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Fast Food Giveaways

White Castle mug

These fast food trinkets were promotional giveaways at restaurant chains with Kansas roots.

Kansas has played a role in the development of the fast food industry. Many historians have pointed out that Harvey House restaurants along the routes of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway comprised the first restaurant chain in the United States, and the Harvey Houses are one of the first examples of food served fast.

Several regional fast food chains started in Kansas, and two of them have grown to national importance. Both began in Wichita:  White Castle in 1921 and Pizza Hut in 1958.

White Castle

The grill of itinerant fry cook Walter Anderson was the birthplace of White Castle.  Anderson operated his own hamburger shop in Wichita. In May 1921, Anderson teamed up with local businessman E.W. "Billy" Ingram who provided the capital.  They opened the first White Castle restaurant, planning from the start that it would be the first of many. White Castle quickly expanded beyond Wichita. While it never became a truly national chain, White Castle operated hamburger shops in several major cities. Limiting the menu largely to hamburgers and beverages allowed the chain to focus on doing a few things well.

This White Castle mug, probably dating from the 1930s, was acquired by the Kansas Museum of History to document the firm's early roots in the state. Ironically, White Castle closed its original stores in Kansas in 1938. It attempted a failed return to the Kansas City area in the 1990s. White Castle does not currently operate in the state of Kansas.

Pizza Hut Pete bank

Pizza Hut

Brothers Frank and Dan Carney took advantage of the "pizza craze" sweeping the country by opening the first Pizza Hut in Wichita on June 15, 1958. A year later the first franchise opened in Topeka, and the move to become a national chain was on.

One of the first symbols of the company was "Pizza Hut Pete," shown here in the form of a bank that was a promotional giveaway to customers. "Pete" was used by the company into the mid-1970s, when the familiar red roof logo began to appear. "Pete" might have outlived his usefulness, or perhaps he was seen as too much of an Italian stereotype to be an effective image for the company. This bank was acquired by the Kansas Museum of History in 1989.

Entry: Fast Food Giveaways

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2003

Date Modified: June 2016

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.