McDonald's First Store Museum
You can't actually buy food at this replica of the first McDonald's. For that, there's a routine, modern version across the street. But the site is the genuine birthplace of the fast-food empire.
The original structure, built on this site in 1955, was torn down in 1984, but this re-creation, open limited hours from Memorial Day through Labor Day, was built according to the original blueprints, twin Golden Arches and all. Its "Speedee" sign is original, and the equipment displayed inside dates to days when fries were made fresh from potatoes peeled on the premises and Coca-Cola and root beer were hand-drawn from barrels. Among the items displayed is an original Multimixer, the milkshake machine that started McDonald's founder Ray Kroc on his business career.
In the basement, you'll find historic photos, memos, early advertising, memorabilia and a short video on the company's history.
Brothers Dick and Mac McDonald opened a hamburger stand in San Bernardino, Calif., in 1948. They attracted the attention of Kroc, a Multimixer salesman from Oak Park, lII., who was intrigued by the large number of the milkshake machines the brothers had bought. In 1954, Kroc became the exclusive national franchise agent for McDonald's, at first a scheme to sell more mixers.
On April 15, 1955, Kroc opened his first McDonald's on this site in Des Plaines. The chain officially dates its beginnings from this event, which turned McDonald's from a restaurant into a phenomenon. The first day's revenues totaled $366.12, but within a year, Kroc had built a dozen more stores in the Chicago area, California and Texas. By 1957, he had 40 restaurants, and the following year, the chain sold its 1 millionth hamburger.
In 1961, Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers for $2.7 million. He introduced a stylized "M," symbolizing the Golden Arches, as the company's logo and "Look for the Golden Arches" as the first advertising theme. That year, the company also opened Hamburger University for its personnel in the basement of the Elk Grove Village McDonald’s and conferred Bachelor of Hamburgerology degrees to the graduating class.
The company opened its 1,000th McDonald's in Des Plaines in 1968, and introduced the Big Mac. In 1971, by then an international concern, McDonald's established its headquarters in Oak Brook. The next year, it opened its 2,000th restaurant in Des Plaines, and a year later, its 2,500th in Hickory Hills.
McDonald's celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2005 with the opening of a flagship restaurant in River North with a supersized take on the iconic design of this first location.
—Leah A. Zeldes
Photos, from left: Ray Kroc's original McDonald's, 1955; replica museum; Kroc with Multimixer.