Classic Chicago

Q&A with William Wrigley

William Wrigley, Jr. You likely know his name from the stadium where the Chicago Cubs play...


Or maybe you’ve chewed some of his gum. But did you know William Wrigley was a founding member of the Chicago Athletic Association? We chat with Wrigley about his life.

CAA: You initially followed your father into the family’s soap business, but eventually starting a chewing gum company. How did that happen?
William Wrigley: When I first came to Chicago in 1891, I sold my father’s Scouring Soap. I would offer merchants incentives to buy the soap and would give out free samples of baking soda, which proved more popular than the soap. In turn, I started selling baking soda and gave out two packs of chewing gum, which eventually would become more popular than the baking soda. That’s when I decided to start the chewing gum company and introduced Juicy Fruit to the world in 1893 — the same year the CAA opened, mind you — and the rest is history.

CAA: Did you always manufacture your own gum?
WW: No, initially I teamed with Zeno Manufacturing, which had a factory on Ashland Avenue in Chicago and they made a few flavors of gum for me, including Vassar, Lotta Spearmint and, of course, Juicy Fruit. By 1897, gum sales surpassed $1 million and we employed 500 people. Eventually I partnered with Zeno in 1910 to form the William Wrigley Jr. Co. and sales that year topped $4.5 million. A few years later we introduced Doublemint, which went on to be a massive success.

CAA: How did you come to buy the Chicago Cubs?
WW: I was a big fan of the sport and I would go to Cubs games often with my pals. We would joke around, drink beer and I would even give cigars to the players. In 1916, because I loved baseball so much, I started buying stock in the team and within five years I owned a controlling stake in the team. I also bought the Los Angeles Baseball Club and a team in Reading, Pa. The Wrigley family would own the Cubs until it was sold to the Tribune Company in 1981 for $20.5 million.

From The Vault

Activate Returns to the Loop! Smokey Hollow and Uptown Underground Check Out Chicago Via Time Lapse Not-to-Miss Brunch Robot Block Party at MSI Take a Loop Tour on the Brown Line The Great Chicago Fire Festival Returns! Kids Strike in 1902