The Evolution of McDonald’s In Photos – The History of McDonald’s

Before McDonald’s was your favorite place for a late-night snack or an afternoon McFlurry pick-me-up, it was a sit-down burger joint in San Bernardino, California. That’s right: When the chain opened in 1940, it didn’t even serve fast food. Find out how McDonald’s took over the world (we kid, kind of…) and enjoy these photos that show just how much the franchise has changed over the decades.

Early McDonald's with Golden Arches

American Stock Archive


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1940: The First Restaurant

Brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald opened the first McDonald’s in 1940 in San Bernardino, California. Back then, it was a sit-down restaurant, but it was rebranded as a speedy drive-in hamburger stand post-World War II.

Neon Arches

Hulton Archive


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1955: A New Leader

In 1955, businessman Raymond Kroc joined the company and transformed it into the iconic fast food joint we know today—and he eventually bought the brothers out for $2.7 million in 1961. Fun fact: The original McDonald’s mascot was a chef hat on top of a winking hamburger face named Speedee (pictured).

McDonald's Drive-In

Hulton Archive


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1956: Drive-In Destination

Before it was a drive-thru, McDonald’s was a drive-in—and here’s what a typical location would look like in the late ’50s when burgers only cost 15 cents.

Ronald Mcdonald

Afro Newspaper/Gado


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1963: Ronald McDonald Was Born

Largely inspired by Bozo the Clown, the character of Ronald McDonald first appeared in advertisements on TV in 1963. The brand ambassador’s full moniker was “Ronald McDonald, the Hamburger-Happy Clown.” Here, an actor gives a second grade class at Grove Park Elementary School a fire safety lesson.

DEC 5 1967, DEC 7 1967; Marines Collect Toys for Tots; From left are Stephen McKee, 4, his brother T

Bill Johnson


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1967: Toys For Tots Donations

In the ’60s, children who donated their old toys to Toys for Tots received a certificate for a free hamburger and French fries. Approximately 20,000 children across 30 hospitals, orphanages, and other institutions in north Colorado benefitted from the effort. Be still, our hearts!

McDonald's Restaurant

Hulton Archive


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1970: The Third Restaurant

This was the third McDonald’s restaurant ever built. It opened in Downey, California, in 1953, and is the oldest McDonald’s still in operation. It is also now a designated national landmark.

DEC 19 1971, DEC 21 1971; With clown Ronald McDonald here are Michele Campbell, 4, left, daughter of

John Beard


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1971: The Ronald McDonald House

McDonald’s has a long history of charity work, including The Ronald McDonald House, which is a nonprofit organization that provides housing and other resources to families with sick children. It was founded in 1974, so not long after the charity event pictured here.

Opening of McDonald's Australian restaurant Yagoona.Giant hamburger at the restaurant.Same as above but the McDonald's clown Mr. Ron McDonald.

Fairfax Media Archives


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1972: Global Expansion

McDonald’s began expanding into international markets in 1967 when it opened locations in Canada and Puerto Rico. The company’s first Australian location was in the Sydney suburb of Yagoona, and was appropriately celebrated with a massive burger.

Raymond A. Kroc;Frederick L. Turner

Bill Pierce


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1973: The 2,500th McDonald’s

President Frederick Turner and CEO Raymond Kroc posing in celebration of the opening of McDonald’s 2,500th location, which was located in a suburban shopping center in Hickory Hills, Illinois. Not sure why they’re holding a broom and mop, but OK!

McDonalds in Japan...

Images Press


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1973: Taking Over Japan

McDonald’s expanded to Japan in 1971. Now, the country boasts around 3,000 McDonald’s locations as well as an array of unique menu items including the Mega Teriyaki Burger, Cheese Tsukimi Burger, and Chicken Tatsuta.

Commercial Artist Working on McDonald's Billboard

Robert Landau


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1973: A McDonald’s Billboard

While the location of this billboard is unknown, one thing’s for certain: Anyone who passed by it definitely wanted a Big Mac afterwards.

Warhol At McDonald's

Tim Boxer


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1973: Andy Warhol Approved

Even New York City’s social elite ate at McDonald’s back in the day! Here, Andy Warhol attends a black tie dinner hosted at a McDonald’s on Fifth Avenue in aid of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. His plus one? His beloved dachshund, Archie.

Ronald MacDonald, the clown, makes friends with some of the 40 children from the Far West Home, Manly whom he entertained during a visit to Taronga Zoo today.Here Ronald the clown clowns with Cathy, 13 of Dubbo.A day at Taronga Zoo was made even more ex c

Fairfax Media Archives


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1974: Ronald McDonald Entertains

McDonald’s cheery mascot accompanied 40 children from Sydney, Australia’s Far West Home on a visit to their local Taronga Zoo. Ronald McDonald would often pop up at charity events hosted by the fast-food joint, specifically those involving children in need.

Couple Marries In McDonalds

Boston Globe


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1975: A McDonald’s Wedding

McDonald’s employee Annette Scaramozza married Anthony Francis in a McDonald’s restaurant in east Boston. She wanted to host the nuptials there so she could share the day with her fellow employees. If we’re being honest, those flower arches are everything.

Hugh Carter gets Big Mac cooking lesson from McDonald's manager Paul Tuma

David Cooper


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1976: Best Birthday Celebration

American politician Hugh Carter gets the ultimate birthday present: A Big Mac cooking lesson from a McDonald’s manager. Now we know what we’re asking for next year.

5 year old Peter of Wollongong Patient in the William Stewart ward of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children Camperdown, cutting into the 185 lb Hamberger shaped birthday cake with the help of Miss J. Noble director of Nursing and Ronald McDonald. McDo

Fairfax Media Archives


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1977: Another Birthday

OK, we found an even better birthday gift. This five-year-old patient at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in Sydney, Australia got a 185 pound McDonald’s hamburger-shaped birthday cake.

APR 22 1978, APR 28 1978; Church Members Protest Ban On Dresses; Members of Lovingway Inner City Uni

Duane Howell


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1978: Uniform Protests

Even McDonald’s has had its fair share of conflict over the years. Members of Denver’s Lovingway Inner City United Pentacostal Church protested the business when managers wouldn’t allow a church member to work there wearing a dress. Danette DiCroce (pictured in the hat) was fired for not adhering to their pants-only dress code, only to be rehired soon after. Today, the typical McDonald’s uniform still consists of slacks and a shirt.

McDonald's Meal -- Pics of fast food items for fast food story.McDonalds chips and Big Mac.One Big Mac hamburger, one large serving trench fries. Total weigh, 304 grams. Cost, $1.50.Good Points: Protein energy content close to ideal, high vitamin C.Bad Po

Fairfax Media Archives


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1979: A Classic Meal

Here’s what a McDonald’s Big Mac and large fries looked like in the late ’70s—all of which would set you back only $1.50.

Denver Post Archives

Denver Post


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1979: A Guest Home

The Ronald McDonald House guest homes provide accommodation to families with sick children who need to be located near a hospital. This one, which opened in 1979, was located near the Denver Children’s Hospital.

Young People



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1980: Popular Social Spot

Even back in the ’80s, McDonald’s was a common spot for young people to gather—and here’s the proof.


Barbara Alper


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1980: McDonald’s In Paris

An advertisement for McDonald’s ‘Menu-Plaisir’—a Big Mac and a Coca-Cola—in a Paris Métro station. The first McDonald’s opened in France was in 1972 in the town of Créteil.

Cliff Young, McDonald's National Training Manager, examines a hamburger at McDonald's Nth. Ryde. with staff member Frances Monahan 16 years.

Fairfax Media Archives


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1982: Hamburger University Training

Back in 1961, McDonald’s started Hamburger University, a week-long course that gave managers a crash course in everything from customer service to kitchen protocol—and it still exists today. Here’s a manager and student showing off what they learned in the ’80s.

Portrait Of The Group Motorhead

Paul Natkin


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1983: Motorhead At McDonald’s

Phil Taylor, Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, and Brian Robertson, better known as the British metal band Motorhead, at a McDonald’s restaurant in Chicago. Just because.

Former great rugby league player, Ron Coote today opened a McDonald's restaurant in Newtown.Ron trying his hand at cooking hamburgers.Coote, who owns and operates the restaurant, plans to make it a family concern with his family working at the restaurant.

Fairfax Media Archives


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1983: Ron Coote’s Restaurant

Former rugby league player, Ron Coote, celebrated the opening of his McDonald’s restaurant by flipping burgers in the back.

Saturday Night Live



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1983: Ronald McDonald On SNL

Tim Kazurinsky, Gary Kroeger, and Joe Piscopo starred in a skit called “Angry Ronald McDonald” that portrayed the McDonald’s mascot as a demanding, egotistical, and hot-headed entertainer, which goes to show how big of a cultural mainstay he was at the time (and still is!).

President Reagan Eating a Hamburger



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1984: A Visit From President Reagan

Even President Reagan enjoyed a Big Mac or two. Here he is eating at a McDonald’s after a campaign stop at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Ronald McDonald Balloon in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York City, New York

Joe Sohm/Visions of America


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1986: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Say hello to the first-ever Ronald McDonald balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade—which was accompanied by the McDonald’s All-American Marching band. This guy was retired after the 1994 parade. The current McDonald’s balloon features Ronald wearing a red coat, yellow pants, and red shoes.

Westernization of Russia

Peter Turnley


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1990: The First McDonald’s In Russia

The first McDonald’s in Russia was located on Gorky Street in Moscow and its opening set the record for most customers served in one day (over 30,000, in case you’re wondering).

In memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, who was killed in an automobile accident in Paris, France on August 31, 1997.

Anwar Hussein


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1992: Princess Diana At A Charity Lunch

Princess Diana was known to buck royal protocol. One way she did that? Taking her sons to McDonald’s for burgers. Here, she’s pictured at a McDonald’s charity lunch held in London.

"Helping Hands" Mural Dedication to Celebrate the Mid-way Point in the Construction of the Ronald McDonald House

Ron Galella, Ltd.


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1992: Celebs At A “Helping Hands” Event

Actresses Brooke Shields and Raven-Symoné, who both served as ambassadors for the Ronald McDonald House, attending a mural dedication ceremony for a new house in New York City.