Guide to the Coon Chicken Inn Records and Graham Family Papers

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.1153
Creators:
Graham, Adelaide
Dates:
1914 - 1973
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
2 cubic feet
6 boxes
Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
The collection consists of materials relating to the creation and operation of the restaurant chain known as the Coon Chicken Inn.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of materials collected by Maxon L. Graham, the founder and operator of Coon Chicken Inn. The restaurants were located in Salt Lake City, Utah; Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon and operated from the 1920s into the 1950s. There were materials in a loose leaf notebook consisting of personal papers, business ephemera and photographs. These materials are arranged by type. For preservation purposes the scrapbooks were dismantled and the covers and pages were placed in folders while still maintaining the original order.
Series 1, Coon Chicken Inn Business Records, 1926-1948; undated, consists of agreements, bills, checks, contracts, receipts, promotional materials and other business ephemera. There are also menus, matchbooks, postcards, placemats, table cards, sales checks, and recipes. The materials are arranged in chronological order.
Series 2, Maxon L. Graham Personal Papers, 1933-1942; undated, relates primarily to his professional activities and gun collection. The materials are arranged in chronological order. Series 3, Photographs, 1925-1930s; undated, primarily documents interior, exterior, and aerial views of Coon Chicken Inns in Salt Lake City, Utah; Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. There is also a photograph of Mr. Graham's gun collection and an unidentified group.
Series 4, Scrapbooks, 1917-1973, includes, two scrapbooks created to document the Coon Chicken Inn restaurants and the Graham family. Scrapbook One, 1917-1941; undated, includes a front cover, thirty eight loose sheets, seventy six pages and a back cover. The materials in this scrapbook are not arranged in any particular order and consist of menus, table cards, business cards, advertisements, brochures, photographs, newspaper clippings and publications. Some pages have small objects attached to them, including meal tokens, a belt buckle and a pointing hand. Materials relating to the Graham family include Maxon Graham's draft card, a wedding announcement and photographs of their homes. In addition there is an autographed photograph of entertainer Webb Holmes. The pages are numbered and divided into folders in the original order.
Scrapbook Two 1914-1973; undated, includes a front cover, thirty six loose sheets seventy two pages and a back cover. Materials in this scrapbook are not arranged in any particular order and consist of menus, table cards, checks, a survey for a building lot, advertisements, annual reports, a liquor permit, photographs of restaurant staff, newspaper clippings and publications. Personal materials relating to the Graham family include an obituary for Adelaide Graham, articles about the purchase of a private residence, realtor's advertisement for new home, a telegram about a party, M. L. Graham's international driver's license, Christmas cards and M.L. Graham's high school report card. The pages are numbered and divided into folders in the original order.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into four series.
Series 1, Coon Chicken Inn Business Records, 1926-1948; undated
Series 2, Maxon L. Graham Personal Papers, 1933-1942; undated
Series 3, Photographs, 1925-1930s; undated
Series 4, Scrapbooks, 1917-1973; undated

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Coon Chicken Inn was founded in Salt Lake City, Utah, by Maxon Lester Graham and his wife Adelaide Burt Graham. At only sixteen years of age, Mr. Graham was already an established businessman, having secured the ownership of a Metz automobile dealership in 1913. Newly married and in possession of both an easily-prepared fried chicken recipe and two thousand dollars from a recent business deal, the couple went into the restaurant business and opened the first Coon Chicken Inn in 1925. Initially it was a simple lunch counter that served hamburgers, chili, sandwiches, cakes, pies and their signature "southern fried Coon Chicken sandwich." The chicken was a big hit. The restaurant expanded after a 1927 fire, completely rebuilding on a larger scale. In 1929, the Grahams opened another Coon Chicken Inn in Seattle, Washington. The couple moved to Seattle, retaining the Salt Lake City restaurant. Business boomed, and a cabaret, dance floor, and orchestra were added to both restaurants along with larger dining rooms and delivery trucks for catering. In 1930, a third restaurant opened in Portland, Oregon. The Grahams operated their small chain successfully into the 1950s, when they closed the restaurants and leased out the properties.
This small restaurant chain is memorable, unfortunately, because of the image the Grahams choose as the logo, sign, and symbol to distinguish their establishments¬--a round, toothy, grinning face of an African American man wearing a porter's cap and a winking eye. The mouth of this huge head formed the entrance to the restaurants; customers literally walked in through the gaping mouth. According to an account written by Scott Farrar, the Graham's grandson, his grandfather decided "if a gimmick were added for the children it would help bring in the parents." The image appeared on every menu, napkin, utensil, and dish used in the restaurants; the Grahams may have seen the grinning face as representing persons skilled in the art of "southern" cooking, a highly-regarded cuisine until then virtually unavailable in Utah and the Pacific Northwest. Today, Coon Chicken Inn artifacts and other stereotypical images of African Americans are highly collectible items.
See website: http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/links/chicken/ for more information about Coon Chicken Inn.

Administration
Processing Information
Processed by Anne Jones (volunteer), 2010; supervised by Vanessa Broussard Simmons, archivist.
Author
Anne Jones
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was purchased by the Museum from Maxon and Adelaide Graham's grandson in 2009.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Preferred Citation
Coon Chicken Inn Records and Graham Family Papers, 1913-1973, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
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