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It’s been over 90 years since Burger King cofounder David Edgerton was born at the Lebanon Sanatorium, but the recent rebranding of the fast food chain prompted LebTown to take a brief look back at the few roots he had in the city.
As reported by CNN earlier this month, the fast food chain is getting a new logo as well as a new look for its restaurant locations. Edgerton bought the small business that would become the chain way back in 1954, but his story begins earlier than that.
David R. Edgerton Jr. was born in Lebanon to David Edgerton and Blanche Berger on May 26, 1927. Edgerton Sr. was a native of Haverford and is often described as an “itinerant hotel operator;” however, in the city he had been working at the Lebanon Steel Foundry. Berger was a popular local violinist; according to the Lebanon Daily News article announcing her engagement in 1925, she had traveled and played professionally around the country. She was a 1919 graduate of Lebanon High School and the daughter of a family on South 9th Street.
The Edgertons moved to Kutztown prior to David’s birth, and later to a Chicago suburb, where David grew up after years of moving from town to town. He studied hotel administration at Cornell University for two years, but dropped out and subsequently attended (and dropped out of) Northwestern University. After working in various jobs, Edgerton found himself in Florida, where, along with James McLamore, he developed the business that would become Burger King.
Edgerton had purchased a small burger shop, Insta Burger King, in 1954 and partnered with McLamore shortly afterwards. Before the two sold the franchise in 1967, they had already managed to open up hundreds of locations in 20 states.
McLamore’s 1998 autobiography sheds some light on Edgerton’s character. According to McLamore, Edgerton was a “highly creative and extraordinarily bright person” who was “predisposed to think mostly in conceptual terms.” He was never much concerned with details, particularly financial ones, McLamore claimed — Edgerton’s early estimates of high profits were formulated from disorganized papers that actually showed the opposite.
Edgerton is credited with introducing the franchise’s broiler technology after witnessing the shop’s broiler break down and declaring that he could build a better one. Before his death in 2018, he also told the New York Times that he named the Whopper, the signature burger conceived in 1957, and drew the first “king” for the company logo.
The first Burger King in Lebanon opened in the summer of 1970 at 2040 Cumberland Street and is still open today. Like the franchise he created, Edgerton belonged to many cities over the years — but only one can claim to be his birthplace.
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