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The precursor of the Folger Coffee Company was founded in 1850 in San Francisco, California, as the Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills. In 1872 it was acquired and renamed by James A. Folger, who had arrived from Nantucket Island at the age of 15 with his two older brothers during the California Gold Rush. In the 1850s, kerosene began to offer a cheaper alternative to the whale oil that had been Nantucket's life-blood, resulting in the re-purposing of many of its ships to bring coffee from South America to San Francisco.
Under the mid-20th century leadership of his great-grandson Peter Folger the brand became one of the principal coffee concerns in the world's largest coffee market, North America. Procter & Gamble (P&G) acquired Folger's in 1963 and removed the apostrophe from its name.
P&G announced in January 2008 Folgers would be spun off into a separate Cincinnati-based company. In June 2008, P&G reversed itself and announced Folgers would be acquired by the end of 2008 by The J.M. Smucker Company. Utilizing a rare financial technique called a Reverse Morris Trust, Smucker purchased Folgers in November 2008 and made it a subsidiary.
Nine brands of Folgers are available in the United States
In Canada, Folgers is primarily available as Classic Roast and Mountain Roast.
In the United Kingdom, Folgers Instant Crystals are available.
Folgers is promoted with the slogan "The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup!" It is well associated with a jingle featured in almost every advertisement since 1984, with lyrics by Susan Spiegel Solovay and Bill Vernick, and music by Leslie Pearl. Over the years it has been rearranged and performed by many famous musicians, such as Randy Travis, Aretha Franklin, and Rockapella.
Folgers was known for many years for television ads involving "Mrs. Olson," a Swedish neighbor who invariably recommended a cup of Folgers coffee for the characters in the commercial, who were almost always housewives with various problems making delicious-tasting coffee. From 1965 to 1986, actress Virginia Christine reminded viewers Folgers was "mountain grown, the richest kind of coffee."
Folgers promoted their instant coffee in 1970s and early 1980s ads which took the viewer inside various gourmet restaurants while a voice-over (played by Bryan Clark) whispered, "We are here at (insert name of four-star restaurant), where we've secretly replaced the fine coffee they usually serve with Folgers Crystals. Let's see if anyone can tell the difference!" Clark ended the commercials with the line, "Folgers Crystals...coffee rich enough to be served in America's finest restaurants."
One Folgers television ad from 1985 became particularly associated with the Christmas holidays. A student named Peter returns home from college, the smell of freshly brewed coffee awakening his parents and alerting them to their son's arrival. The Cunningham & Walsh spot aired yearly until 1998, then in edited form in 2004 and 2005. In 2009, a similar theme was employed, a son coming home from West Africa and waking up to the smell of coffee.
In the mid-1980s Folgers became one of the first NASCAR sponsors that was not affiliated with an automotive, tobacco, or beer company. After a trial season with the Joe Ruttman driven, Larry McClure owned Chevrolet in 1985, Folgers expanded sponsorships with high profile race teams and popular drivers such as Tim Richmond, Benny Parsons, Ken Schrader, and Mark Martin. 
In 2006, the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi created a viral advertisement, popularly known as "Happy Mornings," for Folgers. The ad, in which a large group of cheerful singers and dancers appear at sunrise as the sun itself to wake people up, has been widely distributed on weblogs and video sites such as YouTube.
The brick, five-story Folger Coffee Company Building at 101 Howard in San Francisco, California is the former headquarters of Folgers. It is listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places. The building still has a sign saying "The Folgers Coffee Company" on one corner. The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has its California campus on the top floor, where Wharton's MBA for Executives program is offered.