As a kid who lived mere minutes from the town Wendy’s, I should’ve been thinking about things like, “What percentage of this chicken sandwich is actually chicken?” Instead, I always wondered what Wendy — the daughter of Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas and face of the burger chain — looked like in real life. Did she still look like that damn Pippi Longstocking? Is her hair really blood red? Also, why did some dude name his fast food joint after his daughter if he was going to be the only one starring in its commercials?
I don’t think I’m alone in my curiosity. Every day, millions of Americans frequent restaurant chains and grocery stores and wonder about the stories behind the food mascots that represent their favorite meals, munchies and desserts. It’s time America got some answers.
According to the Quaker Oats Company, the “Quaker Man” is not William Penn or Benjamin Franklin, but is known internally as “Larry” and is not based on a real person.
The name behind this famous breakfast brand is based on the song “Old Aunt Jemima,” written in 1875 by Billy Kersands. The Aunt Jemima character became a recognizable part of minstrel shows in the late 1800s and was later chosen to represent the products we know today.
Modeled after a Chicago restaurant manager named Frank Brown, Uncle Ben was used by Gordon L. Harwell, a former supplier to U.S. forces during WWII, in an effort to use a food brand mascot to create awareness for his product among the general public.
The name behind the Gerber baby is actually Ann Turner Cook, a retired teacher and mystery writer, whose portrait was depicted in a sketch drawn by a neighbor and entered into the Gerber logo contest in 1928.
Well-known food mascot Colonel Sanders is a close depiction of Harland Sanders, who began serving Kentucky Fried Chicken – now known simply as “KFC” – in 1930. Sanders remained the face of the brand even after selling the company to a group of investors, wearing his trademark white suit and string tie for the last 20 years of his life.
In 1938, a portly six-year-old, Glendale, California resident named Richard Woodruff walked into a diner owned by Bob Wian as Mr. Wian was in the process of naming his new hamburger. Upon seeing Richard, Bob greeted him with, “Hello, big boy.” The name stuck and soon the Big Boy character was born with help from Warner Bros. design artist Ben Washam.
Most people who have ever visited a Wendy’s restaurant know the burger chain was named after the daughter of founder Dave Thomas. Some even believe Wendy was Dave’s only child. What most don’t know, however, is that “Wendy” is actually a childhood nickname given to Melinda Lou Thomas (Morse) by her four siblings.