The Business That Built Chicago
The beginning of any business is something that should be remembered by all. It is a moment in which the most spirited minds come together to form a front bigger than themselves. When not just one but many of these likeminded individuals tread this path alongside one another, it creates a foundation in which society can flourish. Chicago is the direct result of such a marvelous revolution and is the city that we know today because of the hardworking Americans that struggled, sacrificed, and aspired to make such a reality possible. Let us take a brief journey into the heart of the history behind Chicago’s greatest yet longest running companies:
Candy and Chocolate
Ever had a yearning for something sweet only satisfied by the lip smacking goodness of a bag of M&Ms or a chocolate covered Snickers bar? Franklin Clarence Mars, getting the candy making gene from his mother, sold candy hand dipped in chocolate in the early Twentieth Century. In 1920 Mars had the genius idea to mimic a chocolate shake into a candy bar everyone knows as the Milky Way bar. It was the best selling candy bar of it time. Yum, yum, smack, smack.
In 1929, the Mars family relocated their business from Minneapolis, to the great city of Chicago. This is where chocolate, caramel, and nuts exploded into goodies we’ve come to love. Still in production at the Chicago address of 2019 N. Oak Park Ave are M&M’s (don’t argue over which is best, plain or peanuts) Snickers (too bad they got rid of the dark chocolate one) Musketeers Bar and other awesomely delicious treats. Chicago and Mars is a marriage made in candy heaven.
Peanuts and Popcorn Anyone?
While Mars is a well-known name, you may not be as familiar with the family owned business name of Cretors, a company founded in Chicago, Illinois. Well, this name is synonymous with roasted peanuts, popcorn and concession stands. Charles Cretors, curious about how things worked, developed a stand-alone peanut roasting machine and a popcorn popper based on the mechanics of steam engines. People could watch peanuts roasting right in front of them, and the alluring aroma of fresh popcorn was too much to resist.
In 1900 this marvelous machine was patented and the first of its kind worldwide. So when you walk into today’s movie theaters and see, hear, and smell popcorn popping, just know that Cretors' manufacturing plant was home grown and is still part of Chicago’s landscape. Still curious? Check out this news feature by Chicago newsman Bill Curtis.
How about a game of pool?
A Chicago company at the forefront of introducing innovated products that changed leisure activities worldwide is the Brunswick Corporation. Sound familiar? It does if you’ve spent any time at a bowling alley. You will remember seeing the Brunswick name and logo on bowling pins and balls
However, before bowling balls, Brunswick’s initial leisure equipment were billiard tables, an item in mid 1800's classified as a rich man’s sport in Europe. Moses Brunswick, saw this as an opportunity to add another item to his already successful carriage making business. Today’s product diversification and realignment helped to ensure Brunswick’s success as it has entered the fitness market, engines, boats, and of course retains its core product billiard tables.
Adding A Little Flavor
One company that will always have a kinship with Chicago is the Morton Salt Company. Everyone knows the little Morton Salt girl on every box who appearance changed along with the times, as did salt manufacturing. Salt was usually kept in large bags that were not air tight and caused salt to lump. It was Joy Morton, son of influential and philanthropist father Julius Sterling Morton, who acquired a Chicago salt company in 1889. He improved it by adding an anti-clumping compound and designed smaller packaging. And in 1997 Morton was purchased and moved its headquarters. However, the Morton Salt girl will always be Chicago’s little girl.
The remains of these proud representations of corporate America may have changed since they began but have certainly and will always maintain a fixed trend of absolute quality, commitment, and dedication to the products they have produced for millions of people worldwide. The power a brand may extend globally but will always be known for the home from which it started, which in this case, the people are Chicago are grateful to have been and continue to be a part of it.