William Wrigley, Jr. - Successful People

William Wrigley, Jr. (September 30, 1861 – January 26, 1932), was the founder and eponym of the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company in 1891. An American salesman and manufacturer whose company became the largest producer and distributor of chewing gum in the world.

William Wrigley Jr. was born in Philadelphia 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.

A Young Business Man

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. After Wrigley, went to work as a traveling soap salesman for his father’s company at age 13, in 1891 he went to Chicago as a soap distributor and there started offering baking powder as a premium with each box of soap. 

In 1892 he began selling baking powder as a sideline, offering chewing gum as a premium. The chewing gum proved more popular than the baking powder, so he dropped both soap and baking powder to sell only chewing gum. He also gave dealers premiums, such as clocks, coffee grinders, or fishing tackle, which varied with the size of the order.

William Wrigley Jr. struck out on his own in the spring of 1891 when he was 29 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. Wrigley relied on advertising to boost sales of Wrigley’s Spearmint chewing gum, which he introduced in 1893.

A year later, William Wrigley Jr. introduced a new gum he called Juicy Fruit. By 1908, sales of Wrigley’s Spearmint were more than $1,000,000 a year. In 1911, Wrigley took over Zeno Manufacturing, the company that made his chewing gum, and established the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. His company became one of the biggest advertisers in the United States. 

In 1925, Wrigley turned the company presidency over to his son, Philip, and became chairman of the board. The Wrigley company had factories in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

The Developer Of Santa Catalina Island

Wrigley was the developer of Santa Catalina Island, off the coast of southern California. From 1921 until 1951 (except during the World War II years), a National League baseball club, the Chicago Cubs, a Wrigley family interest, spent its spring-training sessions on Catalina. Wrigley’s Chicago headquarters, the Wrigley Building, became a noted architectural landmark of that city.

In 1916, Wrigley bought a minority stake in the Chicago Cubs baseball team as part of a group headed by Charles Weeghman, former owner of the Federal League's Chicago Whales. Over the next four years, as Weeghman's lunch-counter business soured, he was forced to sell more and more of his stock to Wrigley in order to raise money. 

By 1918, Weeghman had sold all of his stock to Wrigley, making Wrigley the largest shareholder and principal owner. By 1921, Wrigley was majority owner. Wrigley Field, the Cubs' ballpark in Chicago, is named for him. The now-demolished former home of the Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League, at that time the Cubs' top farm team, was also called Wrigley Field. 

He purchased the Chicago Cubs from Albert Lasker in 1925. The Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona, was partially financed and wholly owned by Wrigley, who finished the nearby Wrigley Mansion as a winter cottage in 1931 at 16,000 square feet (1,500 m2), it was the smallest of his five residences.

Wrigley improved the island with public utilities, new steamships, a hotel, the Casino building, and extensive plantings of trees, shrubs, and flowers. He also sought to create an enterprise that would help employ local residents. By making use of clay and minerals found on the island at a beach near Avalon, in 1927 William Wrigley, Jr., created the Pebbly Beach quarry and tile plant. 

Along with creating jobs for Avalon residents, the plant also supplied material for Wrigley's numerous building projects on the island. After the building of Avalon's Casino in 1929, the Catalina Clay Products Tile and Pottery Plant began churning out handmade glazed tiles, dinnerware, and other practical household items such as bookends. 

Nowadays, Catalina art pottery items are highly popular antique collectibles.

Generational Legacy

However, William Wrigley, Jr.'s greatest legacy was his plan for the future of Catalina Island—that it be protected for all generations to enjoy. His son, Philip K. Wrigley, in 1972 established the Catalina Island Conservancy for this purpose and transferred all family ownership to it. Wrigley is honored by the Wrigley Memorial in the Wrigley Botanical Gardens on the island.

He left his fortune to son Philip K. Wrigley and daughter Dorothy Wrigley Offield. The son continued to run the company businesses for the next 45 years until his death in 1977, and his ashes today rest near his father, in the same Sanctuary of Gratitude alcove.

His great-grandson, William Wrigley, Jr. II, is the executive chairman and former CEO of the Wrigley Company. Mr. Wrigley served as the Vice President of The Wrigley Co. from 1991 to 1999 and was an Assistant to the President from 1985 to 1992. 

He served as Chief Executive Officer and President of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company from 1999 to October 2006. Mr. Wrigley has been the Executive Chairman of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company since October 2006 and a Director since. Wrigley was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2000.


William Wrigley, Jr. died on January 26, 1932, at his Phoenix, Arizona mansion, at age 70, and was interred in his custom-designed sarcophagus located in the tower of the Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens near his beloved home on California's Catalina Island. 

In 1947, Wrigley's remains were moved to allow the gardens to be made public. His original grave memorial marker still adorns the tower site. Wrigley was reinterred in the corridor alcove end of the Sanctuary of Gratitude, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

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