The Original McDonald’s: A Museum in San Bernardino

I stumbled upon this when I was researching some stuff to do on Route 66. Apparently, this is the site of the first McDonald’s that was open in 1940 and has since been purchased by the owner of local chicken restaurant Juan Pollo and converted into a museum.  It is always debated as to this location being the first, since the Des Plaines McDonalds in Illinois also claims that, but that one was opened 15 years after this original one. So read on and go check it out for yourself.

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Details

  • Free to enter
  • Open –  10AM – 5PM Mon-Sun
  • Location: 1398 N E St, San Bernardino, CA 92405

History

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Here is a little history on it.

In 1940, Dick and Mac Mcdonald opened McDonald’s Barbecue Restaurant in San Bernardino, California, at 14th st. and E St. They had a staff of 20 carhops and a 25 item menu that included barbecue ribs, beef, and pork sandwiches. They soon became the #1 teen hangout in the San Bernardino.

In October of 1948, the brothers took the plunge (against the advice of all their customers) and closed their successful restaurant, terminated all their carhops, reduced their menu to cheeseburgers, hamburgers, milkshakes, and fountain sodas, and reorganized their kitchen in order to specialize in speed of service, simplicity of menu, and low prices. Their revolutionary thinking forever changed the restaurant industry.

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The museum contains the most extensive collection of pre-Ray Kroc McDonalds memorabilia such as news article, pictures, and mementos such as menus, straws, cups, a prototype of ketchup dispensing gun, a copy of McDonald’s menu, etc.

The Museum

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The museum itself is exactly what you would expect it to be; it full of history and memorabilia from one of the world’s biggest restaurants. The layout of the museum is a little strange, one side is the corporate headquarters for Juan Pollo, and the other is the McDonald’s museum, but when I was there on the weekend there were not any people in the headquarters side.

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As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a man who I would deem a McDonald’s historian, and over the next 45 minutes, he ushered me around the museum explaining all there is to know about the company.

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In all honesty, I don’t even like McDonald’s, but from a history point of view, it was pretty fascinating to see the rise of this iconic place. The museum itself chronicles this pretty well with the layout staying in a sort of chronological order. Here are some pictures from the inside.

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Can we address how creepy their mascots were back in the day? Look at this figure of Ronald and then the picture of him below that. #nightmares

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I was also into the first logo and mascot they had, Speedy!

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The Statues and Mural

The exterior of this museum is almost more fun than the interior. It has a massive sign from the old McDonald’s, a Hamburglar jail, a couple of Ronald Statues and Route 66 plaques. I found this to be a fun place to take photos.

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There is also a large mural that was just completed that runs along the entire wall of the museum and beautifully spotlights history from the area.

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All in all, this is a great place to check out if you are a fan of history. Even if you don’t like McDonald’s, it is unique to see how a company like this rose to be one of the biggest in the world. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Photo Gallery

 

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About JoshMc

Thanks for checking out the blog, I am happy to be sharing my adventures with you! You can get to know me by reading my about me, which includes a video and additional information on the site, myself and my full disclosure. Also, follow along on Twitter here or read all of my posts on this blog here.

  • Josh, we were there just 2 days ago and the layout was different and it was fun checking out the McDonald’s history.

    • Thanks for the comment! Yea it is have been years since I have been so I will need to add it to the list to get back and see the updates!

  • abernat

    Every review I read comments on the state of that part of town. Honestly, how bad is it? I was thinking of taking a bus and walking a little bit to get there. Should I not? Should I find a way to drive the whole way? Thanks

    • I personally wouldn’t want to hang out there a night but during the day it’s probably fine.

    • Virg Prit

      I lived in San Bernardino for five years.. It has terrible crime problems. I think I would take my car and not walk. There are too many drive by shootings in that town.It is gang infested. I moved the hell out after I got carjacked by three gang members. But I would not let this stop me from visiting an interesting museum if I were you.

  • Teresa Loredo

    My daughter needs to do a small
    Report on historical places and this is one on her paper.
    Is it not safe to go to?

    • Thanks for the comment. It should be fine to go to when it is open.

  • Pete Siegel

    I always thought Riverside was Mcdonalds Drive-in #2 on 4th and Main street also in the 40’s. I have the picture of it.

  • Pete Siegel
  • mobycat

    The difference between this one and the Des Plaines location is that the Des Plaines is the first franchise built (after Ray Kroc got involved). So I suppose they could claim it’s the first “Modern Day” McDonald’s.

    • Good point, thanks for the comment!

      • Scott R.

        The movie “The Founder” starring Michael Keaton explains everything. Ray Kroc was both a genius and an a**hole!

        • Adriano Lima

          Hey gentlemen, not sure about your thoughts, but in my opinion it was a a**hotel very smart, because the brothers were terriblely taken off from the business and the best idea ever after the model (from the brothers) it was the suggestion from the Accountant to Ray Kroc buy the lands and rent them… this was tremendeus!! By the way… great article!!!

  • Elaine Smith

    I recall the big thing in high school was to cruse from Riverside to “The Big M” after the football game on Fri.