.
William married Claudia Lola McCoy on January 12, 1904 at the bride’s home.
They had one son, Hubert Dye.
William began a grocery business on East Douglas in 1898. He continued until 1907. That’s when he began supplying peppers, spices and seasonings to vendors who sold Mexican food to railroad workers.
Dye told the Wichita Eagle in 1918, “he learned how the dish was prepared and he perfected a chili mixture made of chili peppers, spices and condiments, that is put up in concentrated powder form and used in the making of all chili products.”
In 1908 the chili factory was on the SW corner of Washington and Douglas.
The W. A. Dye Chili Company sold imported spices and peppers. Dye is often credited as the creator of an Americanized version of chili. By 1918, 40 of the 45 chili parlors in Wichita used his mixture. It was said that ninety percent of the spice dealers in the Southwest U.S. handled his mix.
Dye’s Chile Mixture and Jobber of Mexican Chile’s plant moved to 120 N. Mosley in 1923.
The W.A. Dye Chili Building was designed by Glenn Thomas, who also designed the Minisa Bridge and North High. The factory was known as “the chili center for the western half of the United States.”
By 1927, Dye was known as the “Chili King of the West” and was selling his mixes around the world. He employed 10 people and told the Eagle his business made about $100,000 a year.
“Juan the Chili Kid” was Dye’s company mascot. Dye created many of his company’s sales slogans and jingles.
He was also one of the founders of Grace Presbyterian Church in Wichita.
Claudia passed away on December 15, 1950.
William passed away on October 7, 1972. He was 95 years old.
William and Claudia are interred at Maple Grove Cemetery.
Mr. Dye is included in an exhibit in Old Town which covers the history of the district.
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