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CIVR Blog: Wrigley’s island

William Wrigley, Jr. on Catalina Island. Photo courtesy of the Permanent Collection of the Catalina Island Museum

William Wrigley, Jr. on Catalina Island. Photo courtesy of the Permanent Collection of the Catalina Island Museum

The Island that chewing gum built

Santa Catalina Island is a popular Southern California vacation destination thanks to the vision of one man who saw the island’s potential nearly 100 years ago.

William Wrigley, Jr. became intrigued with Catalina Island and purchased it in 1919. The chewing gum magnate envisioned an island playground where families from all walks of life could escape from the stresses of everyday life on the mainland. Guided by that vision, Wrigley – and his substantial investment – transformed Catalina Island. He used his considerable fortune to invest both in infrastructure and amenities. Housing and utilities were added as were roads and support businesses, including a pottery plant that created both utilitarian tiles and iconic pottery, which is highly sought after to this day.

Wrigley’s vision and that of the people he hired also shaped the island’s icons, from the Casino Building to the serpentine wall along Crescent Avenue. His investment in the island wasn’t just material. Wrigley also invested heavily in advertising, making the island a household word around the country. His beloved Chicago Cubs helped him do that, as did radio shows broadcast from the Casino Ballroom and frequent visits from Hollywood’s elite.

Wrigley’s heirs continued to make the island a priority and in the 1970s their hope for Catalina Island’s future was one reason that the Catalina Island Conservancy was created, ensuring that this island paradise will remain so in perpetuity.

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