The McDonald’s fast food chain may be one of the most well-known brands to ever exist, but its slightly complicated ownership history is not widely known. However Illinois’ McDonald’s First Store Museum sets out to rectify that with a period replica of its (oddly) ninth store.
McDonald’s was established in 1940 as a barbeque joint owned by a pair of brothers, Richard and Maurice McDonald. It was not until the mid-1950s that the man more formally recognized as the innovator behind the McDonald’s franchise system, Ray Kroc, came in and turned the restaurant chain into the brand we know today. It is this legacy that the McDonald’s First Store Museum looks to pass on.
The McDonald’s restaurant where the museum is housed was actually the ninth in the company’s history, but it was the first to fully realize Kroc’s fast food vision. With a huge sign bearing the original mascot, a moon-faced chef named “Speedee,” the iconic building was meant to lure drivers in for a quick, uniform bite to eat. The original restaurant was opened in 1955 and featured a number of period flourishes including the now-iconic golden arches.
The museum that stands today is actually a fully rebuilt replica of the original restaurant which was torn down in 1984. It is a pristine time capsule with mannequins working a never-ending shift behind the spotless grill, dressed in the original 1955 uniform. The museum does not serve food, but given McDonald’s ubiquity, it is unsurprising that there is a fully functioning franchise location right across the street.
Illinois Week on Atlas Obscura was created in partnership with Enjoy Illinois as part of the launch of the Illinois Obscura Society.
Update: The building has been completely demolished as of January 2019. A new, modern McDonald’s was built across the street. At this McDonald’s there are a half-dozen glass-enclosed exhibits arrayed around the tables. These include red and white tiles from the original restaurant, and string ties worn by employees from the 1950s to the early 1970s.