Wrigley, William, Jr.
Wrigley, William, Jr.
Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company
With a flair for sales and marketing, William Wrigley Jr. developed Wrigley's Spearmint into the best-selling chewing gum in America. The company's Juicy Fruit brand also became well-known, and when Doublemint was introduced in 1914, it soon became the favorite. Wrigley expanded the company internationally, opening plants in other countries and advertising in more than 30 languages.
One of Wrigley's many interests was baseball, and he acquired controlling interest in the Chicago Cubs and built the fabled Wrigley Field. Following his death, the baseball club was run by his son, Phillip K. Wrigley. When Phillip and his wife both died in 1977, the family was forced to sell the club to pay inheritance taxes.
William Wrigley Jr. was born on September 30, 1861, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of William Wrigley and Mary A. Ladley's nine children. An entrepreneurial strain ran through the family, as several generations before and after William Jr. were manufacturers.
By all accounts Wrigley was a difficult student, and he was expelled from his Philadelphia grammar school class on several occasions. A restless child, he was strong minded and energetic, and often got into mischief. His father more than once had to go to the principal's office to take his son home. One year he ran away to New York, spending the summer there doing odd jobs such as selling newspapers and working as a cook's helper on ships docked in the harbor. At night he slept in doorways or under delivery wagons with other young boys who lived on the streets. When the weather started turning cold, he went back to Philadelphia. He was soon expelled from school, this time for good, so his father put him to work in his soap factory hoping to straighten out his wayward son. He was given the most unpleasant job in the factory, stirring pots of boiling soap with a wooden paddle. The work made him physically strong, and he maintained this strength throughout his life by exercising regularly.
When he was 13, Wrigley persuaded his father to let him be a traveling salesman for the soap factory. His territory included the rural towns of Pennsylvania, New York, and New England. To the surprise of his parents, he showed a real talent for salesmanship. He got along with all types of people, and once said that one of the keys to selling was to be "always polite, always patient, and never to argue."
Wrigley married Ada E. Foote in 1885, and they had two children. Their daughter, Dorothy, and a son, Philip Knight (P.K.) Wrigley. William Wrigley Jr. died in 1932 in Phoenix, Arizona, at the age of 70. P.K. took over the family business after his father's death, and his son William III succeeded him in 1977.
Wrigley continued to work on and off for his father until 1891, when he moved to Chicago to go into business for himself as a manufacturer's representative. His uncle, William Scotchard, lent him $5,000 on the condition that his son become a partner in the business. The first product they sold was Wrigley's father's soap. They soon added baking powder to their line.
Demonstrating his talent for marketing, Wrigley gave premiums such as free toiletries or cookbooks with all his products. In 1892 he contracted with Zeno Manufacturing Company to supply him with chewing gum, so that he could enclose a couple of sticks of gum with each can of baking powder. He soon found out that many customers were more interested in the gum than the baking powder, and he decided to focus exclusively on selling gum. A tireless salesman, he traveled around the country visiting candy jobbers and large merchants to persuade them to carry his product. In his first year in the gum business he spent 187 nights on the road in railroad sleeping cars.
As before, he offered premiums to store owners and others who would sell his gum. He started by offering free counter scales, then followed up with other premiums such as free cash registers, coffee makers, cheese cutters, and even display cases. Wrigley believed that even though premiums were expensive to his company, they would make store owners show his gum more prominently than that of his competitors. He scored a marketing coup when he arranged to have his gum displayed by the cash register in restaurants, where it quickly became a popular impulse purchase.
Wrigley's first two flavors of gum, introduced in 1892, were called Lotta Gum and Vassar. In 1893 he introduced Juicy Fruit and Spearmint. Through heavy advertising, he built the Spearmint brand into the No. 1 chewing gum in America. In 1907, a year of economic depression, he spent $284,000 on advertising, and sales of Spearmint reached $1 million the next year. By 1910 Wrigley's Spearmint was America's top selling chewing gum, and Juicy Fruit wasn't far behind. Wrigley's motto regarding advertising was "tell them quick and tell them often."
In 1911 Wrigley acquired the Zeno Manufacturing Company and consolidated it with the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. He expanded internationally, opening gum companies in Canada in 1910, Australia in 1915, and then in England in 1927. The company advertised in 30 languages, literally teaching the world how to chew gum.
In 1914 Wrigley introduced Doublemint chewing gum, and it quickly became the most popular gum in America. In 1915 Wrigley mailed four free sticks of gum to everyone listed in every telephone directory he could find. He repeated this marketing effort four years later, even though the number of people listed had grown to 7 million. In his lifetime, Wrigley spent more than $100 million on advertising, making him the largest single-product advertiser of his day.
Wrigley was also an avid baseball fan, and he enjoyed watching the Chicago Cubs play. He bought stock in the Cubs in 1916 and in 1921 acquired a controlling interest. He built historic Wrigley Field for them to play in. The Wrigley family remained owners of the Cubs until 1977, when the club was sold to pay inheritance taxes. In 1921 Wrigley also acquired a minor league baseball team in Los Angeles, and later he bought another team in Reading, Pennsylvania. In 1919 he purchased Santa Catalina Island off the coast of southern California and transformed it into a resort. He was a shrewd investor. His other business interests included mines, hotels, railroads, and banks.
Social and Economic Impact
When talking about chewing gum, Wrigley was fond of saying, "We are a five-cent business, and nobody in this company can afford to forget it." Nevertheless, Wrigley's "five-cent business" resulted in profits of $8.5 million in 1921 and $12.2 million in 1930. In 1997 Forbes estimated the Wrigley family fortune to be worth $2.2 billion.
Chronology: William Wrigley, Jr.
1891: Established own business in Chicago as a manufacturer's representative.
1892: Contracted with Zeno Manufacturing Company to produce chewing gum.
1893: Introduced Wrigley's Spearmint and Juicy Fruit gums.
1910: Wrigley's Spearmint was America's top-selling chewing gum.
1911: Bought out Zeno Manufacturing and renamed it Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company.
1914: Introduced Doublemint chewing gum.
1916: Began buying stock in the Chicago Cubs baseball team, eventually acquiring a majority interest.
1919: Purchased Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California.
1921: Acquired minor league baseball team in Los Angeles.
1924: Built the Wrigley Building in Chicago.
1928: Paid $1.9 million to settle lawsuit with L.P. Larson over the Spearmint trademark.
Sometimes called America's greatest salesman, Wrigley showed how advertising and marketing could be used to develop strong brand recognition. While some of his early gum flavors have disappeared, Spearmint, Doublemint, and Juicy Fruit have remained strong brands throughout the twentieth century. With domestic consumption of chewing gum falling in the latter part of the century, the company found strength in overseas sales in some 111 countries, which nearly equaled U.S. sales. The company remains the world's largest chewing gum manufacturer, and in the 1990s the Wrigley Company enjoyed record profits.
Sources of Information
Contact at: Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company
410 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
Business Phone: (312)644-2121
Conlin, Michelle, et al. "Year of the Double: United States." Forbes, 28 July 1997, 134.
Darby, Edwin. The Fortune Builders. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1986.
Fucini, Joseph J., and Suzy Fucini. Entrepreneurs: The Men and Women Behind Famous Brand Names. Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 1985.
Ingham, John N. Biographical Dictionary of American Business Leaders. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983.
Olsen, Frank H. Inventors Who Left Their Brands on America. New York: Bantam Books, 1991.
Van Doren, Charles, ed. Webster's American Biographies. Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Co., 1979.
Who Was Who in America, vol. 1. Chicago: A.N. Marquis Co., 1943.
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