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Dick McDonald

AKA Richard J. McDonald

Born: 16-Feb-1909
Birthplace: Manchester, NH
Died: 14-Jul-1998
Location of death: Manchester, NH
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Calvary Cemetery, Manchester, NH

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Business

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Co-Founder of McDonald's

Ray Kroc always portrayed himself as the company's founder, but McDonald's was actually started by two brothers, Dick and Maurice McDonald, who invented the modern fast-food restaurant. Their parents were immigrants from Ireland, and 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, offering hot dogs, burgers and barbecue.

The restaurant was prosperous, but in their first decade selling short-order meals the McDonald brothers spent many hours brainstorming ideas for a restaurant that could provide quicker, more efficient service at a lower cost, and thus turn a higher profit. In 1948 they closed their restaurant, and after thoroughly remodeling it, re-opened that December with what they called the "speedee service system." Under their new plan, they offered only burgers, fries, and shakes. Carhops were eliminated, and instead customers queued under a large overhead menu, waiting as their orders were filled -- but not waiting long, since the burgers were prepared before customers' orders were placed, made "factory style" with the same condiments (mustard, ketchup, onions, and pickles) on every burger. It took a while for customers to become accustomed to the new protocol, but once business started growing it never stopped.

Between the two boys, it was Maurice who had the knack for the kitchen, while Dick was the marketing whiz. He designed the red-and-white tiled theme of the first generation of McDonald's buildings, as well as the original golden arches that stretched over the restaurants and the signs bragging "X million served" (now billions). The brothers were featured on the cover of the trade magazine American Restaurant in 1952, and opened their first franchised location in Phoenix in 1953. They had eleven locations by 1954, when the brothers hired Kroc, a 52-year-old salesman, to handle the increasing workload of franchising.

Kroc bought complete control of McDonald's in 1961, and as hundreds and then thousands of new McDonald's were built across America and the world, Kroc was described in virtually all media accounts as "the founder of McDonald's". The company's publicity still claims that Kroc's first franchise (opened in 1955 in Des Plaines, Illinois) was "the first McDonald's", though photos of that store's grand opening show a familiar sign bragging that "over 50 million" McDonald's burgers had already been sold. Kroc forced Dick and Maurice McDonald to take the name McDonald's off their restaurant in San Bernardino, but they continued operating it as "The Big M drive-in" until 1964, when they were driven out of business by a McDonald's franchise Kroc had opened one block down the street. After their restaurant closed, Dick McDonald returned to New Hampshire, where he married his widowed high school sweetheart.

Father: Patrick McDonald (b. Feb-1875)
Mother: Margaret Currin McDonald (b. Apr-1876, m. circa 1899)
Sister: Margarite McDonald (b. 1901)
Brother: Maurice McDonald (co-founder of McDonald's)
Sister: Florence McDonald (b. circa 1905)
Sister: Mary McDonald (music teacher, b. circa 1912)
Wife: Dorothy Jones French McDonald (high school sweetheart, m. 1964)
Son: Gale French (stepson)

    High School: West High School, Manchester, NH (1920)

    McDonald's Co-Founder (1948)
    Irish Ancestry


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