Have you heard about the Coon Chicken Inn? The Coon Chicken Inn was a fried-chicken restaurant chain located on the Old Bothell Highway on the outskirts of the Seattle city limits, which today is the Lake City neighborhood.
Maxon Lester Graham and his wife Adelaide founded the Coon Chicken Inn in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1925. The early success of this location prompted the opening of two additional chains in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington in the early 1930s. The patrons and employees of the Coon Chicken Inn chains were predominantly white, though African-Americans were hired to work in the kitchen of the Salt Lake City branch.
The restaurant opened its doors and was famous for its logo of a “Coon,” or a racist caricature of a black male. The restaurant’s “Coon” logo wore a porter’s uniform. The face was complete with a winking left eye and enlarged red lips forever gaping to expose the words “Coon Chicken Inn” etched on the rows of shining white teeth. Not only was the racist caricature the logo of the restaurant, it was on every dish, silverware piece, menu, and matchbook. The doors of the Coon Chicken Inn’s delivery car were plastered with the “Coon” logo and the entrance to the restaurant itself featured a 12-foot-high “Coon head” by which patrons would enter the restaurant through a door in the head’s mouth and chin. Despite protests from Black communities, the restaurant remained open until late 1949.
In March 1937 the bartenders, cooks, waiters, and waitresses Union (BCWW) and the musicians union orchestrated a joint labor protest against the Coon Chicken Inn. The groups spent a week picketing the restaurant and holding signs which read “Unfair.” They protested against the restaurant’s treatment of organized labor and demanded that the Coon Chicken Inn be completely unionized.
The Coon Chicken Inn remained open until late 1949, when Lester Graham removed the “Coon head” from public view and closed the restaurant’s doors.