The Obscure Facts You Should Know About Folgers Coffee

Pre-roasted coffee was a luxury before trailblazers like the Arbuckle brothers sold it to cowboys and Folgers Coffee founder James Folger helped sell it to California gold miners desperate for a morning wake-me-up (via HistoryNet). We like them for it. And apart from the woman that allegedly found a dead baby snapping turtle in a can of Folgers back in 2005 (via Consumerist), Folgers customers seem happy. 

In 2016, BrandSpark announced that Folgers was the "most trusted coffee brand" in America (via Vending Market Watch). Statista reports that the company is by far the most popular seller of regular ground coffee in the United States, having sold more than twice as much as its rival, Starbucks, as of July 2020. It's also the most popular decaf coffee retailer. And like any famous brand, there are a lot of fascinating stories hiding behind the Folgers Coffee label. Next time you sip on a steaming cup of Folgers joe, you may want to keep these things in mind. 

Folgers Coffee miraculously survived the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

There would be no Folgers without the San Francisco Gold Rush. After a fire destroyed the Folger family's means of survival in Nantucket (via Folgers), James Folger and his two brothers headed for San Francisco hoping to strike gold. While his brothers found work in the mines, in 1850, Folger found work at a coffee company that would eventually become his own. Against all odds, the company survived bankruptcy after the American Civil War when creditors agreed to cover the debts. By 1901, the company had even added a plant in Texas (via HistoryNet).  

In 1905, the company was doing so well it moved to a new building on San Francisco's waterfront, where it invested in cutting-edge technology. Then, the next year, disaster struck. The 1906 earthquake sent at least 3,000 people to their deaths and burned down over 500 city blocks. Folger's factory miraculously survived, and the company claims that it was the only coffee business in San Francisco to do so. US Marines occupied the factory while combating the fire. In the aftermath, the company gave out free coffee to residents as the city was being reconstructed.    

The unexpected links between Folgers Coffee and just about everybody famous

You might have already known that Folgers Coffee founder James Folger was related to the famous inventor, postmaster, and diplomat Benjamin Franklin through Franklin's grandfather, Peter Folger (via HuffPost).  But did you know that these famous men were also related to one of the first women in the United States to graduate with a medical degree and serve as a professor of medicine at an American college? That woman was Lydia Folger, a 6th-generation descendant of Peter (via Sue Young Histories)

What else was the Folger family famous for, you might ask? After immigrating to Nantucket, Massachusetts from Norwich, England they became such well-known whalers that they're mentioned in Moby-Dick (via Mental Floss). And if Famous Kin is to be believedJames Folger is also related to the 39th Governor of North Carolina, the 16th and 18th Governors of Idaho, documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, and Rowland H. Macy, the founder of Macy's. On the whole, not a bad list. 

Folgers stirred up a national conversation about forbidden love

Did you watch Folgers' 2009 Christmas commercial, in which a brother and a sister reunite over a cup of coffee? If so, you may have noticed (un)intentional sexual tension when the sister tells her brother, "You're my present this year." The internet certainly thought there was (via Vanity Fair). 

The commercial caused such an uproar that fans were still fondly remembering it six years later in 2015, when Comedy Central jumped on the bandwagon, making a parody video that took things an engagement ring too far (via Comedy Central Originals). Buzzfeed couldn't resist itself, either, and asked readers to take a poll. Were the siblings hooking up? Fifty-three percent of poll takers said yes. But the results weren't definitive enough, apparently. In 2019, Buzzfeed was still writing about it. 

If you think that's bad, we haven't even touched on the entire genre of incestuous fan-fiction that the commercial inspired. Can you guess? It's called "Folgercest" (via GQ). To witness it yourself, you can follow the #folgercest community on Twitter, which celebrates the commercial every holiday season.

You might be drinking Folgers because of Nascar

Folgers wasn't always the most popular coffee in the United States. Then, in 1986, Folgers, along with Kodak, became the first big companies to start sponsoring Nascar. Folgers partnered with team owner Rick Hendrick and Nascar driver Tim Richmond, (via The 200-MPH Billboard). The photo above you? That's Richmond. In 1986, he drove a red Chevrolet with Folgers' name all over it. Nascar says his 1986 Southern 500 win was possibly the "marquee victory of his career." The win still carries weight, today. It was apparently so important to Nascar history that in 2019, Nascar driver, Alex Bowman, paid homage to Richmond by racing in a duplicate "Folgers Coffee Machine" Chevrolet when he took part in the Southern 500 (via Forbes). 

Needless to say, Folgers' investment paid off. At the start of the 1986 season, it was the third and fourth best-selling coffee in the country. By the end of the 1986 season, it had moved into first place with Richmond (via The 200-MPH Billboard). 

Folgers' tragic connection to the Manson Murders

In July 1969, the heiress to the Folger Fortune, Abigail Folger, was housesitting for her friends, Hollywood actress Sharon Tate and filmmaker Roman Polanski. When Tate came back in late July, Folger stayed. She was still there on August 8th but had planned on traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco the next day in order to celebrate her birthday (via The Washington Post). She never made it.

Remember Charles Manson? He and his cult-followers jarred the United States when he murdered seven people in Los Angeles, California in August 1969. On the evening of August 8th, his followers took the lives of Sharon Tate; Abigail Folger; Polish writer, Wojciech Frykowsk; and celebrity hair-stylist, Jay Sebring (via Insider). 

It's hard to tell whether the 26-year-old coffee heiress would have taken over the reins of Folgers Coffee. She was as a social worker who'd just begun to involve herself in California politics at the time of her death (via The San Francisco Examiner).