William Wrigley Jr. circa 1921.
William Wrigley Jr.
William Wrigley Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1861, at the height of the Civil War. His father, William, Sr., was a soap manufacturer, and as a little boy, young William carried a basket through the streets of Philadelphia, selling Wrigley's Scouring Soap.
When he became a teenager, William took a full-time job as a soap salesman for his father. He had a talent for salesmanship, and he drove a horse and wagon from town to town, trying to convince stores to stock Wrigley's soap.
William Wrigley Jr. struck out on his own in the spring of 1891 when he was 30 years old. He left Philadelphia for Chicago with just $32 in his pocket and a dream of running his own business. He also had boundless energy and a gift for seeing things from his customers' point of view.
At the start of his new business in Chicago, William sold his father's Scouring Soap. As an extra incentive to merchants to stock the soap on their shelves, he offered "premiums" - free gifts, such as cans of baking powder.
Trouble was, baking powder turned out to be more popular than soap!
Rather than give up, William switched to the baking powder business.
One day in 1892, William got the idea of offering two free packages of chewing gum with each can of baking powder. The offer was a big success. Once again the premium - chewing gum - seemed to be more popular than the product it was designed to promote.
A year later, in 1893, William Wrigley Jr. introduced a new gum he called Juicy Fruit. And so began the world's most popular and successful chewing gum business!
For more information about the history of the Wrigley Company, visit our Heritage timeline.