The History of and Story Behind Whataburger Logo


The Dobson family ranked #103 among America’s Richest Families in 2015 with a $2.6 billion net worth. This amount of wealth would not have been possible if Harmon Dobson had not established Whataburger decades ago in 1950. Although it hardly rakes in as much revenue as McDonald’s and Burger King, the restaurant is still among the US’s 500 largest burger joints. In 2018 it ranked #31 with revenue of $2.4 billion, and it is still going strong. Every story has a beginning so let’s take you back to how it was founded and how the Whataburger logo came to be designed.

The Start of Harmon’s Entrepreneurial Journey

In 1913, Hugh and Ethel welcomed a baby boy, Harmon Dobson. He grew up on their farm in Arkansas, where the family raised cattle and did vegetable farming. The farm did well, and Harmon’s parents managed to send him to school. Unfortunately, while at the University of Missouri, the Great Depression hit the country. According to Valbridge, the Dobson family farm was affected so much that Harmon had to drop out of college to go and help it stabilize.

After helping out on the farm, Harmon was ready to embark on money-making ventures. Therefore, at the age of 23, he began working as an apprentice ironworker. He did all sorts of odd jobs, including shipbuilding, pipefitting, and cable rigging. The ambitious man’s efforts made him seek jobs in all corners of the globe, and before long, he was in Eritrea building tanks and radio towers. He later moved to Egypt, working in the Suez Canal, then Bahrain, to build an oil refinery.

After the Second World War ended, Harmon settled on buying used cars, which became profitable. With his massive profits, he dabbled in oil speculation and mining diamonds in South America. Since his businesses were now at different locations, Harmon figured it was wise to visit them by plane. Therefore, he learned how to fly a plane and bought one to help with overseeing his businesses.

Whataburger is Born

They say what you confess you possess, and when Harmon Dobson wrote in his journal on January 1, 1950, that the year would be eventful, he prophesied a bright future. According to STMU History Media, Harmon moved to Texas in 1950 for the oil business. He had accumulated $2500 to invest in oil and found the right partner, Henry Mode, to collaborate on an oil lease.

The year did not start as well as Harmon had hoped because he found Henry had begun drinking again. His drunk partner almost cost Harmon $5,000 invested in a drilling deal that would have led to the money’s forfeiture. Luckily, Harmon stepped in two days before, and he decided to pull out of the oil business to finance a hamburger expert, Paul Burton. With this new venture, Harmon was hopeful that things would turn around.

Determined to see positive changes, Harmon wanted to make a burger that would make customers exclaim “What a burger!” due to how delicious and big it was. Consequently, he sought to trademark “Whataburger.” On June 23, 1950, he got his wish when the Secretary of State granted him the trademark. Harmon could now operate, and he began by selling his first burgers in Corpus Cristi on August 8, 1950. He insisted on quality from the start, and he sold the burgers for 25 cents, quite on the high end at the time. At the end of the first day, Harmon had made $50, and in the next two days, he made $141. By the fourth day, the sales by the close of business were $141.80 after selling 551 burgers – the restaurant also sold drinks and chips.

Coming up with the Whataburger Logo

From the beginning, Harmon wanted his burger joint to stand out. Therefore, even when he decided to put up a building for visibility, instead of the portable single-story box he had been operating in, Harmon used the letter “W.” he erected two steel legs attached to the side of the gable to form the letter. Furthermore, from his experience as a pilot, he knew how to make radio towers and anything that would pose a hazard to aircraft stand out for more visibility.

According to the San Antonio Report, radio towers are often painted in alternating bands of international orange and white for visibility. Therefore, he figured if someone spotted a radio tower from up in the sky due to the colors used, his restaurant would be spotted from miles away. He incorporated the color scheme that has remained in use to date, even in their fries’ packaging. The “W” is, however, modified to look like it is a “flying W,” and the restaurant has used this since 1972.

Whataburger Accuses Wonder Woman of Logo Theft

In 1985, DC Comics launched Wonder Woman’s original logo, which was very similar to Whataburger’s, according to Eater. However, Whataburger did not feel the need to take up any issue with DC Comics. Had they had the foresight, the restaurant should have brought a case against DC Comics because they planned to use Wonder Woman to sell drinks, bubble gum, cookies, cake decorations, and other edible items.

While the current Wonder Woman’s logo barely resembles the restaurant’s logo, Whataburger is now seeing how it can affect their business since DC Comics is now venturing into the food industry. They, therefore, opened a friendly discussion with DC Comics to come up with an acceptable agreement. A legal approach could go either way, and maybe Whataburger is not ready to lose a logo it has used for decades. Regardless, customers must have noticed the similarity years ago and by now know how to differentiate the two logos, so Whataburger should not be worried too much.

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