Catalina from A to Z: William Wrigley, Jr.

Hello, and welcome to the final week of the Blogging A to Z Challenge! This year my theme is Catalina from A to Z, featuring posts about the Southern California island of Catalina. With a focus on the island’s romantic side, I’ll be sharing info about where to go, what to see and do, plus a few sneak peeks from my novel in progress, Wife For A Weekend, which is set on the island!

William Wrigley Jr., more than anyone else, built Catalina Island as we, in the year 2021, know it. So who was this man, and how did he turn a relatively unknown island off the coast of California into the resort destination it is today?

Born in Philadelphia in 1861, at the age of 30 William Wrigley Jr. moved to Chicago to start his own business. At first he started a soap company, offering customers free baking powder as an incentive to buy the soap. As luck would have it, the incentive item proved more popular than the soap he was trying to sell, so he switched to selling baking powder with two packs of chewing gum as his incentive. Once again, the incentive proved more popular than the product he was selling, and he made another switch, this time to selling Wrigley’s Chewing Gum, which is how he made both his name and his vast fortune.

Ad for Wrigley’s Chewing Gum from the Appleton Daily Post (Tuesday, January 6, 1920 – Page 3)

In 1919, Wrigley bought a controlling interest in Santa Catalina Island Company and began making major upgrades to the island. He built new steamships to ferry people to and from the island, as well as a hotel, the Casino, and improved public utilities and green spaces. He also built a quarry and tile plant near Pebbly Beach, which created jobs for islanders and building materials for his various projects. He built hotels, restaurants and various attractions – and he also brought baseball to Catalina.

Growing up in a suburb of Chicago, Wrigley’s name was familiar to me both through his chewing gum and at the home of the Chicago Cubs: Wrigley Field. Indeed, in his time as owner of the baseball team Wrigley began bringing the Cubs out to Catalina Island each year for spring training, and island lore has it that he would personally supervise the team’s progress. He built them a clubhouse during the 1920s, which is now the Catalina Country Club, and used the team as an additional draw to the island for visitors who loved America’s national pastime.

As the major developer of the island in the 20th century, Wrigley’s name and unique vision are forever connected with Catalina Island.

Eager to learn more about Catalina and Wife for a Weekend?

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