The cool scoop on Dairy Queen history (1940 to today)
Founded in Joliet, Illinois, in 1940, the Dairy Queen brand has seen decades of transformation, innovations, and, of course, a few vintage menu items that make folks nostalgic.
Sherb Noble and John Fremont McCullough were the two entrepreneurs who kicked off the Dairy Queen journey. McCullough, a fan of the creamy delight that is soft serve, partnered with Noble, a store owner, to open the first Dairy Queen store.
The duo discovered that soft serve was a hit when they sold 1,600 servings in just two hours during a trial run at Noble’s ice cream store. That’s a lot of love for something so frosty!
While today’s Dairy Queen menu offers a broad range of foods, from burgers to salads, let’s not forget the classics that made the brand iconic. The original menu was simple, featuring just the soft-serve ice cream cones, sundaes, and take-home pints and quarts.
Over time, they added milkshakes and banana splits to the lineup, sticking to the brand’s ice cream-centric origins. (You can see menus — including prices — from several different decades below.)
Dairy Queen history: Dilly Bar, Mister Misty & the Brazier concept
The 1950s brought the introduction of the Dilly Bar, a round blob of ice cream dipped in chocolate and stuck on a wooden stick. Simple, yet unforgettable.
Dairy Queen’s product line continued to grow in the 1960s and 1970s, including the Mister Misty slush and the Brazier foods concept that introduced hot foods like burgers and hot dogs. The Brazier concept marked a pivotal moment for Dairy Queen, as it transitioned from being just an ice cream shop to a fast-food restaurant.
VIDEO: Vintage 1980s Dairy Queen “Full Meal Deal” Brazier commercial
Dairy Queen history: Blizzard & Treatzza Pizza
Fast forward to the 1980s, and enter the Blizzard. Dairy Queen struck gold with this creation — soft serve mixed with a choice mix-ins, namely candy (like m&ms and Butterfinger bars) along with cookies, fruit and nuts.
Launched in 1985, the Blizzard was an instant success, selling more than 100 million in the first year alone. The popularity of the Blizzard solidified Dairy Queen’s reputation as a go-to place for innovative, tasty treats.
The 1990s kept the momentum going. The Treatzza Pizza made its debut, offering a playful spin on dessert by serving a frozen ice cream “pizza” with various toppings.
The decade also saw the brand embracing franchising in a big way, with international expansion that made Dairy Queen a global name.
As the calendar pages flipped closer to the 21st century, Dairy Queen continued to keep up with consumer tastes while holding onto its vintage charm. Whether it’s the comforting taste of a classic sundae or the thrill of biting into a hot-off-the-grill burger, Dairy Queen has achieved a balance of old and new that keeps people coming back.
The tale of Dairy Queen is one of American entrepreneurial spirit, ingenuity, and a true love… for ice cream. It’s a story worth telling — over a Blizzard or two, of course! Scroll on and reminisce with these vintage Dairy Queen photos, promos, menus, ads and commercials.
1950s DAIRY QUEEN
Under the big topping… it’s Dairy Queen (1952)
Smooth… Delicious… Treat yourself and the whole family to a yummy sundae at your nearest gleaming white Dairy Queen store.
Dairy Queen is a freshly frozen dairy food. Stop often for Dairy Queen and order your favorite sundae. It’s the biggest treat on earth!
DQ Tastes better (1953)
June is Dairy Queen month! Cool, smooth Dairy Queen, covered with luscious, juicy strawberries. When are you going to try a Dairy Queen tastes better — and is so good for you. Drive over to your Dairy Queen store today.
Vintage 1950s Dairy Queen TV commercial
In the merry month of May, it’s the Dairy Queen 19-cent sale (1956)
Malts and shakes — May 1st, one day only (your choice of flavors)
Dairy Queen… first and largest from coast-to-cast! Your chance to get a famous Dairy Queen malt or shake for only 19 cents! In all the world… no other frozen dairy product gives you the smooth texture, richly-satisfying taste and freshly-frozen goodness of Dairy Queen malts and shakes.
Old 1950s Dairy Queen & Cozy Dog shop
Dairy Queen history: It’s sweet sixteen for DQ (1956)
It’s happy birthday to YOU — when you help Dairy Queen celebrate with this luscious treat!
With big, plump strawberries set temptingly in smooth Dairy Queen, it’s a treat you won’t want to miss. It will be waiting for you — red, ripe ‘n ready — at Dairy Queen!
Soft-frozen only seconds before you eat it… Dairy Queen is served to you when flavor is at its fullest. That’s why in all the world, no other frozen dairy product gives you the smooth texture and richly-satisfying taste of Dairy Queen!
Stop at the sign of the “cone with the curl on top.” Join the millions who enjoy over 300,000,000 servings yearly. It’s our happy birthday — your happy treat day!
Vintage Dairy Queen’s 50s menu prices (1958)
Strato-Liner sundae (1959)
Thrilling chocolate-banana plane soaring through marshmallow clouds! Served only at Dairy Queen stores.
Dairy Queen history: Mr Astro-Chimp (1959)
What a playmate! — Your youngsters will go into orbit when they see this funny fellow. He stands a full 22-inch high… almost life-size! Mr Astro-Chrimp hangs by his hand, and holds a banana too. Made of finest quality plush and vinyl, he’s comparable to chimps selling to $6.98 — Yours for only $2.99! (Offer void after June 1st, 1961)
Vintage Dairy Queen slogans
- 1940s: “A Meal for a Dime”
- 1950s: “The Cone with the Curl on Top”
- 1960s: “Live a Little”
- Late 1960s to Early 1970s: “In the Cone You Love”
- 1980s: “We Treat You Right”
- Early 1990s: “Hot Eats, Cool Treats”
- Late 1990s: “This is where we belong”
- 2001–2002: “So Good It’s RiDQulous”
- 2003–2010: “Something Different”
- 2011–2014: “So Good It’s RiDQulous” (revived)
- 2015–2019: “Fan Food, Not Fast Food”
- 2020–2023: “Happy Tastes Good”
1960s DAIRY QUEEN
Dairy Queen’s 1960s menu prices (1969)
Vintage DQ Fiesta Sundae (1963)
Vintage 60s Dairy Queen TV commercial
1970s DAIRY QUEEN
Dairy Queen’s 1970s menu prices (1976)
Dilly Wagon drivers for Dairy Queen treats (1971)
Teens from a small town visiting a DQ in 1971
Vintage 70s Dairy Queen commercial
Dairy Queen & Dennis the Menace
Dennis hung around until 2002, but he left a lasting impression. Even though he’s not front and center anymore, the partnership still stands as a clever bit of marketing history for Dairy Queen.
1980s DAIRY QUEEN
Vintage Dairy Queen Father’s Day frozen cake (1984)
Dairy Queen’s 1980s menu prices & product sizes (1982)
VIDEO: Vintage 1980s Dairy Queen Blizzard commercial
1990s DAIRY QUEEN
Vintage 90s DQ frozen ice cream cakes
90s Dairy Queen store in 1991
Dairy Queen’s 1990s food prices (1991)
Vintage 1990s Dairy Queen TV commercial
(Check out that chunky car phone!)
Cool DQ Easter cakes from the 1990s
More old DQ restaurant locations and neon signs
More old DQ restaurant locations and neon signs
Vintage 50s Dairy Queen van by a restaurant
Banana Burt and Lil at Buzzards Bay (Mass.) DQ stand (1950)
Kids on bikes gathering by the old DQ (c1950s)
Old 50s DQ shop with ice cream truck in front
Opening day for a Dairy Queen in Hot Springs, Arkansas (1951)
1970s-era Dairy Queen Brazier restaurant building
Old-school DQ ice cream sign, Rt. 50, Dodge City, Kansas (1979)
Vintage Dairy Queen ice cream sign, Des Moines, Iowa (1998)