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This Week In Illinois History: World’s First Dairy Queen (June 22, 1940)

The first Dairy Queen store located at 501 North Chicago Street in Joliet. Today, the site is an auto insurance business, but has a plaque marking the significance of the location.

Who treats you right? Dairy Queen. Where did they start treating you right? Joliet, Illinois. That’s where Sherb Noble opened his first Dairy Queen on June 22, 1940. Dairy Queen became an immediate sensation by specializing in a revolutionary invention, soft-serve ice cream.

Noble was born in Clemons, Iowa, in 1908. He attended a two-year dairy program at Iowa State College and worked his way through school at Hutchinson Ice Cream Company, where he learned the frozen dairy trade.

In 1938, Noble ran an ice cream store in Kankakee called Sherb’s. His supplier and friend, John McCullough, was experimenting with a softer ice cream and offered it to Noble. Noble tested the soft-serve as a 10-cent all-you-can-eat special. His entire stock, 1,600 servings, ran out in under two hours.

Two years later, Noble opened a new store at 501 North Chicago Street in Joliet. John McCullough had always referred the cow as the queen of the dairy business, so Noble named his new store “Dairy Queen.” It was a huge success, and Noble saw the opportunity to open franchises. Within a year, he expanded to 10 stores. By 1955, there were 2,600 across the country.

Today, Dairy Queen has over 7,000 locations in over 20 countries.

Clint Cargile is the host of This Week in Illinois History and the creator and host of the podcast Drinkin’ with Lincoln.