White Castle: 1950s to the Present

This is the second in a series of posts about the history of White Castle restaurants. Check in on Tuesday, February 3 to read fun facts about White Castle.

After World War II White Castle, which had been the only hamburger restaurant in some cities, faced growing competition from numerous chains. They stuck to their long time strategy – high quality hamburgers and coffee, cleanliness, good service, happy employees – and continued to succeed.

1950s

Exterior view of the first White Castle opened in Miami, Florida.

Exterior view of the first White Castle opened in Miami, Florida.

  • Fish sandwiches added to menu to boost sales during Lent
  • French fries, which first appeared during World War II, are permanently returned to the menu in 1959
  • Founder Billy Ingram retired to Miami, Florida in 1958
  • Several White Castles opened in Miami

1960s

  • Began using vegetable oil for fried foods
  • Cheeseburgers introduced in 1962
  • Founder Billy Ingram passed away in 1966; his son took over company
  • Miami, Florida restaurant locations are closed
Elevated view of White Castle restaurant in New York city.  It was called New York number 24 because it was the 24th White Castle restaurant opened in that city.

Elevated view of White Castle restaurant in New York city. It was called New York number 24 because it was the 24th White Castle restaurant opened in that city.

1970s

  • Beginning of drive- through service means the end of curb side service that had been offered since the 1930s
  • Third generation of Ingram family is leading the company
Exterior view of White Castle number 26 in Cincinnati, Ohio with a drive-through window.  It was called Cincinnati number 26 because it was the 26th White Castle restaurant opened in that city.

Exterior view of White Castle number 26 in Cincinnati, Ohio with a drive-through window. It was called Cincinnati number 26 because it was the 26th White Castle restaurant opened in that city.

1980s

  • Added breakfast sandwiches to menu in 1986
  • Introduced kids meals in 1987
  • Established WCDI, a division to sell frozen hamburgers in grocery stores
Exterior view of Cincinnati number 19 at night.  White Castle restaurants have always been known for being open late.

Exterior view of Cincinnati number 19 at night. White Castle restaurants have always been known for being open late.

1990s to the Present

  • Corporate headquarters is still in Columbus, Ohio
  • Company is still family run
  • Currently 392 restaurants in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin
  • Bacon cheeseburgers added in 1992

The Ohio History Connection Archives/Library has held the White Castle System, Inc. corporate records since 1995. They are available to the public for research in the Archives/Library Research Room, Wednesday through Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM. Things you can find in the corporate records include, but are not limited to:

Example of poster advertising to families from the White Castle archives.

Example of poster advertising to families from the White Castle archives.

  • Restaurant history files track when restaurants were opened and closed
  • Minutes of annual meeting minutes document corporate decisions
  • Company newsletters report milestones and information about employees
  • Product packages, advertising materials and photographs covering decades

A selection of photographs and posters from the White Castle records have been digitized. Click here to view the White Castle Digital Collection in our digital library, Ohio Memory.

Lisa Wood, Curator for Visual Resources

Sources of Information:

All This from a 5-cent Hamburger! The Story of the White Castle System by E.W. Ingram, Sr.

Selling ’em by the Sack, White Castle and the Creation of American Food by David Gerard Hogan

By the Sackful, A Scrapbook with Recipes from 85 Years of White Castle Craving edited by Nicki Pendleton Wood for White Castle Management Company

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