Little Bits of History

September 30

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 30, 2017

1861: William Wrigley, Jr. is born in Philadelphia. At the age of 29, Wrigley moved to Chicago bringing his entire life savings, $32. He founded Wrigley’s Scouring Soap, a company which used premiums to get people to buy the product. That is, he gave away baking powder if soap was purchased. He learned the baking powder was more popular than the soap and changed his business to selling baking powder. He kept the same marketing scheme however and now gave away two packages of chewing gum for each can of baking powder purchased. Again, the bonus was more popular than the actual product. And so, again, Wrigley switched the focus of his business.

Since he was no longer selling soap, or even baking powder, the name of the business needed to change. The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, or the Wrigley Company, was founded on April 1, 1891 under the name mentioned above. Today, it is a subsidiary of Mars, Incorporated which purchased Wrigley’s for about $23 billion in 2008. They sell their products in over 180 countries and districts. They maintain operations in over 50 countries and have 21 production facilities in 14 countries. The company had been run by family members until 2006 when William Perez took over the leadership. Martin Radvan is the current president of the company.

William was interested in more than just selling gum. He played a leading role in the development of Santa Catalina Island, California which lies off the coast of Los Angeles. He bought a controlling interest in the venture in 1919 and became the owner of the island. He then developed it with utilities, new steamships, a hotel, and the Casino building. He also beautified the island. These improvements created jobs and provided raw materials for later projects. His son continued his improvements and created the Catalina Island Conservancy in order to secure protection for the island. The Wrigley Botanical Gardens on the island are a testament to their care.

William also bought a minority interest in the Chicago Cubs, the baseball team. As Charles Weeghman, another investor, had to back away from the team, Wrigley bought his shares. By 1921, he was the principal owner and the ballpark in which they play today is named Wrigley Field in honor of him. Wrigley was also the owner of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix. The Wrigley Mansion is nearby and was the smallest of Wrigley’s five residences with “only” 16,000 square feet under roof. It was here that Wrigley died in 1932 at the age of 70.

Anyone can make gum. Selling it is the problem.

Everybody likes something extra, for nothing.

Make a good product at a fair price – then tell the world.

Business is built by men who care – care enough to disagree, fight it out to a finish, get the facts. – all from William Wrigley, Jr.


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