An iconic American brand of coffee, produced for over 150 years, Folger's Coffee came into being after James A. Folger and his two older brothers, sons of immigrants from Norwich, England, left their home in Nantucket, Massachusetts, in 1849 and headed for the gold mines on the West Coast. However, because the family lacked enough funds for all three boys to travel to the mining towns once they arrived in San Francisco, James remained in the city where he worked toward being able to go to the mines. While there, he was hired as a carpenter by a young entrepreneur named William H. Bovee. This man intended to have a coffee and spice mill having foreseen an opportunity to sell coffee ready for the pot since Californians were then buying green coffee beans and laboriously roasting them in their homes.
After working in San Francisco, Folger saved enough to travel to the gold mines. Along the way, he passed out samples of coffee and took orders from the small grocery stores. Finally in 1851, he stopped at a mining town called Yankee Jim's. Four years later after having panned enough gold and married, he returned to San Francisco to become a full partner in in The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills. In fact, the ambitious Folger bought out the other partners in 1872, renaming the business J.A. Folger & Company. Then, Folger began his expansion of the company:
- The buik-roasted coffee, was delivered to grocery stores and stored in bins to be scooped out to customers.
- J.A. Folger & Co. also continued its coffee plantations, and coffee was sold under various labels, depending upon the grade. For instance, the most expensive blend, labeled with a picture of a clipper ship was named Folger's Golden Gate Coffee.
- A term for the "cup quality" of each coffee was developed by promoting a "taste standard."
In the early 1900's when small grocery stores served the greater San Francisco area, an energetic salesman named Frank P. Altha was hired by Mr. Folger. After working for Folger's for a year, Altha felt that the company should expand; therefore, he proposed by Folger's open a mill in Texas which he would manage. After opening this mill, business expanded in leaps and bounds, so Altha proposed another roasting plant in Kansas City, a plant yet open today.
In 1961, the Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) of Cincinnati, Ohio, acquired Folger's. The company began national distribution and Folger's became the number one coffee in the United States. Then, in 2008, a subsidary of P&G, J. M. Smucker Company merged with Folger's, including it with their group of "iconic brands."