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When Was Folgers Coffee Invented? History, Facts, & FAQ

woman having a cup of Folgers Classic Roast Instant Coffee Crystals

If you are a coffee drinker, the aroma that fills your kitchen when you open a fresh canister of Folgers Coffee is something that lingers throughout the day. Add the delicious taste and it’s easy to understand why the red Folgers Coffee canister is a staple of most American cupboards, but do you know how it all began?

While we all know the best part of waking up is Folgers in our cup, most of us have no idea when our favorite coffee came into creation. The coffee company that eventually became the household Folgers name was originally invented in 1850, but there is more to the story. Read on below to learn more about America’s favorite morning brew and the family behind it.

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The Early Beginnings

In 1850, James Folger was only 14 years old when he and his two brothers left home after a major fire to find their fortunes elsewhere. Arriving in Nantucket with hopes of finding gold, the brothers eventually parted ways. His two brothers continued to the mines looking for gold while James found employment with The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills.

While working at the coffee company, James Folger found his fortune. Through hard work and diligence, he became a partner in the company and left dreams of gold behind for a future in coffee. Things were going well for James and the company until the Civil War.

The Civil War was a difficult time for the entire country. Families found themselves torn apart as neighbors and friends fought one another and despair reigned. Unfortunately, the country’s economy also took a hit. As the economy collapsed, The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills went bankrupt, leaving the company in a panic. This didn’t detour James Folger, however. Instead of giving up his dream, he convinced creditors to help him by paying off the company’s lingering debts. Once this was done, he took the initiative and bought his partners. This was when J.A. Folger & Co was born.

Coffee beans during the roasting process
Image Credit: SerhiyHorobets, Shutterstock

Great Taste Takes Center Stage

Other coffee companies and importers during this era seemed more concerned with appearance rather than taste. These companies bought their coffee beans solely on their appearance. Luckily, a new idea was born in San Francisco known as cup-tasting. James Folger heard of this technique and decided to implement it within his own company.

Taking matters into his own hands, James decided to taste each shipment of coffee beans Folgers bought. It didn’t take long before he realized certain beans had a better taste and aroma. In his opinion, beans grown in the mountains were superior. This was when Folgers Mountain Grown Coffees were truly born.

coffee beans in sacks
Image Credit: Robert Gunnarsson, Unsplash

The Passing of the Torch

James Folger passed away at the age of 54. In 1889, James Folger Jr. said goodbye to his father and took control of the company. He was determined to follow in his father’s footsteps and make the Folgers name synonymous with great-tasting coffee. It was James Folger II who began working with a salesman by the name of Frank Atha. It was Atha who used creative store designs and his energetic sales abilities to help Folgers Coffee find its way across the rest of the United States.

The Folgers team endured hardships with the rest of the country. Surviving the Great San Francisco Earthquake and fires, the company stood strong with the rest of the country during World War II. In the 1940s, due to shortages caused by the war, the company had to reimagine itself and its packaging. Thus, the glass coffee jar was born.

The Folgers company continued to be a pioneer in the coffee industry. During the rise of instant coffee, the Folgers team attempted to try their hand at the new craze. Unfortunately, their original effort didn’t sit well with customers, but they didn’t give up. In 1958, Instant Folgers hit the store shelves and was better received than its predecessor.

woman preparing folgers coffee

Finding a New Home

New Orleans was becoming the new home for coffee. With this being the case, the Folgers team packed up and found themselves moving to the area in the 1960s and remain there today. With a new home, the company felt like it was time to reinvent themselves once again.

Procter & Gamble stepped in and acquired Folgers Coffee. With this merger, America’s favorite coffee was distributed nationally and found itself in most kitchens across the country. During this time, more changes took place in the company. New slogans, new aroma seals for extra freshness, and newly designed containers helped Folgers solidify itself as the most popular coffee brand in the States.

After more than 150 years in the coffee business, the Folgers company decided it wasn’t finished yet. In 2008, the company joined with The J.M. Smucker Company.  The Folgers you have in your cup today is still part of this family of brands and thriving as one of America’s favorite coffee companies.

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The Coffee You Know and Love

The Folgers company itself has gone through many changes over the years. All these changes, however, have been to provide their customers with the best cup of coffee possible. Now, when you wake up and smell the enticing aroma of your Folgers Coffee, you’ll have a better understanding of how Folgers found their way into your cup.

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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