J. A. Folger

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J. A. Folger
James Athearn Folger

(1835-06-17)June 17, 1835
DiedJune 26, 1889(1889-06-26) (aged 54)
OccupationFounder of Folgers Coffee

James Athearn ("J. A.") Folger, Sr. (June 17, 1835 – June 26, 1889) was an American businessman and the founder of the Folgers Coffee Company.

Early years[edit]

Folger was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S., the son of Samuel Brown Folger (born October 21, 1795) and wife Nancy Hiller (born September 30, 1798). His father was a master blacksmith who had invested in a tryworks and bought two ships. They had nine children of which James was the second youngest. The Folger family roots can be traced back to England.[1] On July 13, 1846 a 33-acre (130,000 m2) fire broke out in Nantucket's business section and burned the works and ship. 11 year old James helped in the reconstruction.[citation needed]

Journey west[edit]

After the discovery of gold in California, James (14), along with his brothers Henry (16) and Edward (20) set out in the autumn of 1849 on a ship bound for the Isthmus of Panama. After a raft and hiking journey across the Isthmus, the brothers waited at Panama City for quite a while before catching the Pacific mail steamer Isthmus on April 10, 1850. They entered the Golden Gate on May 5, 1850.[citation needed]

Work in San Francisco[edit]

James decided to stay in San Francisco instead of heading to the gold fields as a result of the high wages being offered. He helped reconstruct after one of San Francisco's many fires, similar to how he had in Nantucket. He helped build a spice-and-coffee mill for a man named William H. Bovee.[2]

Founding of Folger's Coffee[edit]

In 1860, he founded the San Francisco coffee firm, known as the J. A. Folger Coffee Company, known today simply as Folgers Coffee.[2]


J. A. Folger married Eleanor Laughran (born October 17, 1837) and was the father of James Athearn Folger, Jr. (born c. 1864), who married Clare Luning. He is the paternal grandfather of Peter Folger, and the great-grandfather of Abigail Folger. Abigail was murdered in 1969, by members of the Manson family, along with her friend, actress Sharon Tate among others. John and Eleanor had 3 other children; John Athearn m. Nancy Try Slaughter, Ernest Randolph, and Elizabeth.

He is also the uncle of Henry Clay Folger, founder of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

He is buried in the Folger family plot at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California.


  1. ^ Remarks on the Origin and Genealogy of the Franklin Family.
  2. ^ a b "Histories of Associate Members". California Historical Society Quarterly. University of California Press in association with the California Historical Society. 43 (2): 177. June 1964. Retrieved August 30, 2016.

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