Update and correction: previously the title indicated you have to drive to Columbia or St. Louis for a White Castle location; Cape Girardeau was necessarily added.
Everything and everyone has a history, even a hamburger joint. I never caught on to the craze or the craving for the hamburger sliders by White Castle, but I can appreciate its history. It was founded over 101 years ago. Isn't that wild?
White Castle was founded on September 13, 1921, in Wichita, Kansas. It established itself as a hamburger chain restaurant having a strong presence in the Midwest and believe it or not, in the New York metro area too. It's been said that White Castle is the first fast-food hamburger chain. It was even around before Bob's Big Boy hamburger.
The chain was founded by Walter A. Anderson and Edgar Waldo "Billy" A. Ingram. In 1924, their business was incorporated and they called it the White Castle System of Eating Houses Corporation. The White Castle Pledge was "Serving the finest products, for the least cost, in the cleanest surroundings, with the most courteous personnel."
In 1929, White Castle was pricing its square hamburgers at 10 cents. You know, the sliders.
In 1921, Walt took Ingram on as a partner and with $700 they formed a new business which was soon to be named the White Castle System of Eating Houses with Walt as president and Billy as vice president. (Source.)
In 1932, a subsidiary named Paperlynen was established to create paper products for the restaurants including the hats to be worn by White Castle employees. Ingram decided the central office should be in the center of the distribution area, so the company moved to Columbus, Ohio. Restaurants in the two smallest-profit markets of Wichita and Omaha were closed.
In 1933, Anderson sold his interest in the company to Ingram. In the following year, the company moved to Columbus, Ohio. In 1949, to speed up cooking time, five holes were inserted in the hamburger patty which could eliminate flipping too.
By 1958, Ingram had retired to Miami, Florida (three White Castles were built there).
In 1966, Ingram died and his son, E.W. Ingram, Jr. took over as president. In 1977, E. W. Ingram III takes over as president.
The first drive-thru opened in Indianapolis. An established subsidiary called White Castle Distributing, Inc. began marketing frozen hamburgers to grocery stores. I counted 14 locations of White Castle in St. Louis, Missouri (the below picture is one of them on Broadway). I also found one in Columbia, Missouri.
In 2014, Time Magazine called the slider the most influential burger of all time.
In 2015, E. W. "Bill" Ingram III stepped down and his daughter, Lisa Ingram, became the next CEO of their company. Also that year, Veggie Sliders and dairy-free buns began the vegan option.
In the fall of 2019, Scottsdale, Arizona introduced its first White Castle. They also returned to Florida opening their largest location in Orlando.
There are no White Castles in Kansas City other than the freezer section at the grocery store. The White Castle that opened in Kansas didn't last too long.
Thanks for reading!
Comments / 53