SELLING 'EM BY THE SACK by David Gerard Hogan


White Castle and the Creation of American Food
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 A scholar's lively account of how White Castle, now a largely overlooked but still profitable also-ran in the domestic restaurant trade, made the once-scorned hamburger a US institution and launched the fast-food industry. Drawing on a variety of sources, historian Hogan (Heidelberg Coll.) first reviews the ethnic and regional character of America's food preferences prior to the 1920s. He goes on to document the accomplishments of the two men who founded White Castle late in 1921 in Wichita, Kans.: Walt Anderson, inventor of the hamburger, and Billy Ingram, whose marketing genius helped make Anderson's creation a staple of American diets. On the strength of standardization, quality control, a commitment to cleanliness, and conservative financial practices, they soon had a lucrative national network of faux-citadel outlets vending tiny ground-meat patties served with an abundance of pungent onions on diminutive buns for a nickel apiece; enjoining customers to ``buy em by the sack,'' the partners also pioneered the take-out business. Although it survived the Great Depression in fine style, White Castle was hard hit by WW II's home-front price controls, shortages, and restrictions. Having staggered through the 1940s, however, the company retained its fanatically loyal clientele in the cities while formidable new rivals (Big Boy, Gino's, Hardee's, Howard Johnson, McDonald's, et al.) preempted fast-growing suburban markets. Although no longer a leader in the field of franchising giants it helped create, White Tower occupies a rewarding niche that, thanks to effective management practices, promises to provide worthwhile returns for years to come. Informed and engaging perspectives on an often ignored aspect of cultural and commercial Americana. The 20 illustrations include contemporary photos of White Castle outlets and the company's early advertisements.

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 1997
ISBN: 0-8147-3566-5
Page count: 230pp
Publisher: New York Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997


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