Mmm Mmm Good: The History of Campbell's Soup

The work of Joseph Campbell, John Dorrance, and Grace Wiederseim Drayton

stack of Campbell's soup cans
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In 1869, fruit merchant Joseph Campbell and icebox manufacturer Abraham Anderson started the Anderson & Campbell Preserve Company in Camden, New Jersey. By 1877, the partners realized each had different visions for the company. Joseph Campbell bought Anderson’s share and expanded the business to include ketchup, salad dressing, mustard, and other sauces. Ready-to-serve Beefsteak Tomato Soup became a Campbell’s best seller.

The Birth of the Campbell's Soup Company

In 1894, Joseph Campbell retired and Arthur Dorrance took over as company president. Three years later, soup history was made when Arthur Dorrance hired his nephew John Dorrance. John held a chemistry degree from MIT and a Ph.D. from the University of Gottengen in Germany. He turned down more prestigious and better-paying teaching positions to work for his uncle. His Campbell's salary was only $7.50 per week and he had to bring in his own lab equipment. However, John Dorrance soon made the Campbell's Soup Company very famous.

Chemist Arthur Dorrance Finds a Way to Make Soup Smaller

Soups were inexpensive to make but very expensive to ship. Dorrance realized that if he could remove some of soup's heaviest ingredient—water—he could create a formula for condensed soup and slash the price of soup from $.30 to $.10 per can. By 1922, soup was such an integral part of the company's presence in America, that Campbell’s formally accepted "Soup" into its name.

Grace Wiederseim Drayton: The Mother of Campbell Kids

The Campbell Kids have been selling Campbell's Soup since 1904, when Grace Wiederseim Drayton, an illustrator and writer, added some sketches of children to her husband’s advertising layout for a Campbell's condensed soup. The Campbell advertising agents loved the child appeal and choose Mrs. Wiederseim’s sketches as trademarks.

In the beginning, Campbell Kids were drawn as ordinary boys and girls, later, Campbell Kids took on the personas of policemen, sailors, soldiers, and other professions.

Grace Wiederseim Drayton will always be the "mother" of Campbell Kids. She drew for the company advertising for nearly twenty years. Drayton’s designs were so popular that doll makers wanted to capitalize on their popularity. Campbell's gave the E. I. Horsemen Company the license to market dolls with the Campbell label on their sleeves. Horseman even secured two U.S. design patents for the dolls’ clothes.

Today, Campbell’s Soup Company, with its famous red and white label, remains a staple in the kitchen as well as American culture.