The McDonald family moved from Manchester, New Hampshire to Hollywood, California in the late 1930s, where brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald ("Dick" and "Mac") began working as set movers and handymen at Motion-Picture studios. In 1937, their father Patrick McDonald opened "The Airdrome", a food stand, on Huntington Drive (Route 66) near the Monrovia Airport in the Los Angeles County city of Monrovia, California.
In October 1948, after the McDonald brothers realized that most of their profits came from selling hamburgers, they closed down their successful carhop drive-in to establish a streamlined system with a simple menu which consisted of only hamburgers, cheeseburgers, potato chips, coffee, soft drinks, and apple pie.
In 1954, Ray Kroc, a seller of Prince Castle brand Multimixer milkshake machines, learned that the McDonald brothers were using eight of his machines in their San Bernardino restaurant. His curiosity was piqued, and he went to take a look at the restaurant. He was joined by good friend Charles Lewis who had suggested to Kroc several improvements to the McDonald's burger recipe. At this point, the McDonald brothers had six franchise locations in operation.
Believing the McDonald's formula was a ticket to success, Kroc suggested they franchise their restaurants throughout the country. The brothers were skeptical, however, that the self-service approach could succeed in colder, rainier climates; furthermore, their thriving business in San Bernardino, and franchises already operating or planned, made them reluctant to risk a national venture. Kroc offered to take the major responsibility for setting up the new franchises elsewhere. He returned to his home outside of Chicago with rights to set up McDonald's restaurants throughout the country, except in a handful of territories in California and Arizona already licensed by the McDonald brothers. The brothers were to receive one-half of one percent of gross sales.
In the early 1960s, McDonald's really began to take off. The growth in U.S. automobile use that came with suburbanization and the interstate highway system contributed heavily to McDonald's success. In 1961 Kroc's conflict over the vision of the company with the founding brothers had grown to an unbearable extent, and he asked them how much money they wanted to leave their business to him entirely. The brothers asked for $2.7 million (about $21.6 million in today's dollars), which Kroc did not have. Harry J. Sonneborn was able to raise the money for him, and Kroc bought the founding brothers out. This purchase laid the groundwork to positioning the company for an IPO and furthering the aim at making McDonald's the number one fast-food chain in the country. The exact process of how the company was sold is not well-recorded; it is depicted as a hostile takeover by Ray Kroc in the movie The Founder but that portrayal is disputed, and interviews of the time speak of a more voluntary transition.
Kroc and Sonneborn had a falling out over expansion of the company, leading to Sonneborn's resignation in 1967. Kroc took over the title of CEO and president.
1975 – Tobey Maguire, American actor