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New Kansas museum explains how, with a recipe written on a napkin, two brothers began the first Pizza Hut

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A lone table and four chairs inside the original Pizza Hut are reminiscent of the chain’s vintage look 60 years ago. The tiny eatery in Wichita, Kan., launched the brand.
(WSU Foundation)

People hungry for a trip down memory lane can now visit the first Pizza Hut, which opened 60 years ago in Wichita, Kan.

The original, 500-square-foot restaurant has been converted into a museum on the Wichita State University’s Innovation Campus.

The Pizza Hut Museum opened to the public Monday.

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A child's pizza oven and branded cooking utensils are among the memorabilia on display at the Pizza Hut Museum in Wichita, Kan.
(WSU Foundation )
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“It had a table, a counter and an oven,” Keith Pickus, vice-president of the university’s foundation, said of the small brick building with its original sign still hanging above the door.

Brothers Dan and Frank Carney, both university students, chose the two-word, eight-letter name because nothing longer would fit on the sign, which was sponsored by Pepsi, Pickus said.

The brothers greeted their first customers June 15, 1958.

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The world's first Pizza Hut, now located on the campus of Wichita State University, has opened as a museum that highlights the founding brothers' role as entrepreneurs.
(WSU Foundation )

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“They borrowed $600 from their mother to open this Pizza Hut,” Pickus said. “These were the guys who became the initial franchisees. They would literally write agreements on napkins.”

A napkin on which the original sauce recipe was written is one of the many artifacts on display. It included celery, garlic, green pepper, onion and, of course, tomatoes.

“That’s my writing,” Dan Carney, now in his 80s, told the Wichita Eagle during a visit last week. “I think this would tweak old-time memories about how we started and … how rough it was.”

Also on display are various memorabilia highlighting the history of the pizza chain, which now has 16,000 stores worldwide. They include branded kitchen utensils and toys such as a miniature pizza oven. Video stations explain the history of Pizza Hut’s early years.

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The 1958 sign from the original Pizza Hut still hangs above the door.
(Visit Wichita )

The Carneys sold the chain to PepsiCo in 1977 for $300 million. Pizza Hut is now part of Yum! Brands, which is headquartered in Louisville, Ky.

Museum admission is free. It is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and Fridays and noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays when school is in session. There will be reduced hours during the summer.

University students serve as docents. “We’re looking to leverage the entrepreneurial heritage of Wichita,” Pickus said.

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People hungry for a slice of pie can find one at any of 17 Pizza Hut locations in Wichita. There are 22 in Los Angeles.

White Castle, an early fast-food contender in 1921, also was founded in Wichita. However the chain, famous for its small, square hamburgers, no longer has a location in town.

Info: The Pizza Hut Museum

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