In terms of late night cravings, White Castle is among the greats alongside Taco Bell, Cookout, and Krystal’s. Now you don’t have to wait for a late night with our White Castle Cassserole! In the famous word’s of two brave men, when it comes to white castle you want that feeling. The feeling that comes over a man when he gets exactly what he desires. You need that feeling. That’s what makes White Castle Casserole so great, you get a big helping serving of those signature sliders packed with that Yum Yum Get Ya Sum in every bite.
Our story begins in 1916 with a man named Walter (Walt) Anderson. Anderson was a known food cook, and was running food stands around Witichita, Kansas. This eventually led him to opening his first streetcar dinner around 1916. The diner’s business was successful enough to open a 2nd and 3rd location, and he was looking to open a 4th when he met Edgar Waldo “Billy'' Ingram. Ingram was an insurance and real–estate man, and the two hit it off well enough to decide to go into the business together.
The first White Castle was founded in March 1921 in Witichita. Anderson distinctly partnered with Ingram to make White Castle into a chain with the goal to market the brand with a distinctive product. The dynamic duo incorporated White Castle as a business in 1924 naming it the White Castle System of Eating Houses corporation. Anderson and Ingram only had $700 for the original location, and faced more than just monetary issues. During this time period, Americans had a general hesitancy to eat ground beef, largely due to Upton SInclair’s The Jungle.
If you’re unfamiliar, The Jungle is a novel about working-class poverty, harsh living and working conditions with a focus on the unsanitary conditions and health violations of the American meat-packing industry. Because of this, Anderson and Ingram had to change public perception of cleanliness. This battle for public perception began with the name of the chain itself, “White” was chosen to represent cleanliness, and “Castle” was to work as a symbol of strength. The stores were all compact with pearly white walls & floors with stainless steel amenities. Workers would wear spotless white uniforms much like a nurse’s uniform to further push the clean mentality. This proved successful as the first white castle locations were hugely popular. This led to the spread of White Castle out to other parts of Kansas in 1922.
From 1924 to 29, White Castle exteriors would be white enamel-glazed brick with interiors of enameled steel. Starting around 1936, the chain would switch to prefabricated white porcelain enamel on steel exteriors designed to resemble the Chicago Water Tower. While good for branding, the success of White Castle led to a lot of imitators. Many would copy this distinctive architecture alongside a play on the name with locations like “Little Kastle” or “King’s Castle”.
White Castle was a pioneer of fast food, and dared to journey into uncharted territory. This meant there was no defined industry infrastructure to support the business. This led to White Castle establishing a centralized network of bakeries, meat supply plants, and warehouses to supply the chain’s stores. Along this supply chain, Ingram would develop a device to produce paper hats for employees to wear as part of their uniform. By 1932, Ingram had established a subsidiary named Paperlynen to produce the hats and other paper products used in the White Castle chain for many other purposes.
By this time, distribution stretched from Wichita to New York. Ingram decided to close locations in smaller profit markets. Ironically, this included the original locations in Wichita and Omaha. By 1933, Anderson sold his half of the business to Ingram. In 1934, Ingram would go on to create another subsidiary named Porcelain Steel Buildings that manufactured moveable, prefabricated structures that could be assembled at any of its locations. This was ground breaking as they were among the first to use porcelain enamel as a material in interior and exterior panels.
The Ingram family would carry forth as the leading dynasty of White Castle for years to come with Ingram son E.W Ingram JR. and grandson E. W. Ingram the third working as heads of the company. Ingram Sr. would retire to Miami in 1958, and by 1959, White Castle would begin to expand into new markets for the first time since the 20s under Ingram Jr.’s leadership.
In 2023, there are about 345 White Castle locations. In comparison, there are over 14,000 McDonalds in the United States alone. This is largely due to McDonald’s functioning on franchising, while White Castle has been a private company and relied solely on company-owned stores. To this day, it is still privately held and almost every restaurant is company owned minus some in Asia. White Castle was a pioneer of Fast Food, and many chains owe their roots to this company’s innovations.