Rosenberg was born in Boston, Massachusetts one of four children of Nathan Rosenberg, a grocery owner, and Phoebe Rosenberg née Swart, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Rosenberg grew up in Boston's working-class Dorchester section and was educated in public schools.

Due to financial problems, he was forced to leave school by eighth grade to help support his family, who had lost their store in the Great Depression. After several different jobs, at age fourteen, he went to work for Western Union as a full-time telegram delivery boy.

At seventeen, he started working for Simco, a company that distributed ice cream from refrigerated trucks, rising from delivery boy to national sales manager at age twenty-one, supervising the production, shipping, cold storage and manufacturing and managing 40 to 100 trucks.

Work at Bethlehem Steel Company

At the start of World War II, he joined the Bethlehem Steel Company in Hingham, Massachusetts. He would later become the first Jewish Trade union delegate. After the war, Rosenberg borrowed $1,000 to add to his $1,500 in war bonds and used his knowledge of food distribution to open his first company "Industrial Luncheon Services", a company that delivered meals and coffee break snacks to factory workers on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts.

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Rosenberg created his own catering vehicles, with sides that rose to reveal sandwiches and snacks stocked on stainless steel shelves, a prototype for today's mobile catering vans. Within a short time, he had 200 catering trucks, 25 in-plant outlets and a vending operation. Noticing that forty percent of his revenues came from coffee and doughnuts, he started a retail shop that specialized in those products, opening his first coffee and doughnut shop, the "Open Kettle" on Memorial Day in 1948, later renamed "Dunkin' Donuts".

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52 different varieties of doughnut

Instead of the five different types of doughnuts doughnut shops traditionally offered, Rosenberg offered 52 different varieties. In 1955, upon opening his sixth shop, he decided on the concept of franchising his business as a means of distribution and expansion. In 1959, after the franchise idea had started to catch on, he lobbied at a trade show for the creation of the industry group that became the International Franchise Association in 1960.

In 1968, Rosenberg bought Wilrose Farm in New Hampshire. After being diagnosed with lung cancer in 1971, he devoted his time mainly to Wilrose Farm, becoming the largest standardbred breeder in New England and was inducted into the New England Hall of Fame of the Standardbred Industry. In 1980, he donated Wilrose Farm to the University of New Hampshire, and later became involved in philanthropy, primarily benefiting hospitals.

By 2000, when Dunkin' Donuts celebrated its 50th anniversary and opened its 5,000th outlet in a chain spanning the U.S. and 37 other countries, Rosenberg was curtailing his own intake of its baked products because of weight problems and diabetes. But he continued to have a cup of the chain's fresh coffee every morning, and he served the doughnuts in his home, joking that, when nobody was looking, he could inhale two dozen.

In 2001, he published his autobiography, Time to Make the Donuts: The Founder of Dunkin Donuts Shares an American Journey, written with the help of Jessica Brilliant Keener.
Rosenberg, who had survived cancer of the lung, blood and skin and many years of diabetes died on September 22, 2002,at the age of 86 in his home in Mashpee, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod of bladder cancer.


In 1950, William Rosenberg founded Dunkin' Donuts. By 1954, Mr. Rosenberg had opened a total of five Dunkin' Donuts shops, and had been featured as a young entrepreneur in national publications such as The Saturday Evening Post and Coronet magazine. Today, Dunkin' Donuts has over 6,000 shops in 30 countries, and is the leading retailer of coffee, donuts and bagels.

In 1960, Mr. Rosenberg founded The International Franchise Association (IFA). Today, the IFA encompasses more than 800 franchisors and over 30,000 franchisee members. The group continues to play a key role in franchising, which accounts for almost fifty percent of all retail business done in America.

In 1968, Mr. Rosenberg purchased New Hampshire-based Wilrose Farm, which quickly became the number-one stable in New England and one of the premier Standard bred racing stables in the country. At its peak, Wilrose Farm had two hundred horses, including thirty racehorses. In 1980, Mr. Rosenberg donated Wilrose Farm, valued at two million dollars, to the University of New Hampshire. Fourteen years later, the university sold the farm and endowed the William Rosenberg Chair in Franchising and Entrepreneurship, the first such faculty position in the university world.

In 1983, Mr. Rosenberg founded the International Horse Racing Association, and was honored in 1988 with the first-ever Achievement Award by Harness Horsemen International.

Mr. Rosenberg donated millions of dollars to a variety of causes. In 1986, he established the William Rosenberg Chair in Medicine at Harvard Medical School through the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. In 1989, Mr. Rosenberg became the first honorary trustee at Dana Farber, and in 1999 he assisted in funding the Vector Laboratory at the Harvard Institute of Human Genetics in Boston.

Mr. Rosenberg was an entrepreneur whose positive attitude, personal intuition and customer focus helped change the business landscape. He has been hailed as a "visionary" by Success magazine, and as "the father of franchising as we know it today," by Nation's Restaurant News, whose publisher Alan Gould. In 2001, he called Mr. Rosenberg, "one of the most influential and innovative individuals the foodservice industry has ever known."

Mr. Rosenberg embodied the American spirit of hard work and passion. He came of age during the depression and despite a limited education, his hard work and spirit brought wealth and fame enabling him to become a philanthropist in his senior years.

"Dunkin Donut" timeline

  • 1948: William Rosenberg opened his first coffee and donut shop in Quincy, Massachusetts called "Open Kettle".Rosenberg decided to rename it to Dunkin' Donuts and create the business known globally today.
  • 1955: He began to sell his business as a franchise.
  • 1965: Ten years after franchising, the business became global.1972: The infamous "Munchkins" were created to be a part of the Dunkin' menu.
  • 1997: Following the great success of a variety of donuts, breakfast sandwiches were added to the menu.
  • 2006: Over the years, Dunkin' Donuts has gone through a number of slogans, but their most successful to date is their current one: America Runs on Dunkin'.
  • 2012: With all their success and influx of technology, Dunkin's first mobile application was created.
  • 2014: After almost 70 years in the business, Dunkin' Donuts has grown to have 11,000 restaurants in 33 countries and have over 1,000 items on their menu. They are owned by Dunkin' Brands Inc., who also owns Baskin Robins.

Fun facts

Back in the late '70s and into '80s, DD used to sell so-called Easter egg donuts. They were chocolate-covered, sprinkled, egg-shaped donuts that came in their very own carton. The best part? They tasted way less vinegary than your actual Easter eggs. Also, you could get a dozen for $1.99. Also, They're Easter egg donuts!

At the end of 2012, there were 10,500 Dunkin' Donuts stores worldwide, which includes over 7,000 franchised restaurants in 36 states and more than 3,000 international locations in 30 countries. And that's without Easter Egg donuts!

International Dunkin' Donuts chains tend to get a little crazy -- and a little barf-y -- with their donut flavors. Think we're kidding? Then we invite you to taste the shredded chicken-and-chili-paste donut (Thailand), the kimchi croquette (South Korea), or this pork and seaweed pastry (China).


Updated: Dec 29, 2020
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William Rosenberg. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

William Rosenberg essay
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