Ray Kroc was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1902 to parents of Czech origin. During World War I, he lied about his age and trained to become a Red Cross ambulance driver, but the war ended before he saw any action.
Kroc worked as a paper cup salesman and a piano player before becoming a salesman for the Prince Castle Multi-Mixer, a new machine for milkshakes, which he sold nationally. Traveling around the country, Kroc met the McDonald brothers, who had a small hamburger restaurant in San Bernardino, California. Kroc then bought the rights to franchise McDonald’s restaurants nationwide. His first restaurant opened in 1955 in Des Plaines, Illinois. In 1961, Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers for $2.7 million. McDonald’s became the world’s largest fast-food chain.
Kroc was also the owner of the San Diego Padres baseball team. He is remembered as a pioneer in the fast-food industry. Time magazine named Kroc one of the “Builders and Titans” of the 20th century.