Maurice James “Mac” McDonald (November 26, 1902 – December 11, 1971) and his brother, Richard James “Dick” McDonald (February 16, 1909 – July 14, 1998)
were early American fast food pioneers, who established the first McDonald’s restaurant at 1948 North E Street and West 14th Street in San Bernardino, California (at 34.1255°N 117.2946°W) in 1940.
The McDonald brothers’ parents were immigrants from Ireland. Their father worked as a shift manager in a New Hampshire shoe factory. In the late 1920s, the brothers moved together to California, where they opened their first hot dog stand (no hamburgers were on the menu) in Pasadena in 1937.
It was a typical drive-in of its era, where drivers parked their cars and carhops came to take their orders. In 1940, they closed the hot dog stand and opened a larger restaurant in San Bernardino.
The McDonald brothers began franchising their successful restaurant chain in 1953, beginning in Phoenix, Arizona with Neil Fox. The brothers’ goal was to make one million dollars before they were fifty.
At first, they only franchised the system, rather than the name and atmosphere of their restaurant. Later, the brothers started franchising the entire concept.
Franchised McDonald’s Restaurants were built to a standard design, created by Fontana, California architect Stanley Clark Meston and featuring Richard’s suggestion of the Golden Arches. In the early days, there were two arches—one on each side of the building.
The arches were lined with pink neon that flashed sequentially and, when seen at an angle, formed the letter “M” for McDonald’s.
The second franchised restaurant was opened at 10207 Lakewood Blvd. at Florence Ave. in Downey, California (at 33.9471°N 118.1182°W), the same year.
As of 2012, the Downey restaurant remains the oldest operating McDonald’s franchise. Additional franchises were granted for stores in Azusa, Pomona and Alhambra, California, in 1954.
In 1954, Ray Kroc became inspired by the evident financial success of the brothers’ concept, immediately grasping the restaurants’ enormous potential.
He partnered with the brothers, and within a few years turned their small idea into the huge franchise that would become the McDonald’s Corporation.
The franchiser took 1.9 percent of the gross sales, of which the McDonald brothers got 0.5 percent.
Kroc became frustrated with the brothers’ desire to maintain only a small number of restaurants. In 1961, he purchased the company from the brothers for $2.7 million.
The San Bernardino store was demolished in 1976 (or 1971, according to Juan Pollo) and the site was sold to the Juan Pollo restaurant chain. It now serves as headquarters for the Juan Pollo chain, as well as a McDonald’s and Route 66 museum.
On November 30 1984, having been the first cook behind the grill, Richard McDonald was served the ceremonial 50,000,000,000th (50 billionth) McDonald’s hamburger by Ed Rensi, then president of McDonald’s USA, at the Grand Hyatt hotel in New York City.
In the upcoming biographical film The Founder, Richard McDonald will be portrayed by Parks and Recreation actor Nick Offerman, with Academy Award nominated actor Michael Keaton portraying Ray Kroc and American actor John Carroll Lynch portraying Maurice McDonald.
The film, set for a 2016 release, will be directed by The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks director John Lee Hancock.
Maurice J. McDonald died in Riverside, California, on December 11, 1971, at the age of 69.
His younger brother, Richard, died in Manchester, New Hampshire, on July 30, 1998, at the age of 89.
Richard’s wife, Dorothy, died soon after. Richard and Dorothy were survived by Dorothy’s son, Gale French.