With the rise of American automobile culture and consumers’ increasing need for convenient and speedy services during the twentieth century, drive-through businesses proliferated and revolutionized major industries. Drive-through establishments became a profitable part of the American landscape and economy, from fast-food dining to banking and more.
In 1923, J. G. Kirby and Dr. Reuben Wright Jackson opened the first drive-in eatery, the Pig Stand, in Dallas, Texas. A&W opened a drive-in diner in 1923, and Maid-Rite had a drive-through window when it opened in 1926. In 1951, Jack in the Box introduced the drive-through system of ordering at a two-way intercom in the parking lot and then driving to a service window to pay for and pick up an order. Sonic opened its first drive-in diner, complete with carhops, in 1952.
By 2008, most of the major American fast-food
Another early major drive-through industry was gasoline retailing. In 1905 in St. Louis, Missouri, Clem Laessig and Harry Grenner opened the first
In 1927, the first modern
Founded in 1901, Walgreen’s introduced the concept of freestanding stores with drive-through pharmacy service in 1992. This was a significant development that made it more convenient for customers to drop off and pick up prescriptions. After 1994, most new Walgreen’s stores included this service. In 2008, Walgreen’s was the nation’s largest retail
The drive-through concept revolutionized American
The Donut Hole, pictured in 1970, was a popular coffee and donut drive-through shop in Los Angeles.
Richard Hollingshead opened the first drive-in
By the twenty-first century, the drive-through concept permeated the American economy, in mom-and-pop operations as well as in national chains. Drive-through businesses included dry cleaners, car washes, liquor stores, coffee shops, casinos, and even a wedding chapel: In 1991, Charolette Richards created a drive-up window at her Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada, to accommodate handicapped patrons. The novelty soon became popular, especially among film stars and celebrities.
Bacon, John. America’s Corner Store: Walgreen’s Prescription for Success. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2004. History of Walgreen’s, which pioneered the concept of the drive-through pharmacy. Bibliography, appendix, notes, and index. Hinckley, Jim, and Jon Robinson. The Big Book of Car Culture: The Armchair Guide to Automotive Americana. St. Paul, Minn.: Motorbooks, 2005. This entertaining compendium includes chapters on service stations, dinner in the car, drive-through windows, and other aspects of road culture. Illustrated with over one hundred photos. Index. Jakle, John A., and Keith A. Sculle. Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. Written by a geographer and a historian, this is a well-researched study of the culture of the automobile and quick-service restaurants. Illustrated, with over 100 photos. Bibliography. _______. The Gas Station in America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994. Comprehensive history, with over 150 illustrations, including vintage ads and postcards of gas stations. Notes, bibliography, and index. Russell, Tim. Fill ’er Up: The Great American Gas Station. St. Paul, Minn.: Voyageur Press, 2007. Written by an eminent petroliana historian and collector, this entertaining chronicle covers the early decades of the twentieth century through the beginning of the twenty-first century. Includes vintage photography and advertisements. Illustrated. Index. Segrave, Kerry. Drive-In Theaters: A History from Their Inception in 1933. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1992. Covering the history of drive-in theaters through the 1980’s, this study includes copies of the original theater patents. Illustrated. Appendixes, notes, and extensive bibliography. Witzel, Michael, and Tim Steil. Classic Roadside Americana: Car Hops, Fast Food, Drive-in Restaurants, Road Trips, Route 66. St. Paul, Minn.: Crestline, 2006. Pictorial history, including descriptions of businesses, architecture, and automobile travel. Illustrated, mostly in color. Index.
Retail trade industry