The Amazing Kewpee Burger


A burger a day keeps the doctor away!

I know … an apple a day is probably a better choice; but this is the month to celebrate America’s most beloved sandwich – because it’s National Hamburger Month! National Hamburger Day is May 28, not to be confused with National Cheeseburger Day, which is celebrated in September.

The history of the hamburger goes back many years. Here in Flint, the oldest and most famous burger was the Kewpee Hotel Kewpee Burger. The fast food chain originated in Flint and was founded by Samuel Blair in 1923. Named after the Kewpie doll – a brand of dolls and figurines initially conceived as comic strip characters by artist and writer, Rose O’Neill, back in the early 1900s – Kewpee Burger is said to be the first chain to introduce curbside food service.

According to, the company served the Kewpee Burger out of a box-car style wagon on Harrison Street in Downtown Flint in what became one of the world’s oldest hamburger chains, second only to White Castle, founded in 1921. The world’s first “deluxe” hamburger was created there – a fresh beef patty, pressed on a searing hot grill to give it just the right amount of char – topped with fresh-cut tomatoes, lettuce and mayonnaise. claims that Samuel Blair died in 1945 and licensees continued to lease their locations and paid royalties for use of the Kewpee name from Blair’s estate until the Kewpee trademark went up for sale in 1955. Kewpee remained under control of Blair’s estate until the 1950s. The estate sold the trademark in 1955 and put the estate-owned Kewpee Burger restaurants up for sale. In 1958, the original location (in Flint) and rights to the Kewpee Burger went to Halo Burger Founder, Bill Thomas. The trademark went to Ed F. Adams’s Kewpee Hotels Partnership of Toledo, Ohio.

When Thomas purchased the Kewpee outlet from Blair’s estate, the name was changed to Halo Burger because someone else owned the trademark. Halo Burger continues to serve that same high standard of food and is known worldwide for its delicious Olive Burger. There are still Kewpee Burger restaurants in business today; Harry Shutt owns Kewpee Inc., and the chain includes five locations – three in Lima, OH, one in Racine, WI and one in Lansing, MI.

Hamburgers continue to be one of the world’s most favorite food creations. You can celebrate National Hamburger month by visiting your favorite local burger joint or chain, fire up the grill, or flip a couple patties in a frying pan. Yes, everybody loves hamburgers! And in the words of cartoon Popeye the Sailor Man’s mooching friend, J. Wellington Wimpy, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

  • The word hamburger evolved from “Hamburg steak,” a cut of beef that originated in Hamburg, Germany.
  • During World War I, the U.S. Government tried to re-name the hamburger to “Liberty Sandwich.”
  • White Castle is the oldest hamburger chain, founded in 1921. Their first burger sold for a nickel.
  • In 1968, McDonald’s introduced the Big Mac, selling for 49 cents.
  • Americans consume 13 billion burgers a year (three per week on average), enough to circle the earth 32 times.
  • PETA once offered the town of Hamburg, NY $15,000 to change their name to Veggieburg.
  • The Hamburger Hall of Fame is located in Seymour, WI.


According to an excerpt from Gary’s Flinn’s book, Remembering Flint, the word “hotel” was dropped from the Kewpee restaurant’s name to avoid confusion by customers who assumed the business offered lodging rather than burgers. Owner Samuel Blair was nicknamed “Old Man Kewpee.” Why the eateries were called “hotels” is a lost mystery.

Kewpee Burgers were served out of a box-car style wagon on Harrison St. in Downtown Flint in what became one of the world’s oldest hamburger chains.

The Halo Q.P. (originally “Kewpee”) is a short-form reference to the quarter-pound patty size.




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