The Golden Lamb and Duncan Hines

January 27, 2021  |  golden lamb, newsletter
Adventures in Good Eating by Duncan Hines
Cover of the 1941 edition of Adventures in Good Eating by Duncan Hines.

by John Zimkus, Historian of the Golden Lamb


For more than 20 years, the Golden Lamb was connected with Duncan Hines—not the cake mixes (as good as they are, they don’t compare to the Golden Lamb’s delectable desserts)—rather THE Duncan Hines.


The man behind Duncan Hines

Yes, there really was a Duncan Hines. He was not a corporate creation like Betty Crocker, but a real living, breathing human being. Duncan Hines was one of the most trusted men in the country when it came to food. “Recommended by Duncan Hines” became the gold standard for dining in America in the mid-20th century.


Duncan Hines was born in Bowling Green, Kentucky in 1880. From the 1920s through the '40s, he was a traveling salesman. He drove across America, averaging anywhere from 40,000-60,000 miles per year. Unfortunately, he sometimes had to dine on what he considered unreliable road food. Hines soon started carrying a small notebook in his coat pocket where he wrote down the locations of his favorite places to eat.


One year, he and his wife, Florence, sent out a list of more than 100 of their favorite eating establishments across 33 states with their annual Christmas card. In 1935, Hines expanded that list and self-published his first edition of Adventures in Good Eating and sold it for $1 a copy. The following year, he raised the guide's price to $1.50, and it stayed that price for the next 25 years. Very quickly, his Adventures in Good Eating grew into one of the most respected and used travel guides in the United States.


Restaurants could fall in and out of his favor and could be removed from the book. Hines refused to accept any advertisements or endorsements from restaurants. He felt forced to write in the book, “It is a distinct disappointment to me to learn that a surprising number of people have gone to listed places and received free meals and lodging because they have claimed to be relatives of mine...Please remember I have authorized no one to make such demands and they should be refused.”

Golden Lamb billboard
A c.1950 billboard advertising the Golden Lamb on US 42 in Lebanon, Ohio. On the left side of the sign, there is the statement, “Recommended by Duncan Hines.”

The Golden Lamb featured by Duncan Hines

In 1938, The Golden Lamb first made it into Duncan Hines’ Adventures in Good Eating, It would remain in the publication for over 20 years until it ceased publication.


The book’s 1941 edition said the following about the Golden Lamb, “Halfway between Dayton and Cincinnati - Open all year. The oldest hotel in Ohio, where John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay and Charles Dickens stayed, has been remodeled. In addition to their coffee shop the dining room put forth very good diners.”


In May 1958, The Golden Lamb was honored as a 20-year member of the Duncan Hines Family and received a citation for outstanding serviceat the Sixteenth Annual Duncan Hines Family Dinner at Chicagos Congress Hotel.


In 1952, when Hines was 72, he allowed the Duncan Hines name to appear on everything from cartons of ice cream to the now-famous cake mixes. Two years before his death in March of 1959, the entire franchise was sold to Procter & Gamble.


With the passing of time, Duncan Hines’ Adventures in Good Eating has faded from America’s collective consciousness. The Golden Lamb is now one of only a few dozen restaurants still in existence that were listed in the book’s early editions. The quality of food and service at The Golden Lamb in Lebanon, Ohio, however, has not diminished and its reputation for fine dining continues to grow.

A story for another time... 

By the way, also listed in the 1941 edition of Adventures in Good Eating is Sanders Court and Cafe in Corbin, Kentucky. The book calls it, “A very good place to stop en route to Cumberland Falls and the Great Smokies. Continuous 24-hour service. Sizzling steaks, fried chicken, country ham, hot biscuits.”


A few years earlier, in the 1930s, the owner, Mr. Sanders, whose first name is Harlan, visited The Golden Lamb in Lebanon. He asked Bob Jones, the owner/manager of the hotel, if he could have the inn’s fried chicken recipe. But that is another story...