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On This Day: McDonald’s Was Founded in 1955

by Emily Morgan
(Photo by Tim Boyle/Newsmakers)

When you think of America, usually different ideas pop into one’s head. For many of us, it revolves around baseball, Disney World, Coca-Cola, and the ever-present McDonalds.

McDonald’s omnipresent golden arches have been a constant in American culture for decades. For the last 50 years, the chain has become known as one of the most iconic brands the world has ever seen. Yet, the fast-food chain’s history remains somewhat of a mystery. For starters, it all began with — not burgers— but hot dogs.

Since today marks the anniversary of McDonald’s founding in 1955, we’re taking a peek at its history. In 1948, brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald opened the first McDonald’s restaurant by converting their drive-through barbecue restaurant into a burger stop in San Bernardino, California. However, this wasn’t the first time the brothers had a foray into the fast-food industry; their first was a hot dog stand that the pair owned together.

In the beginning, the original restaurant focused on its burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Back then, their items cost half the price and took half the time of competing restaurants. Instead of incorporating servers, the brothers installed a self-service counter. They also never had to cook each meal to order. Instead, they prepared their burgers ahead of time. As a result, they created a blueprint all other fast-food chains would follow in the coming years.

Pulling Back the Curtain on McDonald’s Golden Arches

By utilizing this new format for fast food, the brothers garnered kitchen appliance salesman Ray Kroc who helped them with appliances. Kroc later bought the rights to begin franchising McDonald’s restaurants across the country. At the time, the brothers had opened a small number of franchise restaurants in Arizona and California.

In 1955, Kroc— surprisingly not the brothers— officially formed the McDonald’s Corporation, and Kroc opened his first franchised restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Before then, Architect Stanley Meston designed the red and white tiled building with the Golden Arches in 1953. The sales for its first day in business came in at $366.12. For perspective, the restaurant chain makes approximately $57,745,205 per day in revenue.

Even though Maurice and Richard McDonald created the first restaurant and superior business model, it’s actually Kroc who founded McDonald’s that we see today. Six years later, Kroc bought out the founders and took over the company.

According to its website, McDonald’s continues to expand to this day. The company began opening international McDonald’s beginning in 1967 in Canada and Puerto Rico. Today, the company has over 36,000 restaurants in over 100 nations, with its most recent international opening in Kazakhstan in 2016.