The story of how Folgers (yes, that coffee company) became what it is today is a fascinating and, believe it or not, relevant story for the topic of this blog.
The tale begins in the fall of 1849, in the midst of the Gold Rush. The Folger family, a struggling family of nine from Nantucket, sent three of their sons to San Francisco in hopes to find a fortune. However, only two of the three brothers could afford the trip from San Francisco to buy a stake in the mining towns. James, the brother who was left behind, stayed in San Francisco to work to cover his costs to join the other Folger boys at a later date.
While in San Francisco, James Folger met a 27-year-old entrepreneur named William H. Bovee, who was looking for a carpenter to help him build a mill large enough to grind large amounts of coffee beans, blend teas and process other spices. At the time, tea and coffee were luxuries usually only seen in the large Eastern cities, practically unknown to everyone west of the Ohio River. They called the new company The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills (even though they didn’t have a steam engine until 2 years after the business was running).
After working with Bovee for over a year, Folger made enough money to finally buy his own stake in the mining towns, and left to search for gold. He agreed to carry along samples of coffee, tea and spices for Bovee, taking orders from grocery stores in the mining country.
After returning to San Francisco, Folger bought out all the other partners of The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills and changed the name to J. A. Folger & Co.. Under his leadership, the company expanded dramatically.
Its principal products were bulk-roasted coffee and tea, which were delivered to grocery stores in sacks and drums and was stored in bins to be scooped out for the customer. The most expensive blends, which were labeled with a picture of a ship in San Francisco Bay, were called Folgers Golden Gate Coffee and Tea.
In 1963 the Procter & Gamble Company bought J. A. Folger & Co, changed the name to simply Folgers and dropped all products except the coffee. However, the effects were already permanent. Folgers had, almost single-handedly, brought coffee and tea to immense popularity to everyone west of the Ohio River.
So, as weird as this may sound, everyone raise your cup of tea to Folgers!