The Best Part of Waking Up: THE FOLGERS STORY

(Background art by Jenn Webster)

KALEIDOSCOPE would like to continue its celebration of the upcoming Coffee Day on September 29th with another tale about a coffee brand, and this time, we shine the spotlight on a product that was once owned by Proctor & Gamble is now owned by The J.M. Smucker Company; This coffee brand in which yours truly is talking about happens to be known as Folgers.

Folgers was founded in 1850 in the form of the precursor to the Folger Coffee Company in San Francisco in California in the United States, which was then called Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills; William H. Bovee, the owner, had seen the opportunity to produce roasted and ground coffee that was ready for brewing, so to help build his mill, he hired a man by the name of James A. Folger as a carpenter. At the age of 15 James had arrived from Nantucket Island along with his two older brothers during the California Gold Rush.

Kerosene began to enter the scene (in which I had made a rhyme, yuk, yuk, yuk) in the 1850s, and it began to offer a cheaper alternative to whale oil, a source which had been the lifeblood of Nantucket; That resulted in the re-purposing of many of its ships to bring coffee from South America to San Francisco. For nearly a year, James had been working at Bovee’s mill, and then he had saved enough money to stake a claim in the company and then headed out to mine for gold; He then agreed to carry along samples of coffee and spices, taking orders along the way from grocery stores. James Folger became a full partner of The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills upon returning to San Francisco in 1865. He would then but out the other partners while renaming the company J.A. Folger & Co. in 1872.

James Folger then got married in 1861, and then he and his wife had four children to raise, in which two of those children would then work for the family business; James Folger passed away in 1889, leaving his youngest son, James A. Folger II, to step into the role of being the president of J.A. Folger & Co. at the age of 26. In the 1900s, the Folger company would start to dramatically grow because of a salesman by the name of Frank P. Atha; In the California area he sold coffee, but he had proposed to James Folger II that he should open a Folgers Coffee plant in Texas, as well as manage it. So, after Atha opened the Texas plant, the company started growing exponentially.

The company that is now known as Folgers, under the mid-20th century leadership of Peter Folger, became one of the principal coffee concerns in North America (and I shouldn’t be too CONCERNED about that! Yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk!); In 1963 Proctor & Gamble acquired the product that was then called Folger’s, but removed the apostrophe from its name, and then Folgers became the #1 coffee brand in America, under the ownership of Proctor & Gamble, But in January 2008, which happens to be 10 years ago, P&G made an announcement that Folgers would be spun off into a separate Cincinnati-based company, but in November of that year, the J.M. Smucker Company purchased Folgers Coffee and had made it into a subsidiary.

Among the brands that Folgers carries are its Classic Roast, which includes its classic “Red Can”, French Roast, Breakfast Blend, its Flavored Coffee, Simply Smooth, which happens to be a medium roast coffee, its Instant Coffee and its own Folgers Gourmet Selections. They also make Home Cafe Pods, for use with one cup brewing systems such as Home Cafe.

Folgers had been featured in a number of television advertisements, beginning in the 1960s; The brand was also best known for many years for its commercials featuring a Swedish neighbor by the name of “Mrs. Olson”, who recommended a cup of Folgers coffee for those in the commercial, apparently housewives who have been having various problems making delicious-tasting coffee…(apparently, they should have moved to their mother’s houses!) An actress named Virginia Christine had portrayed Mrs. Olson from 1965 to 1986, reminding viewers that Folgers was “mountain grown, the richest kind of coffee”.

In 1984, Susan Spiegel Solovay and Bill Vernick wrote the lyrics while Leslie Pearl supplied the music to a jingle that would capture the hearts of coffee lovers everywhere: “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup!” that jingle, along with the accompanying slogan, has since been featured in almost every advertisement, and over the years it has been rearranged and covered by such artists as Randy Travis, Rockapella, and even the late, great Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. There was one other Folgers commercial, and that one happens to be associated with Christmas; In it, Peter, a college student, returns home, and makes the coffee in which awakens his parents while alerting them to their son’s arrival.

Even today, people still enjoy Folgers just as much as other brands of coffee out there, I think…Oh, and should there ever be a revival of those Mrs. Olson commercials, she would give anybody who complain about bad coffee the Moe eye poke! Woob-woob-woob-woob-woob-woob!

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