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Explore the Rich Folgers® History
Folgers® Coffee, founded in 1850 in San Francisco, has been an iconic American brand that has made great-tasting coffee for more than 150 years. Recently, The Folgers Coffee Company merged with The J.M. Smucker Company. If you’d like more information about The J.M. Smucker Company and our family of brands, please visit us here.
But let’s look all the way back to the early 1600s. The Folger family embarked on a long journey from Norwich, England, to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. During the Atlantic crossing, Peter Folger, age 18, met and fell in love with a girl named Mary Morrell. They married shortly after arriving in America, settled in Nantucket, and had six daughters and two sons. Two centuries later, Folger descendant Samuel B. Folger had several children, one of whom was James A. Folger.
In the fall of 1849, the family sent James and his two older brothers to the West Coast to mine for gold.
In the fall of 1849, the family sent James and his two older brothers to the West Coast to mine for gold. The Folger family had enough money to pay for their passage to San Francisco, but was unable to provide enough money for all three boys to travel from there to the mining towns. Therefore 15-year-old James remained in San Francisco to work for his travel costs while his older brothers proceeded to the mines.
Although commercially roasted coffee was available in New York shortly before the beginning of the 19th century, it was still a luxury for big-city dwellers and was entirely unknown to the population at large. As for ground coffee, it was unheard of at the wholesale level.
In 1850, a 27-year-old entrepreneur named William H. Bovee was looking for a carpenter to build his first mill in San Francisco, which he called The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills. Because James was skilled in carpentry, Bovee hired him to erect the mill.
Prior to The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills, Californians purchased green coffee beans, which they roasted and ground in their homes. Bovee saw an opportunity and inaugurated the production of coffee ready for the pot: roasted, ground, packaged in small tins, and identified by the Pioneer labels.
After working at Bovee's mill for nearly a year, James had saved enough money to stake a claim and headed out to mine for gold. He agreed to carry along samples of coffee and spices, taking orders from grocery stores in the mining country until he arrived in a town called Yankee Jim's in 1851.
In 1872, James bought out the other partners, renaming the company J.A. Folger & Co.
Upon his return to San Francisco in 1865, James became a full partner of The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills. In 1872, James bought out the other partners, renaming the company J.A. Folger & Co.
James married in 1861 and he and his wife had four children, two of whom died. His two remaining children worked for the family business. In June of 1889, at the age of 51, James died of a coronary occlusion. His oldest son, James A. Folger, II, had worked in the company for seven years at the time of his father's passing. He was 26 years old and ready to step into the role of president of J.A. Folger & Co.
Under his leadership, the company expanded dramatically. Its principal product was bulk-roasted coffee, which was delivered to grocery stores in sacks and drums, and was stored in bins to be scooped out for customers. But J.A. Folger & Co. also continued to produce ground coffee, which was sold under various labels, depending upon the grade. The most expensive blend, which was labeled with a picture of a ship in San Francisco Bay, was called Folgers Golden Gate Coffee.
Folgers & Co. developed an entirely new vocabulary to describe the "cup" qualities of its various coffees.
Folgers & Co. developed an entirely new vocabulary to describe the "cup" qualities of its various coffees. The company developed a "taste standard" for its best coffee, and each shipment of green coffee beans received the cup test so it could be assigned its proper role in producing Folgers Coffee.
In the 1900s, Folgers & Co. experienced substantial growth, attributable primarily to an energetic salesman named Frank P. Atha. Atha was assigned to sell coffee in the North Beach area of California, where many small grocery stores served the cosmopolitan population. In 1901, after a year on the job, Atha decided his territory was not large enough for his ambitions. He proposed to James Folger, II, that he open and manage a Folgers Coffee plant in Texas. Atha's business grew exponentially, and by year two, he was able to hire two more salesmen and rent office space. In 1908, Atha recommended building a new roasting plant in Kansas City, which remains operational to this day.
In 1963 The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) of Cincinnati, OH, acquired The Folgers Coffee Company and began national distribution of the products under the name Folgers. During P&G’s ownership of Folgers, it became America's number-one coffee brand. Folgers continues to produce superior quality coffee, using Mountain Grown® beans ripened to perfection.
In November 2008, The J.M. Smucker Company announced the completion of its previously disclosed merger with The Folgers Coffee Company, a subsidiary of The Procter & Gamble Company.
Richard Smucker, Executive Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer, said "We are very pleased with the completion of the Folgers transaction and believe that, as the number-one retail packaged coffee brand in the United States, Folgers clearly aligns with our strategy to own and market number-one food brands in North America."
Tim Smucker, Chairman of the Board and Co-Chief Executive Officer, said, "We welcome the Folgers team members into the Smucker family and look forward to leveraging the Folgers brand with our existing portfolio of iconic brands."
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