In 1891, at the age of 29, Wrigley traveled to Chicago with $32 in his pocket and a big idea – a product, actually – Wrigley’s Scouring Soap. Okay, he wasn’t about to set the world on fire with scouring soap, but he also had the bright idea to include a free gift with each package of soap – a can of baking powder. Now here was something to set consumers’ hearts a-pitter-pattering. Eventually, he found the premium to be more popular than the product and, being a flexible entrepreneur, he switched to selling baking powder.
Did he offer free scouring soap with the baking powder? No, he offered two free packs of chewing gum. And once again the premium, not the product, caught the public fancy. Odd, since chewing gum had been around for 5,000 years or so – under desks and park benches, on the soles of pedestrians’ shoes. Nevertheless, it caught on, and Wrigley bagged the baking powder and concentrated on gum.
Two years had passed since his arrival in Chicago when he went full steam into the chewing gum business, founding the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, giving the world Juicy Fruit and Spearmint gums, and, in 1914, double your pleasure, double your fun, Doublemint gum, which eventually spawned Wrigley’s most notable gift to humanity, the Doublemint twins.
With the chewing gum business firmly established, Wrigley’s mind wandered – to the west coast. There he bought a rocky island off the coast of California, known as Pimugna to its original inhabitants, the Pimugnans. The island was first claimed (as was just about everything) by the Spanish Empire, then by Mexico, then by the United States. A home to hunters, gold-diggers and smugglers, it was a natural to become a tourist destination – which under Wrigley’s guidance it did – 22 miles across the sea (or 26 if you’re a Prep), Santa Catalina, the island of romance.