Start Your Visit WithHistorical Timelines
General Interest Maps
Beginning something big
On May 15, 1940, Dick and Mac McDonald opened “The Big M” in San Bernardino, California. In 1948, "The Big M" suddenly became famous after the two brothers implemented the "Speedee Service System," being a assembly line for hamburgers much like Henry Ford's automobile assembly line. The assembly line process held their delicious hamburgers to only 15 cents each. The sandwich was part of a simple, but plentiful menu that included fresh French fries and extra-thick milkshakes.
Now that The Big M was a part of the local scene, the brothers decided to promote a pair of "Golden Arches" that would soon become the McDonald's symbol. The first McDonald's to receive arches was in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1949.
The Ray Kroc era
In 1954, a businessman named Ray Croc became interested in the restaurant after the brothers ordered eight of his Multimixer milkshake machines. He wanted to find out how well the brothers were doing. After a visit to the McDonald's in California, he was immediately impressed and made a proposal to the brothers to open a franchise.
Although his efforts went as far as meeting with Walt Disney to float the idea of the first McDonald's at soon-to-be Disneyland, he did not prevail. Following his misfire with the brothers, Kroc opened his own restaurant in 1955, founding "McDonald's Systems, Inc." on March 2. After that restaurant's success, the company was renamed "McDonald's Corporation" in 1960, the same year the first McDonald's jingle was heard on the radio.
Kroc put up stiff competition with the brothers, and in 1961 they decided to sell the business rights to Kroc for $2.7 million. Kroc borrowed from numerous investors to come up with the money. The agreement stipulated that the original restaurant would remain as "The Big M," but it went out of business after Kroc opened a McDonald's just one block north. If the brothers had stayed with the original agreement of .5 percent of the annual revenues, they would have received more than $180 million per year today.
McDonald's arches the country
On October 5, 1962, McDonald's went national with an ad in Life Magazine, which displayed the golden arches as the company's logo. Just one year later, McDonald's celebrated the sale of their one billionth burger, sold and served live on prime-time TV. 1963 turned out to be a year of great achievements when the 500th McDonald's restaurant opened in Ohio. Also that year, McDonald's allowed women to be hired at the crew level, more than a decade before the Equal Opportunity Employment Act became law.
In 1965, TV network advertising began and the McDonald's Corporation started to sell stock at $22.50 a share. That year, the Ray Kroc Foundation was established, and contributions from it supported hospitals around the world. In 1966, Kroc thought up more ways to advertise his products, aiming to market his food more toward families with young children.
Ronald McDonald and the Big Mac
In his search for a marketing technique, Kroc discovered a show named "Bozo's Circus," sponsored by a Washington, D.C. franchise. Bozo was played by Willard Scott. Following the show's cancellation, he was hired to portray McDonald's new mascot, "Ronald McDonald." After Ronald's premiere on TV, it was soon decided that a whole cast would be hired, and the McDonaldland characters were born.
In 1968, the McDonald's Corporation introduced a new item on the menu, the Big Mac. The sandwich sold well and soon after, in 1970, McDonald's came out with a breakfast menu and expanded its base to cover all 50 states. The fast-growing corporation was featured on Time Magazine's cover in 1973.
Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's Corporation and an important influence on the world, died on January 14, 1984. In Kroc's memory, the Ronald McDonald House Charities was founded, and the giant corporation celebrated its 50 billionth hamburger in his honor.
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