Little Known Black History Fact: The Coon Chicken Inn

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  • The Coon Chicken Inn was a chain of three restaurants founded by Maxon Lester Graham and Adelaide Burt in 1925 with $50.00. The Salt Lake City restaurant’s name, trademarks and entrances were designed to look like a smiling blackface picture of an African American porter. Driving up to The Coon Chicken Inn, you would see a large head with huge lips and a porter’s hat over the exaggerated features that portrayed African Americans as cartoon characters, not as humans. Customers would enter the restaurant through the sculpture’s mouth.

    The Coon Chicken Inn sold southern fried Coon Chicken sandwiches, and items like the Baby Coon Chicken special. African Americans were used as waiters, waitresses, and cooks but blacks weren’t always invited to frequent as customers. The restaurant had a dance floor. Sometime in early July, 1927, around 6 p.m., the restaurant caught fire. However, with the help of about 50 people, the Coon Chicken Inn re-opened within days.

    Owners Graham and Burt would open locations in Seattle and Portland with a cabaret and orchestra performing for customers. The Coon Chicken Inns ran until the late 1950′s when Maxon and Addie decided to keep the properties and lease out the buildings to other restaurant operators.

    Today, items featured at the Coon Chicken Inn restaurants are up for auction on the Black Memorabilia market.

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