William Wrigley, Jr (William Wrigley)

William Wrigley, Jr

Industrialist, Entrepreneur.  The Philadelphia born youngster was put to work in his father’s soap factory after being expelled from grammar school doing menial labor. At age thirteen William left home and sold his father’s soap door-to-door from a two horse wagon in rural Pennsylvania, New York and New England.   After years of giving away free gum with purchases of soap and realizing that gum was the customers preference, he went into the gum manufacturing in Chicago.  He acquired a share of Chicago’s National League baseball team in 1916 followed in 1919 with the purchase of 90 percent of Catalina Island and was instrumental in its development until his death. The infrastructure of the public owned area of Catalina known as Avalon was developed using his own money to construct water and electrical utilities and a sewer system then erected hotels while building the world’s largest dance hall, the Avalon Grand Casino.  Wrigley brought the world to Catalina with construction of a boat harbor and docking facilities for his own series of steamship, the most remembered the SS Avalon and SS Catalina  In 1928, he built the Bird Park which had thousands of exotic birds on display and in 1929, the ultimate, the Casino opened which was a theatre and Ballroom.  He developed the Island economic base providing for employment of locals in the form of Catalina Clay Products which provided pavers and roofing tile, pottery and dinnerware. He added a foundry and furniture factory with full scale mining for silver, lead and zinc.  His promotions resulted in wide spread fame for the Island.  The Wrigley Ocean Marathon and a world class golf tournament staged on his own 18 hole golf course.  He revolutionized baseball with spring training and brought the Cubs to Catalina.  The practice field in Avalon had the exact dimensions of Wrigley Field in Chicago. Wrigley traveled on road trips with the team and rarely missed a home game.  In 1975, the Wrigley family donated 88% of the Island to the Catalina Island Conservancy who’s mission is to preserve and restore Catalina to its natural state allowing most of the land mass to remain a natural wilderness.  He passed away in the bedroom at his newly completed winter residence in Phoenix, Arizona, 2501 E. Telawa Trail from a stroke.  A private service was held with a public memorial held in Chicago’s St. Chrysostom Episcopal Church complete with ushers from Wrigley Field and a carillonneur who belled a farewell to the gum man with Aloha.  His wife Ada began construction of an imposing sarcophagus, monument on Catalina Island located off the California coast consisting of a companion crypt.  William Wrigley Jr. was interred in the marble crypt in 1934.  The remains were moved during World War II to Forest Lawn Glendale.  The imposing structure and the empty companion crypts are still there but are now the centerpiece of the Wrigley Botanical Gardens.  The garden was conceived by Wrigley’s widow, Ada in 1935.  It is an extended memorial to her husband and today encompasses thousands of  rare and endangered desert plants on 35 acres..  Legacy…Wrigley Field, Chicago, home of the Chicago Cubs is the namesake of William Wrigley, Jr.  However, Wrigley Field West which was the home of the Pacific Coast League Los Angeles Angels, the Cub’s farm team is long gone and was demolished.  The famous Wrigley office building in Chicago located on Michigan Avenue is still one of the cities most attractive buildings. The white terra-cotta structure is further enhanced by its nighttime lighting.  Many books have been written about this remarkable buildings while used in countless motion pictures and television programs.  The renowned Avalon casino constructed by Wrigley is a landmark on Catalina Island still greeting island visitors.  During its heyday, thousands danced to the music of the Big Bands…Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, and Glen Miller. The Italian Renaissance Wrigley Mansion located in Pasadena, California is still in use today.  It is the headquarters for the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association.  It is seen on world television as it is the starting point of its tournament of Roses parade staged each year on New Years Day.  The SS Catalina, the last steamer on the Island run was salvaged from a sand bar in Mexico and is being restored.  The unspoiled island created by Wrigley has literally been a second studio to film makers in Hollywood.  It has served as the location for over 500 motion pictures, documentaries and commercials.  Classics such as Treasure Island and Mutiny on the Bounty were filmed here.  14 bison were transported to the island to be used for a western movie and left.  Today they have become a herd. In a bit of trivia…Wrigley spent millions on advertisement for his gum, from catchy radio jingles, newspapers, magazines  billboards.  None were as imposing as the gigantic Wrigley sign that dazzled Broadway when fully lit at night.  It was dismantled in 1942 with great fanfare with the metal earmarked for National Defense to aid the war effort. Click here to view Wrigley’s former burial place. (bio by: Donald Greyfield)  Family links:  Spouse:  Ada Elizabeth Foote Wrigley (1868 – 1958)*  Children:  Dorothy Wrigley Offield (1886 – 1979)*  Philip K. Wrigley (1894 – 1977)* *Calculated relationship


  • September, 30, 1861
  • USA


  • January, 01, 1932
  • USA


  • Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
  • California
  • USA

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