WRIGLEY, William Jr.

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William Wrigley, Jr. (1861-1932)
Home of W.M. Wrigley, Jr., Santa Catalina Island
Avalon Bay View from Wrigley's Gardens
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, CA
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, CA
Santa Catalina Island Company organization, 1919

WRIGLEY, William K. Jr. (1861-1932), oldest of five children born to William and Mary Wrigley of Philadelphia. He began a career as a salesman in his father’s company, Wrigley’s Soap, selling soap from a horse-drawn wagon. In 1885, 23-year-old William married 18-year-old Ada Elizabeth Foote (1868-1958), and they moved to Chicago where he started the chewing gum business. In 1915 the Wrigleys purchased a large home in Pasadena, California, which today serves as the headquarters of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Rose Bowl Football game. In February 1919 Wrigley and two partners, David Blankenhorn and Robert Hunter, purchased Santa Catalina Island from the Banning brothers. Wrigley soon bought out his two partners in order to have complete control over development of the island. In 1920 he built the Hotel Atwater (site of the present day post office and arcade), and purchased the S.S. Avalon to carry large numbers of passengers to his new island. The following year, Wrigley built his home on the southeastern ridge top overlooking Avalon Harbor. Other developments soon followed: a cable for telephone service was added in 1923; Thompson Dam at Middle Ranch in 1924 and the launching of the S. S. Catalina, tour boat, Blanche W and glass-bottom boat, Princess; elementary and high schools and Deagan Chimes in 1925; Bird Park in 1928; and the Casino in 1929. Wrigley used the island as a spring training home for his Chicago Cubs, building a baseball field and other facilities for their support.

Wrigley purchased stock in the Santa Catalina Island Company after seeing several postcards of the island. After his first visit to the island, Wrigley bought out all other investors and became sole owner in 1919. His vision was to build a vacation paradise for all to enjoy. He launched several construction and improvement projects in order to bring his vision to reality. His first move was to recruit David M. Renton, a contractor whom he had previously met in Pasadena, as the General Manager of all construction and improvements on the island. The combination of Wrigley’s vision and Renton’s capabilities shaped the City of Avalon and the island into the thriving, beautiful paradise seen today.


  • Dorothy Wrigley [Offield] (1889-1979)
  • Philip Knight Wrigley (1894-1977)

1920 Wrigley purchased the S.S. Avalon (ex - S.S. Virginia of the Goodrich Steamship line) 1924 S.S. Catalina was launched; commissioned by Wrigley and built by the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Drydock.

Youtube-2.jpg Captains of Industry: William Wrigley Jr.

In the News~

February 13, 1919 [OC]: “Catalina to be world resort. William Wrigley, Jr., Chicago millionaire, will become the owner of the controlling interest in Santa Catalina Island, noted resort in the Pacific ocean, within the next 10 days, David Blankenhorn announced here today. Wrigley will buy the island from the Banning Company, present owners, for a consideration slightly in excess of $3,000,000. The Banning Company still will retain a minority interest. Extensive improvements are being planned by the Chicago millionaire. One of the first will be the erection of a palatial colony of bungalows. The Wrigleys also intend to advertise the island all over the world and to make it as well known as California. They say the reason California is not better known at the present time is because it has not been sufficiently advertised.”

February 28, 1919 [OC]: “William Wrigley Jr., who has just bought Catalina Island, states in an interview that he spends $3,000,000 a year in advertising, and that he has already spent over $30,000,000 in this way… What he did to chewing gum he will now do to Catalina Island… He has already begun the task of printing big ads in the daily newspapers of the country extolling the charms of Catalina…”

March 8, 1919 [SBMP]: “…Since William Wrigley has acquired Santa Catalina Island and started to advertise it, the travel out of San Pedro is said to have increased appreciably. Several times a week the Linnard hotels in Pasadena are sending large parties of tourists over. California visitors are manifesting more interest in Catalina than ever. This shows the value of exploitation…”

July 23, 1919 [SBMP]: “Fresh from the wilds of Southern California, where he has been rusticating while enjoying his annual vacation, President John A. Parma of the Chamber of Commerce returned yesterday. While it was generally presumed that Parma would go in for tuna fishing while on Bill Wrigley’s title domain at Catalina, press dispatches during the week failed to comment on any extraordinary catch from the south…”

December 7, 1919 [SBMP]: “The manufacturer of chewing gum is the latest indoor sport. William Wrigley, Jr., who jumped smack into the limelight a few months ago by purchasing Catalina Island, is about to start a branch chewing gum factory, it is said…”

August 14, 1920 [letter Banning Company papers, Huntington Library] “Banning Company, a corporation, discontinued business on May 31st, 1920 and was disincorporated on August 5th, 1920. The stevedoring business was turned over to Mr. Edward Maher who is conducting it under the fictitious name of Banning Company…”

June 15, 1921 [LAT]: “Glass-bottom navy is ready. ‘The glass-bottomed navy of Santa Catalina stands ready to protect her neutrailty at any time. Her standing army stands stands ready to—well, her army stands.’ Such was the stirring declaration made at Chicago yesterday by William Wrigley, Jr, commander-in-chief of the land and sea forces of Santa Catalina, which island he owns, manages and is ready to defend. It is all about the reports from San Antonio, Texas, to the effect that papers printed in Mexico City assert the Mexican government may claim Santa Catalina and other islands off California that are under American administration…”

January 27, 1932 [LAT]: “Wrigley burial set tomorrow. Funeral to be conducted from Pasadena home. Mausoleum on Catalina may be final resting place. Financier best remembered here as sportsman. Known in other parts of world as an eminently successful commander and director of vast business interests, William Wrigley, Jr., gave to Southern California another glimpse of his admirable character, that of a humanitarian, developer and sportsman of most sterling qualities.

July 4, 1935 [TI/Avalon]: “...Mr. Wrigley had heard much about the island, especially from his friend and associate, Joseph H. Patrick, who had often visited it and discoursed on its beauties. It remained for David Blankenhorn to present the proposition at the psychological moment when Mr. Wrigley, relieved of all kinds of problems and activities caused by the World War, was seeking other outlets for his energy and imagination. Blankenhorn knew that the owners of the island, the three Banning brothers, William, Hancock and Joseph, had suffered financial losses in the Avalon fire of 1915, and he also knew that they had an obligation of several hundred thousand dollars about to fall due. He visualized the island as a real estate speculation, and presented it to Mr. Wrigley on this basis. Mr. Wrigley was no speculator in the usual sense of the word. He was no buyer of commodities, securities or real estate on the theory that he could sit back and reap a profit out of some other man's work. But Catalina Island was now strictly in his line of business for he had, in order to give himself something to do and incidentally to have a place, which he could call his office, become a silent partner in the real estate firm of Blankenhorn and Hunter. Robert Hunter, the junior partner, was a son-in-law of John J. Mitchell, Mr. Wrigley's old friend. The firm's capital was not enough to swing the purchase of Catalina Island, but the partners persuaded Mr. Wrigley to put up whatever additional cash they might need. Thus, he committed himself to buy the island without having seen it. Several weeks later Mr. Wrigley, accompanied by Mrs. Wrigley, made his first trip to the island. One glance at it filled mind with all kinds of visions of what could be done with it. He told one reporter that he thought he was buying a flat piece of ground; here were mountains. To another reporter he told the story of his first night on the island. He and Mrs. Wrigley had a front suite at the Hotel St. Catherine. "We are both early risers; this morning Mrs. Wrigley was up first. She walked to the window and after a moment, called excitedly: 'I should like to live here.' I then came to the window. The sun was just coming up. I had never seen a more beautiful spot. Right then and there I determined that the island should never pass out of my hands." A day or two later, Mr. Wrigley talked to an Avalon reporter about his plans for the island: "Wile my motive for purchasing the island is largely a romantic one, I am going to leave no stone unturned to make it a refuge from worry and work for the rich and poor. Step by step, as business judgement dictates, and as the expert I shall put in charge advises, buildings and other improvements will be constructed. If Santa Catalina Island were on the Atlantic coast, you would have to guard it to prevent overcrowding. Ocean-going steamers would be chartered for scenic trips alone. In traveling over the world, neither I nor Mrs. Wrigley have ever found a more beautiful restful spot. I am happy. I want to make others happy. The development of Santa Catalina Island will be one of the greatest pleasures of my life."”

WRIGLEY MEMORIAL AND BOTANIC GARDEN, Avalon, Santa Catalina Island Created by Ada Wrigley as a way to honor her husband, William Wrigley, Jr. It was renovated and expanded by Helen Atwater Wrigley years later.