When Was DQ Founded?- Read More About It

DQ stands for Dairy Queen, which is a well-known frozen dessert chain globally. It is popular in the United States of America and Canada. They are known for their soft-serve ice cream, signature blizzards, and soft-serve cakes. Dairy Queen also sells a handful of savory items such as burgers, sandwiches, fries, etc., along with drinks like slush, soda, milkshakes, and more. In this article, we will see about ‘When Was DQ Founded?’.

When Was DQ Founded?

When Was DQ Founded?

Dairy Queen was started in the year 1940 by Sherb Noble. Although the original soft-serve recipe was developed by his close friends, John Fremont McCullough and his son Alex. They gave the recipe to Sherb Noble and asked him to sell it. The first sale of the soft-serve was a huge success among people and was widely appreciated by people. This resulted in them receiving great sales. The company has been flourishing ever since.


The Start

John Fremont McCullough and his son realized in the 1930s that soda parlors and ice-cream shops were flourishing all across the country. To stand out from the rest, they decided to use a different formula for ice cream altogether.

In 1938, John McCullough and Alex, his son, developed a recipe, and to test it, they asked for help from Sherbwood Dick Noble, also known as Sherb Noble, a close family friend who owned a store. Noble agreed to it, and on August 4, 1938, they held an all you can eat for 10 cents ice cream buffet which sold the new formula of ice cream. In just two hours since the start time, over 1600 ice creams were served. 

The customers entered the store expecting regular ice cream and found themselves enjoying something lighter, and smoother. A huge line of people was also seen outside the store that same day. Seeing the response, John McCullough and his son worked for the next two years to invent a freezer that would produce and store the right consistency of soft-serve ice cream. This massive success and more such days following it are what led to John McCullough and Sherb Noble opening the very first Dairy Queen in Joliet, Illinois in 1940. 

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At the beginning of the company itself, it was decided that it would function in a franchise marketing system. The franchise system refers to a system that is followed by multiple fast-food brands today, such as McDonald’s, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Taco Bell, etc. It is when a company allows another organization or an individual to sell their products in their location. Profits from this belong to the organization or individual, but they must pay a fee to the company for using their name and brand.

The Growth

With the franchise marketing business plan and system in place, in just a year, the company had expanded to 10 Dairy Queen locations in the United States. By 1947, the company had 100 stores at different locations. The first store that was opened outside the United States was done in the year 1953, in Melville, Saskatchewan, Canada. It became immensely popular among Canadians as well.

In the year 1958, they had their very first official logo, which was red and had their signature soft serve with their classic ice cream cone on it. The 50s were also the time when Dairy Queen started experimenting with their menu and adding new fast food items such as hot dogs, burgers, fries, etc. These started to get immensely popular among kids. In 1962, the company was officially registered as an International Dairy Queen Inc. operative, also known as IDQ.

Dairy Queen was also incredibly popular among politicians and other celebrities. They received visits from such figures pretty frequently. One such instance occurred when President Lyndon B. Johnson went to a Dairy Queen in Maine to get the classic soft serve for himself and his wife, Mrs. Johnson. President Johnson was not the only United States President to visit a Dairy Queen. President Bill Clinton was also seen at a Dairy Queen during his first presidential campaign in Texas.

About the Founders

John Fremont McCullough

John Fremont ‘Grandpa’ McCullough was born in 1871 in Iowa. He attended college in New York, and, after his graduation, he moved back to Iowa. John opened up his own dairy business in Illinois in 1911. In 1938, he and his son, Hugh Alexander McCullough, worked on developing a new formula to serve ice cream. To test this formula out, his friend, Sherb Noble, along with him, organized an “all you can eat for 10 cents’ ice cream offer.

In just 2 hours, over 1600 servings of soft serve were distributed. This gave John McCullough hope to work on a freezer that helps with producing that kind of ice cream. By 1940, the freezer was ready to function, and the soft-serve hit the stores.

Hugh Alexander McCullough (Alex)

John McCullough’s son, Hugh Alexander McCullough, known as Alex also worked on both the ice cream formula and the freezer with his father. Both of them are credited as one of the first founders of the popular soft serve ice creams that are sold by multiple stores across the world, apart from Dairy Queen itself.

Sherb Noble

Born in 1908 in Iowa, Sherbwood Dick Noble was the businessman behind Dairy Queen. As a young boy, Noble would entertain himself by doing chores like washing milk cans. He attended high school in his hometown, after which he attended Iowa State University, Ames, to study a dairy course for two years.

By 1938, Sherb Noble already had three running ice cream parlors. He then met with John McCullough and heard his idea. The pair worked hand in hand towards making the business work. The one sale in 1938 was proven to be so successful that several customers broke down glass windows to enter the store.

There are also claims that Sherb Noble served in the Second World War as a soldier, and upon his return, he immediately engrossed himself in the Dairy Queen ice cream business, as he enjoyed spending time with and being around kids. He used to love to see the smiles on the children’s faces after he had served them their favorite ice cream.

Dairy Queen Products

Dairy Queen is popularly known for its ice cream and soft serve, but apart from that, the company also sells a variety of other food items such as burgers, fries, etc. along with sweet treats like milkshakes and ice cream cakes.


In 1985, an item named “Blizzard” was introduced to the Dairy Queen menu, which is soft serve blended with other sweet ingredients to make a mixed sundae or an extremely thick milkshake. This quickly gained popularity as people got the opportunity to enjoy their favorite classic dessert along with their favorite soft serve. Dairy Queen also lets customers customize their blizzards into whichever flavor profile suits their taste with the ingredients that they have.

Their ingredients consist of sauces such as chocolate, strawberries, and candies, and cookies such as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Oreos, chocolate chips, white chocolate, brownie bits, frozen cheesecake, sprinkles, syrups, jams, fruits, etc. This could be the reason why Blizzards grew immensely popular very quickly because people could choose how they wanted their soft serve to taste. And the company also offered such a wide range of flavors at a reasonable price.

Another key feature of these Blizzards was that Dairy Queen claimed that they would not fall, even when turned upside down completely. This carried around to people through word of mouth, and many would visit the store just to see that happen.


Soft serve cakes are also one of the popular things that Dairy Queen is known for. These are layered soft served cakes with a layer of soft serve, with brownie crumble, or any other thick layer with soft serves on top of it. These cakes are also customizable, and people can put any design and decorations on them.

There was a twist brought to these cakes, which made them so likable among the people. It was that the soft serve used in the cakes could be replaced by a customized blizzard giving the customers more opportunity to change their favorite dessert to the flavor of their liking.

Dairy Queen also added frozen yogurt to their menus in 1990 and then removed it just 11 years later due to the lack of sales. This was presented and marketed as a lower-calorie alternative to the regular soft serve.

The Classic Soft Serve

While all of these custom ingredients and flavors are delicious, Dairy Queen still has their stable of Dairy Queen swirled soft serve. The formula has undergone little to no modification since its first invention. The soft serve is poured over an edible cone, or a plastic cup, according to the customer’s preference. After pouring the soft serve into balls, the last tip is given as a swirl known as the “Q Swirl”.

Campaigns and Advertising

The Dairy Queen logo has changed a lot since the beginning of the company, but the signature red color in the logo has stayed with every variation of it. In the earlier logo used, the words Dairy Queen were spelled out on it completely, whereas the current logo is red and orange in colors and only has the initial DQ on it.


The first slogan that the company ever used in records was “It’s a real treat!”, which later changed to “We treat you right.” When the company also started producing and selling non-dessert savory fast food, they used the slogan “Hot Eats. Cool Treats.” Some such jingles and slogans kept changing from time to time. Some of them are –

  • “Meet Me at DQ”
  • “DQ: Something Different”.
  • “So Good It’s RiDQulous”
  • “Fan Food, Not Fast Food”.
  • “Now That’s A Lunchtime DQuandary!”
  • “Well, This Is A Bit Crazy!”
  • “After The Conquest”
  • “Well, This Is A Bit Crazy!”


Dairy Queen has also been a longtime supporter of Miracle Treat Day. This day is organized by the Children’s Miracle Network and is sponsored by Dairy Queen. Starting in 1984, Dairy Queen is still consistent with its contribution to Miracle Treat Day. The Children’s Miracle Network is a non-profit that works towards providing healthcare to children. This organization mostly conducts fundraisers, and Miracle Treat Day is one of the biggest fundraisers of them all. Right from the very first Miracle Treat Day celebration till now, Dairy Queen has contributed to all of them. A dollar from each sale of a blizzard is donated for this cause.

In the current trend, many Dairy Queen employees have started the trend of recording themselves while preparing a customer’s orders. Such videos have received a great deal of positive feedback from the viewers. While these employees do not work with the marketing aspect of Dairy Queen directly, they have also helped the company with its marketing through their videos.


Dairy Queen has seen immense success all over the world today, and with the power of the internet, the brand only keeps growing. While the current growth of the brand is fascinating to see, the origin tale of the father-son duo developing a brand-new formula to serve ice cream along with their friend is also amusing. Apart from that, even Sherb Noble’s contribution to the company by developing it through a franchise method is the reason for its nationwide immediate growth. Dairy Queen is one of the few American brands that is completely intertwined with its culture and people.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When was Dairy Queen founded?

The soft-serve formula for Dairy Queen was tested on August 4, 1938, but the first Dairy Queen was founded in 1940.

  • Did Dairy Queen invent the first soft-serve?

There are numerous claims made by various brands and personalities that they invented soft serve, but none of them can be completely refuted or accepted. John McCullough and Hugh Alexander McCullough are some of the first people to have prepared a soft-serve formula.

  • Is Dairy Queen soft-serve ice cream?

There has to be a presence of 10% or more butterfat in a dessert for it to be labeled ice cream. Dairy Queen soft-serve ice cream only has about 5% of butterfat in it and cannot be considered as ice cream and is known as soft-serve, or frozen delight, frozen treat, or frozen dessert.

When Was DQ Founded?- Read More About It

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