The Original Burger King is in Mattoon, Illinois
My son and I recently took a road trip down to Metropolis, Illinois for their annual Superman Festival. If you've ever made a north-south trip here in our state, maybe you stopped in Mattoon, a community of around 18,000 people in Coles County. Spencer and I did stop there ever-so-briefly on a beverage and bathroom run. Unfortunately for us, we chose a McDonalds for our pit-stop (nothing wrong with the Golden Arches, plus it was close to the highway) instead of America's first, and original, Burger King.
If you weren't already aware (and obviously, I wasn't), there's a Burger King in Mattoon. Sure, there are a bazillion Burger Kings to choose from in Illinois, but this one is different. The first thing you'll notice being different is the sign, which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the signs you're accustomed to seeing. That's because this Burger King has been in Mattoon, and has been called Burger King, since before the national chain even existed.
Business Insider explains:
This is the original Burger King, in Mattoon, Ill., which opened in 1957. Its name was registered as a trademark in Illinois a couple of years later by owners Gene and Betty Hoots. When a national company began opening a chain of Burger Kings across the U.S., the Hootses sued — and won. But only in Illinois. The case is a famous precedent in trademark law. The ruling prevents Burger King from opening any competing store with a 20 mile radius of the original in Mattoon.
According to Betty Hoots, Burger King once offered them $10,000 for the rights to open a Burger King within the 20 mile radius, but she and Gene turned them down flat.
Score one for the little guys in this world.
Here's a couple of people who were beside themselves with delight when they rolled up to Mattoon's original Burger King: