1850 – NOW
Coffee’s always been a part of the myth of the American West. Wagons rolling towards California boiled whole beans in water. Rifle manufacturers in the 19th century built coffee mills into its gunstocks. Sioux traders referred to the brew as “black medicine.”
But once Americans got to the Pacific coast, they found new ways to make, sell and drink coffee. Whether it was a gold rush or an earthquake or an app boom, somewhere in the city someone was providing sharp, dark brew to someone else who needed it. The history of San Francisco can be read in the swirls of a cup of joe.
MAY 5, 1850
Folgers born of luck and necessity
When gold was discovered in California’s American River in 1848, 1,000 people lived in San Francisco. Two years later, more than 20,000 prospectors (and engineers, bankers, merchants) had moved in. One of those early San Franciscans was James Folger, who was 14 when he arrived from Nantucket looking to sell provisions with his brothers.
The city’s port offered direct access to Java and the high-quality coffee from the Dutch Indies. In 1872 Folger and his investors founded J.A. Folger & Co. Social unrest in the Caribbean and Brazil had made Americans’ usual beans expensive, and others besides Folger saw the opportunities in bringing Java beans to the US through San Francisco.
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