If you really want to understand Americana Icons see the movie "The Founder", the true story of Ray Kroc founder of McDonalds, without a doubt one of the most financial success stories in capitalism history.
McDonalds like Kroc's personal story is one of magic and good but yet dark and evil. The nutritional value of most McDonalds food, particularly its legacy menu is garbage. Of course there is the debate about the pay of McDonalds workers.
First, a little history of Kroc. He was a 50 year old struggling near washed up functional alcoholic selling milk shake machines to then drive through restaurants. His business was near bankrupt when he got a call from a single restaurant wanting eight of his machines. He personally visited the restaurant in San Bernardino, CA named McDonalds, named after the two owner brothers by the same name. The place was built upon factory production efficiency and a limited menu that facilitated an assembly line quick turnaround of food orders and to encouraged a "family atmosphere" by requiring customers to get out of their cars to order at a window and benches to then consume the food. Paper plates were used to reduce labor costs. Not to mention food that children found addicting albeit little nutritional value. The original menu was solely hamburgers (15 cents), a small order of French fries (10 cents) and orange like cola (5 cents).
Upon seeing this unique restaurant in action Kroc immediately envisioned the opportunities for franchising. However, the McDonald brothers had tried expansion only to find they couldn't control operations and quality from afar and instead settled on returning to their one very successful restaurant. Kroc on the other hand believes that with the proper management franchising would be possible and financially rewarding. He has a vision of a McDonalds in every US city.
Eventually the McDonald brothers agree to allow Kroc to expand the theme to more locations. While Kroc sees the future of McDonalds nationally and eventually worldwide the McDonald brothers are less sanguine with very little appetite for wide expansion and huge profits. Eventually the never ending infighting leads Kroc to find ways of severing the legal agreement with the McDonalds, not in the most honorable way. The McDonald brothers do end up getting over $2 million (although Kroc reneges on a verbal promise to pay royalties of 1% of all sales) but are forced to abandon the McDonalds name. Kroc has the ability to see how "Americana" the McDonalds names would become. Eventually a McDonalds in San Bernardino puts the original McDonalds out of business.
Ultimately this is a story of the American Dream and the dark side of capitalism. Only in America 1950s could a failing alcoholic build one of the most successful global businesses of all times. At the same time Kroc represented the evil side that often results from large conglomerates. A fervor for sales and profits that forces people to engage in unsavory business practices. Its truly a story of good and evil on many levels. Watching the movie will bring that point home.
Kroc died in 1984. Today Kroc would find little in common with the McDonalds of today compared to the McDonalds of years gone by, even when he was still alive. McDonalds only began to experiment with breakfast in the late 1970s and expanding its menu to multiple offerings. Those of us old enough remember when there was no in store dining and the menu was still close to the original offerings from the 1950s.
I walked away from the movie with mixed emotions. A simple man with a wild imagination realizes success beyond his most glorious dreams. At the same time, he does it in an unethical way and builds a business that has helped to build an obesity epidemic worldwide. Back in the early 1980s he goes on public record to make the claim that McDonalds food is wholesome and good for your health. Truly a con man on some level.