William Wrigley Jr., the founder of Wrigley’s Chewing Gum, started out working in his father’s soap factory in Philadelphia around 1870. After learning the ins and outs of the business, Wrigley began selling soap for his father in Philadelphia at the age of 18.
In 1891, Wrigley decided to set out on his own at the age of 29 and moved to Chicago, where he continued to sell his father’s soap. Wrigley came up with a plan to improve his sales and added cans of baking powder for free if businesses would stock his father’s soap. Soon the baking powder became more popular than the soap he was selling. Wrigley made the smart decision to change to selling baking powder instead.
In 1892, Wrigley began to use a similar incentive to sell his baking powder. He would include two packages of gum for free with each can of baking powder. The chewing gum soon became more popular than his baking powder. He then switched his business focus again and began selling only the packages of gum. His first two brands were called Lotta Gum and Vasser. Wrigley used as much advertising as he could to let consumers know about his gum in what was a very competitive chewing gum market. Wrigley introduced Juicy Fruit gum a year later in 1893, and Wrigley’s Spearmint in 1894. These brands started his extremely successful chewing gum business.
Wrigley pushed the Spearmint brand with more advertising, spending $284,000 in 1907, a massive amount for the time. Wrigley’s Spearmint was the top-selling gum in the United States in 1910, and Wrigley’s company became the largest gum manufacturer in the world.
Wrigley’s new fortune allowed him to purchase stock in the Chicago Cubs in 1916, and five years later, he had a controlling interest in the club. Wrigley also bought the Los Angeles Baseball Club around that time. He also purchased stock in the Santa Catalina Island Company. Catalina Island is an island off the coast of California west of Los Angeles. Wrigley never actually saw the island he had invested in, but once he did see it, he ended up buying out all the other investors in 1919 to become the one and only owner of the island.
Wrigley began investing in the island to make it into a tourist destination. He made it the home of the Chicago Cubs for spring training to attract attention to the island, and he also built a casino. Wrigley died in 1932, but his family continued to run the island after his death.
In 1975, the Wrigleys deeded 88% of the island to the Catalina Island Conservancy. The Wrigley family continues to own and run the remaining area of the island not in control of the conservancy. All of this came about from offering two free packs of gum with baking powder.