Ray Kroc is the American entrepreneur who turned McDonald's hamburger stands into an international success and the world's largest chain of restaurants. Ray Kroc's rags-to-riches story started in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, where he dropped out of school at age 15 and lied about his age to become a Red Cross ambulance driver near the end of World War I. Ray Kroc was a salesman for more than thirty years, first with the Lily Tulip Cup Company and then for the manufacturers of a mixer that could make five milkshakes at once. Following a big order of mixers to a hamburger stand in San Bernadino, California, Kroc grew impressed with the assembly-line system of Richard and Maurice McDonald. Ray Kroc, at the age of 52, jumped into the burger business with a McDonald's franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois in 1955. He founded what became McDonald's Corporation the same year and devised a national system for franchise owners that would guarantee uniform quality and a network of national suppliers. Within three years his restaurants had sold 100 million burgers. Ray Kroc bought out the McDonald brothers in 1961, the same year he got the notion for a Hamburger University, where franchise employees and owners learned to ensure uniformity from store to store. Over the next few decades, the McDonalds logo -- the "golden arches" of a big curved 'M' -- and hamburgers like the Big Mac and the Quarter-Pounder became globally known. A hands-on owner and famously hard-working businessman (not unlike Harland Sanders
, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken) Kroc was known to fuss over restaurant details long after he was a rich man.