AKA Walter L. Anderson
Birthplace: St. Mary's, KS
Location of death: Eastborough, KS
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Old Mission Cemetery, Wichita KS
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Co-Founder of White Castle
Walt Anderson was a short-order cook who opened his own hamburger stand in 1916, in a converted streetcar at the corner of Douglas and Mead Streets in Wichita. Anderson's hamburger stand was hardly different from others of its era, with one exception -- he had developed a quick, reliable method of making hamburgers all very much the same, by forming a small ball of ground meat, flattening it, and cooking it atop onions. As a result, at Anderson's stand the burgers were reliably of the same quality regardless of which cook was on duty. Sales were brisk enough that Anderson opened two more locations in Wichita, both times dealing with real estate agent Billy Ingram, who became intrigued at Anderson's success and eventually became his business partner.
After Upton Sinclair's stunning 1906 exposé of the meatpacking industry, The Jungle, hamburgers were widely seen as not merely a low-class food, but somewhat dangerous. So when Anderson and Ingram opened their first joint venture in 1921 at 110 W 1st Street in Wichita, they designed the building to convey cleanliness above all else. Customers had a clear view of the kitchen, and the building was glistening white, befitting the new name suggested by Ingram — White Castle.
In 1924 the business was incorporated as the White Castle System of Eating Houses Corporation. During the Great Depression the chain had several innovations, including use of frozen hamburger patties, discount coupons, newspaper advertisements, offering kitchen tours, and wrapping burgers in paper cartons. Anderson retired in the early 1930s, selling his share of the company to Ingram, and died in 1963. The chain is still entirely owned by Ingram's descendants, with no franchise operations.
Wife: Martha Anderson
White Castle Co-Founder (1921-33)
Kansas Business Hall of Fame
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