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The History of Wilbur Chocolate

Wilbur-Suchard Chocolate Co., 1928–1958

The present company originated with Mr. Henry Oscar Wilbur, in Philadelphia, Pa., and the Kendig Chocolate Company, in Lititz, Pa.

Back in 1865, Mr. H.O. Wilbur was successfully operating a hardware and stove business in Vineland, N.J. The chance of uniting with Samuel Croft in the confectionery business in Philadelphia seemed to offer a larger opportunity, and they became partners under the name of Croft & Wilbur, starting in the candy business at 125 North Third St., Philadelphia. They produced largely molasses candies and hard candies, which were sold to the railroad company for train boys to sell. Confectionery manufacturing equipment at that time consisted of a kettle, with a coal or coke fire, some buckets, and a marble slab.

Their business flourished, making it necessary for them to seek larger quarters at 1226 Market St., Philadelphia. The business continued to grow, and it was necessary for the company to build a separate factory for the production of their chocolate requirements.

In 1884, it was decided to divide the business into separate operations: the manufacture of cocoa and chocolate, and the manufacture of candy. The company of H.O. Wilbur & Sons was formed for the manufacture of chocolate products, while Mr. Croft and a Mr. Allen continued the candy business under the name of Croft & Allen.

In 1887, larger quarters were again required, at which time H.O. Wilbur & Sons moved to their last location in Philadelphia, at Third, New, and Bread streets. The business continued successfully, making it possible for Mr. H.O. Wilbur to retire at 59 years of age, which placed the full responsibility of operating the business on his two sons, William Nelson Wilbur and Harry L. Wilbur. The third son, Bertrand K. Wilbur, was a medical doctor who practiced in Alaska. He returned to Philadelphia at the death of his brother, Harry, in 1900 and assumed supervision of production in the chocolate plant.

During the early 1890s, Mr. W.N. Wilbur brought his two brothers from France, H.O. Wilbur's brothers, both experienced chocolate makers, who contributed much to the famous Wilbur® Chocolate items.

In 1905, a third generation of Wilburs entered the picture in the person of Lawrence H. Wilbur. He was trained in Germany and tutored in the manufacture of chocolate by Steve Oriole. He later developed the machine to foil-wrap the famous Wilbur Buds®, which were first introduced in 1894. The firm was incorporated under the name of H.O. Wilbur & Sons in January 1909.

The company continued to prosper, and additional facilities were required. On April 17, 1913, the directors authorized the construction of an additional building, between the two original buildings, in Lititz, Pa. This was a five-story building, and all materials and labor were obtained locally.

In 1927, negotiations were started with Suchard Societe Anonyme, of Switzerland. On February 17, 1928, the company name changed to Wilbur-Suchard Chocolate Company, Inc. The negotiations included a merger with Brewster-Ideal Chocolate Co., of Lititz, Pa., and Newark, N.J.

The three factories continued to operate in Newark, Lititz, and Philadelphia, producing a complete line of chocolate items, concentrating on items sold directly to the public (consumer goods); particularly, Suchard foiled squares and vending machine tablets and bars, in various attractive packages and labels. Beginning in August 1930, the Philadelphia manufacturing operations were moved to Lititz, which was completed in August 1933, and the Newark plant was sold back to Albert E. Brewster in 1934. The production and sale of Suchard items was continued until December 31, 1958, and the corporate name of the company was then changed to Wilbur® Chocolate Co. The company became a wholly-owned subsidiary of MacAndrews & Forbes Company on October 18, 1968. Beginning in 1980, the company was sold four more times in 12 years.

In 1992, Cargill, Inc. acquired the Wilbur® Chocolate Company to become the North American hub for its growing global cocoa and chocolate business. Today, Wilbur® Chocolate is recognized as one of four brands produced and sold by Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate. Fellow chocolate brands include Peter’s Chocolate, Veliche Belgian Chocolate, and Gerkens Cocoa Powder. Each of these brands has product lines that are regarded for their fine quality by the confectioners, dairies, and bakeries that Cargill supplies chocolate ingredients throughout North and South America.

Cargill is a company focused on providing food, agricultural, financial, and industrial products to the world. Together with farmers, customers, governments, and communities, the company helps people thrive by applying experience and insight that span 150 years. Cargill works in 67 countries and celebrates the diversity of 145,000 employees. Cargill’s commitment is to feed the world in a responsible way, reducing environmental impact and improving communities where their employees live and work.