Howard Johnson's is a U.S. chain of restaurants and hotels which was founded in 1925 by Howard Deering Johnson (1897-1992) when he borrowed $2,000 to buy a small corner drugstore in Wollaston, Massachusetts. It sold candy, newspapers and patent medicine.
After noticing that his soda fountain was the busiest part of his drugstore, Johnson decided to come up with a new ice cream recipe, mostly based on his mother's recipe (although some say the recipe actually came from a local ice-cream maker, a German immigrant). The new ice cream was more flavorful with a higher butterfat content.
He eventually came up with 28 flavors and opened a beachfront ice cream stand. According to Johnson, "I thought I had every flavor in the world. The 28 flavors became my trademark.
After operating well over 100 restaurants around the country, the company bid and won the rights to operate restaurants along the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Ohio turnpikes and the familiar orange-roofed buildings became icons of the era. The first motor lodge opened in 1954 in Savannah, Georgia.
The restaurants were famous for clam strips, salt water taffy and, of course, ice cream. As of 2006 only 4 restaurants remained in this country but the current owners hope to market the ice cream through supermarkets and possibly open a few restaurants along the East Coast.
Several different patterns of china were used over the years, with the most popular being the scenic pattern with an image of the building as well as scenes found along the route in Massachusetts. The maroon pieman silhouette replaced that pattern and the peach silhouette followed.
A Walker China platter from 1963, above, with backstamp at right.