Whatever Happened To McDonald's First Mascot, Speedee?

When Richard and Maurice McDonald introduced McDonald's and the "Speedee Service System", they prefigured the fast food industry. Retro Planet describes this at the time innovative system as one in which "customers walked up to the window to get their own food", as opposed to being served at a table. Additionally, the McDonalds stripped their menu down to burgers, fries, and soft drinks. The point was to make serving the customer as quick as possible.

To advertise their speed, however, McDonald's needed a mascot. So, they created Speedee, a chef with a hamburger-shaped head and an appropriately blunt name. The Daily Meal describes this early iteration of the McDonald's logo as featuring "Speedee, a jaunty, pudgy, winking little chef with a hamburger for a head and a chef's hat. He holds a sign reading 'I'm Speedee' just to make sure everyone's on the same page." 

There wasn't too much more Speedee than this though. The McDonald's wiki claims that Speedee did not appear in any commercials before his retirement in 1962, a year after the arches began to appear. Retro Planet credits confusion with Alka-Seltzer's Speedy mascot for Speedee's discontinuation. However, Alan Hess's research for the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians found that "market research showed that people identified McDonald's primarily with the golden arches [instead of Speedee]." So, they dropped him, later replacing him with Ronald McDonald and a focus on branded arches.

Speedee today

You can probably guess or remember that Speedee fell from the McDonald's brand. However, he can still be seen here and there.

In a 2015 article for Eater, Lucas Petersen describes his "pilgrimage" to the oldest McDonald's outlet in Downey, California: "The fonts are different; the sign features one massive yellow parabola coming out of the ground instead of Stanley Clark Meston's iconic 'Golden Arches.' There's no mansard roof. And there's a fat little moon-faced chef mascot parading around on top of the sign (his name is Speedee, if you were wondering). This the pre-Kroc, O.G. McDonald's." It's a trip back to the imaginary 1950s. An air of reverence is held when presented with the origins of the McDonald's burger.

On BurgerWeb in 2015, another writer titled the "Wisconsin Hamburglar" rhapsodizes about the Speedee McDonald's in Green Bay and laments how, to their knowledge, it is one of the two remaining in existence. In the comments, however, a few others piped in to talk about other Speedee McDonald's that are still around, in places like Montrose, Colorado and Apple Valley, Minnesota. While Speedee's usurpation by Ronald McDonald — in Wisconsin Hamburglar's words, the "garish clown" — was probably necessary in terms of making MacDonald's into the iconic fast food brand of today, the image of the old McDonald's, the one actually owned by the brothers McDonald and not Ray Kroc, still lingers as nostalgia.