Jack-in-the-Box Drive Through Sign

This sturdy plastic panel with the words “Jack will speak to you” in red lettering formed one side of a speaker box at a Jack in the Box drive thru restaurant in southern California. It directed drivers to the speaker where they placed their orders. The concept of ordering through a two-way intercom was unfamiliar to many customers in the 1950s and this panel not only directed customers but prepared them for the voice of “Jack” to respond.
Since 1951 when the first Jack in the Box opened in southern California, the restaurant chain has catered to serving customers in their cars. The restaurants were drive-thru only and, to attract drivers from a distance, the company employed unusual architecture and signage featuring a giant clown head springing from a box, like the toy.
Jack in the Box restaurants suited southern California’s automobile-focused culture. Small buildings without indoor seating kept operating costs low. They also discouraged competitors: the drive-thru-only operations gave the mistaken impression that the place was empty since cars would drive in and out so quickly, never forming long lines, but all while conducting brisk business. Founder Robert O. Peterson credits the idea for his burger place with ideas borrowed from other recently opened California burger chains. He noticed that after McDonald’s got rid of carhops their profits soared, and at In-N-Out Burger, a very limited menu seemed to work well. Peterson incorporated both of these ideas (no carhops, limited menu), and focused on developing the model of customers driving up, placing their orders, and then driving away.
Object Name
Physical Description
plexiglass (overall material)
white (overall color)
red (overall color)
overall: 30 3/8 in x 30 3/8 in x 1/8 in; 77.1525 cm x 77.1525 cm x .3175 cm
letters: 4 1/2 in; 11.43 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
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Work and Industry: Retail and Marketing
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Brian A. Luscomb

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