The McDonald's First Store Museum is a fast food time capsule from the heyday of drive thrus.

McDonald’s “First” Store Is Actually Its Ninth, but It’s Still a Great Museum

McDonald’s “First” Store Is Actually Its Ninth, but It’s Still a Great Museum

Atlas Obscura
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July 2 2015 12:53 PM

The McDonald’s First Store Museum Is a Fast-Food Time Capsule From the Heyday of Drive-Thrus

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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. 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 barbecue 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.

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Eric Grundhauser is a head writer and editor at Atlas Obscura. He lives in Brooklyn with his comic book collection. Follow him on Twitter.