Guide to the Hills Bros. Coffee Inc. Records
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.0395
Creators:
Hills Bros. Coffee, Inc.
Dates:
1875 - 1965
Languages:
English
Collection is in English.
Physical Description:
65 cubic feet
Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Records of the Hills Bros. Coffee Company, Incorporated, documenting overall operations of the company, the creation of advertising materials, and development of the coffee trade.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection is divided into thirteen series.
Series 1, Hills Family Papers, 1856-1942; undated, consists primarily of personal and business related materials of Austin H. Hills Sr., Austin Herbert Hills Jr. and Herbert Gray Hills. Austin Herbert Hills Sr. was the father of Austin Herbert Hills Jr. and Reuben Wilmarth Hills founders of Hills Bros. Coffee Company Incorporated. Herbert Gray Hills is the son of Austin Herbert Hills Jr. In addition, there are home movies created in 1933 by members of the Hills family. The series is divided into three subseries.
Subseries 1.1, Austin Herbert Hills, Sr. Papers, 1856-1875; undated, consists primarily of materials related to his business affairs. Born in Rockland, Maine and a ship builder by trade, Austin Sr. opened a butter, eggs and cheese business in 1863. These materials are a miscellaneous assortment of correspondence and accounting ledgers relating to the partnership of Hills, Rice & Company. In addition, there is an article from the Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine about Harriet Heal Hills (Mrs. Austin H. Hills). Mrs. Hills joined the Oakland chapter in 1904 and remained a very active member most of her life. Her father was John Heal who served as corporal in the continental army. The materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 1.2, Austin Herbert Hills, Jr. Papers, 1875-1923, contain correspondence which relate to both business and personal matters. The correspondence is arranged in the order that Mr. Hills maintained which is in alphabetical order by the last name of the recipient or sender and then in chronological order. In addition, there is an accounting ledger for Austin Hill's diary business prior to the creation of the Hills Bros. Coffee Company. Subseries 1.3, Herbert Gray Hills Correspondence, 1923-1942, contain handwritten notes, letters, telegrams and other related materials. Subjects discussed include annual stockholders meetings, golf tournaments, quantities of merchandise shipped to various locations, programs for division managers' meetings, a copy of the proposed demands by office workers' union and I. L. A. 38-44 on San Francisco business and industrial establishments, and advertising. The materials are arranged in chronological order by date as they were maintained by Mr. Hills. Series 2, Background Materials, 1896-1988; undated, contain a substantial amount of information relating to the Hills family and the history of the coffee company. Most of these materials are unpublished chronologies, historical sketches, newspaper clippings, presentations written by T. Carroll Wilson, and magazine articles. There is also a genealogy of the Hills family which dates from 1602-1950. One of the more interesting histories is the informal memoirs of Frank Veirs, Jr., who began as a plant employee and later became a factory superintendent. Veirs maintained detailed notes on the company's activities dating from 1896 to 1946. These notes are personal in nature but add to the historical events of the company. Reminiscences of daily routines, the management styles of the Hills brothers and company loyalty among employees are major themes throughout his writings. In 1948, NW Ayer advertising agency created the Hills of San Francisco which commemorates the twenty fifth anniversary of NW Ayer & Sons service to Hills Bros. Coffee, Incorporated. Limited copies of this publication were distributed to Hills Bros. top executives. The 1967 publication of a Background Story of Hills Bros. Coffee, Incorporated was designed by Walter Landor and Associates and based on a slide presentation created by T. Carroll Wilson. The original script and slides are included among these materials. In addition, there are local newspaper clippings on the history of the family and the company dating from 1922 to 1931. In 1988, Hill Bros. Company, Incorporated hired history associates to create a catalogue of artifacts and archival materials in its holdings. With the assistance of T. Carroll Wilson key items were chosen and described in the catalogue. There are a number of folders divided by the sections of the catalogue and include original samples followed by a color photocopy of the catalogue and two black and white copies. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Series 3, Coffee Reference Files, 1921-1980; undated, are materials relating to the cultivation, packaging, distribution, advertising, marketing and consumption of this beverage primarily in the United States. The materials provide an in-depth analysis of the history of the coffee trade and Hills Bros. Coffee Company's unique position in its developments. The series is divided into two subseries. Subseries one is material created by Hills Bros. primarily for the company but also includes information directed at the coffee trade and consumers. Subseries two is materials created by the coffee industry and other publishers primarily for the trade with a few materials directed toward consumers.
Subseries 3.1, Hills Bros. Coffee Company Literature, 1921-1976; undated, consist of publications created by the company for promotional and educational use. Such materials provide a significant amount of information on both the history of the coffee industry, and the history of Hills Bros. Coffee Company. Important publications include a copy of "Behind the Cup" (1928) which outlines the history of Hills Bros. from the establishment of the Arabian Coffee and Spice Mills to the building of the home office and plant on Harrison Street in 1926. This publication was also used as a companion piece to the film of the same title and was created by the NW Ayer advertising agency. Hills Bros. Coffee Company publications relating to the coffee trade include a 1922 booklet entitled Cultivation and Preparation of Coffee and Tea which was distributed widely to teachers and schools. The Art of Entertaining, another NW Ayer Advertising Agency creation, was designed to educate the consumer about coffee with tips on entertaining and coffee recipes. In addition, there are a series of inspirational books written by Coleman Cox for Hills Bros. which was distributed to its employees. A number of presentations written by T. Carroll Wilson for professional meetings and publications are also included among these materials. The materials are arranged in chronological order.
Subseries 3.2, Coffee Industry Literature, 1924-1980; undated, consists of publications including articles, annuals, proceedings from conventions, pamphlets and books. Topics of discussion include major growers, coffee roasting and packaging, the history of coffee as a consumer product, marketing, distribution and recipes. These materials assist in placing Hills Bros. and its major developments in the field in historical perspective. The majority of the publications was created by the Pan American Coffee Bureau and includes materials from the Coffee Industries of America, National Coffee Association, Federation of Coffee Growers of Columbia, American Coffee Bureau, Associated Coffee Industries of America and the Bureau of Coffee Information. Materials are arranged in chronological order.
Series 4, Advertising Materials, circa 1890s-1987; undated, comprise the largest series in the collection. These materials consist of scrapbooks, advertising cards, postcards, letterhead stationery, labels, proof sheets, advertising forms, advertising portfolios, printed advertisements, schedules for newspaper advertising, storyboards for television commercials and packaging. Researchers will be able to trace the evolution of Hills Bros. advertising campaigns using a variety of formats promoted through newspaper, magazine, radio and television. In addition, there are materials that document the decision making process. Records show the amount of money Hills Bros. allocated annually for advertising and budget proposals. This information supports evidence of the percentage of advertising costs versus the total overall operating budget. Correspondence between Hills Bros. and NW Ayer Advertising Agency provide insight into the client and advertising agency relationship. The series is organized into eleven subseries.
Subseries 4.1, Scrapbooks, 1906-1978; undated, consist of seven volumes containing materials created by the company to document their products and packaging. Six of the scrapbooks are conventionally sewn and are relatively small compared to the scrapbooks referred to by the company as its historical albums in series two. These volumes contain primarily circulars, labels, postcards, advertising cards and printed advertisements. A number of the materials relate to the teas and spices that were sold by the company as well as its coffee. In addition, there is a scrapbook of mostly newspaper clippings documenting the introduction of Hills Bros. High Yield coffee in 1978. All of these scrapbooks are in fairly good condition and the contents remained securely attached to the pages. Given the sound condition of the volumes, the only preservation measure that was taken was to box the volumes. The boxes provide physical protection during storage and assist in safe retrieval and transport. The outside of the scrapbooks are identified as labels but contain other types of material. The scrapbooks are arranged by the number assigned to it by the company and then in chronological order.
Subseries 4.2, Historical Albums, 1911-1967, were created by the company and provide an overview and rich source of the company's visual materials arranged in chronological order by year. The earlier volumes were created by one of the Hills brothers and later carried out by various members of the staff. The albums contain a variety of materials such as paperboard boxes, pamphlets, metal cans, newspaper clippings, photographs, printed advertisements, street car advertisements and labels. These albums presented a number of preservation concerns. Many of the materials in the albums are partially loose or detached from the scrapbook pages because the rubber cement has lost its adhesive properties. Some of the oversized items are folded to fit the scrapbooks and show signs of deterioration. The size of these mammoth volumes made it extremely difficult to handle and transport them. Structurally the volumes could not support the contents. Based on the assumption that these volumes were valuable research tools, the recommendation was to disband the scrapbooks. Still maintaining the original order of the volumes the pages were numbered and only fifty pages were housed per box. Loose materials were sleeved and also kept in order. Most of the materials in these scrapbooks can be found in other parts of the collection. Subseries 4.3, Ephemera, 1890s-1987, contain some of the earliest forms of advertising and materials also found in the scrapbooks and historical volumes. The material consists of advertising cards, advertising forms, artwork, business cards, envelopes, handbills, record cards, letterhead stationery, postcards, labels, and point of purchase displays. Some of the materials are for products sold by the company before they became exclusively involved in the coffee market. Materials are arranged in alphabetical order by type.
Subseries 4.4, Portfolios, 1919-1985, undated consist of packets of material created by Hills Bros. and generally directed toward retailer grocers. Salesmen would utilize these portfolios as a means of introducing advertising campaigns and convincing grocers of how well supported the products were. The portfolios often included printed advertisements; directions for window and store displays; price lists of products by the case; suggested stocking requirements and/or guidelines; schedules for newspaper, radio or television coverage; advertising forms; story boards; illustrations of colorful outdoor advertisements; coupons and premiums and literature explaining the theme of each campaign. Researchers will find these materials useful in understanding product advertising from the point of view of the retail grocer. The materials document Hills Bros. suggestions for selling their products, display methods and customer satisfaction techniques. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 4.5, Proof sheets, 1922-1968, consist mostly of materials created by NW Ayer & Son Advertising Agency. Generally these proof sheets are black and white copies of what appeared in magazines or journals. At the bottom of each page pertinent information such as publication title, location and date is often included. The changing messages of advertising and shifts in target audiences can be seen through the use of storylines, particularly in the earlier proof sheets. Researchers should also consult the NW Ayer Collection finding aid located in the Archives Center reference room for copies of proof sheets not included among these materials. Materials are arranged in chronological order.
Subseries 4.6, Advertising Forms, 1922-1971; undated, consist of in-store wall posters or window displays to attract the attention of the customer and to assist in selling the products. Graphically interesting and colorful, noted artists such as Norman Rockwell created some of these advertising forms. All of the advertising forms are numbered and some are dated. There is also a scrapbook containing advertising forms. In addition, there are electrotypes, mats and multi-graph plates also included among the materials. Series five contains photographs of some of the advertising forms with information about intended use in the store. Materials are arranged first by size and then in order by the number assigned to each advertising form. Photographs of some of the advertising forms can be found in the reference room located in the Archives Center.
Subseries 4.7, Newspaper and Magazine Advertising, 1926-1971; undated, consists primarily of schedules for newspaper advertisements. The schedules date from 1928-1933 and were prepared by NW Ayer & Sons Advertising Agency for the Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Portland and San Francisco divisions. These materials provide useful information including the name of the publication and the amount of money that was spent for a particular time period. There are estimates for advertising in both newspapers and magazines which were also prepared by NW Ayer & Sons. The estimates document the company's management of printed advertisements noting where they appeared, the date, length of publication and cost. Hills Bros. correspondence to salesmen and grocers discuss advertising campaigns and suggest ways to sell more coffee. In addition, there are recapitulation of newspaper advertising costs and circulation for the Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Portland and San Francisco divisions. Other materials include a report, typescripts of newspaper advertisements, dealer materials for coffee guide newspaper advertisement, press releases for newspaper advertisements, mailers to dealers about newspaper advertisements, samples of newspaper advertisements for the Chicago market and newspaper advertising circulation for the Midwest market. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 4.8, Sampling Campaigns, 1928-1941 consist primarily of materials related to the sampling campaign conducted in the fall of 1941. The plan for the campaign was developed by the Reuben H. Donnelley Corporation and consisted of mailings and home-to-home coffee distribution. The sampling territories were divided into three geographical locations. Section one, the Michigan campaign, comprised of Detroit and its suburbs including Wayne county and the cities of Jackson, Ann arbor, Ypsilanti, Pontiac, Port Huron, Lansing, Flint, Saginaw, Bay City and Midland. Section two, the Ohio and Indiana campaign, included Cleveland and its suburbs, Toledo and suburbs (including Adrian and Monroe, Michigan), Indianapolis and suburbs and Fort Wayne. Section three, North Dakota, Minnesota and upper Michigan peninsula campaign, included the towns around Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota from Houghton and Calumet, down to Escanaba and over to Sault Ste. Marie in the upper Michigan peninsula. The procedures for conducting the campaign; information relating to sampling territories; shipping schedules for coffee samples from the warehouse in Edgewater, New Jersey; notes relating to sampling figures; instructions for carriers; 1etters and booklets to grocers; radio announcements; coffee grams; pages from telephone directories for Grand Rapids, Michigan, Peoria, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin and an article from the Detroit News Booster dated September 1941 about the campaign are included among the materials. In addition, there is a small amount of material related to sampling campaigns conducted from 1928-1934. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 4.9, General Files, 1923-1978; undated consist of information used primarily by the company as reference materials. There is information on coffee advertising; the history of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) advertising; correspondence; jig saw puzzle advertisements; printed advertisements; memorandum relating to original vacuum pack; excerpts of letters written by the advertising department in 1948; scrapbook of competitor's instant coffee advertisements in San Francisco; outline of merchandising, sales promotion activity in 1930-1952 with correlation bar chart and cross reference to advertising report, ground and instant coffee television advertising history; advertising plan for ground and instant coffee; budget proposal; information on outdoor advertising; scripts for radio commercials; advertising plans for instant coffee; dealers information on radio and television advertising and materials relating to electrotypes and mats. The materials are arranged in chronological order by date. Subseries 4.10, NW Ayer Advertising Agency Materials, 1943, 1958 consist primarily of the scrapbooks that were created by the agency in 1958 for Shirley Temple's Storybook. This program was a series of sixteen hour-long children's programs on National Broadcasting Company (NBC). Hills Bros. Coffee sponsored the programs which included Beauty and the Beast, Rumpelstiltskin, Nightingale, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Dick Whittington and his Cat, Land of Green Ginger, Sleeping Beauty, Rip Van Winkle, Little Lame Prince, Magic Fishbone, Wild Swans, Hiawatha, Rapunzel, Ali Baba, Emperor's New Clothes and Mother Goose. The scrapbooks were assembled in the order that the programs aired and included clippings for the public and the trade. In addition, there is a menu for an event for Hills Bros. and NW Ayer employees in 1943.
Subseries 4.11, Foote, Cone & Belding Advertising Agency Materials, 1963-1968; undated, consists of material created for print, radio and television advertisements. There is a list of printed advertisements and examples of the ones that were created from 1963-1967. There are also scripts that were created for radio commercials dating from 1967-1968. Some of the printed advertisements are from the same campaigns as the radio commercials. The bulk of the material is storyboards created for television commercials and advertising instant coffee from 1965-1967. These materials are arranged in alphabetical order by title. In addition, there are also competitive consumer promotion and publicity reports prepared by the agency for Hills Bros. These materials informed Hills Bros. about the advertising activities of major competitors. The reports date from 1967-1968 and include information about Butter-Nut, Chase & Sanborn, Folgers, Maxim, Maxwell, MJB, Nescafe, Tasters Choice and Yubon. The materials are arranged in alphabetical order by the name of the company.
Series 5, Photographs, 1882-1973; undated, document advertising, company activities, office buildings, plants, packaging, grocery store displays, window and wall displays, employees and the coffee trade. Company photographer, Ken P. Allen, is credited with many of the company related images and some relating to the coffee trade. Most of the photographs are labeled and have negatives. Documentation for some of the photographs can also be found in other portions of the collection. The series is divided into twelve subseries.
Subseries 5.1, Employees, 1882-1961; undated, document the activities of people working for the company. Company employees consist of factory workers, salesmen, and executives. Company executives include Austin Hills, Reuben Hills, Edward E. Hills, Herbert Gray Hills, Leslie W. Hills and T. Carroll Wilson. A number of the employee photographs were created for company publications. Some of the company activities include female employees in the preparedness parade, the company basketball team, a groundbreaking ceremony, salesmen conventions, managers' meetings and coffee testing or cupping. The materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 5.2, Division Offices, 1924-1931; undated, include images of Hills Bros. offices across the country including Butte, Chicago, Denver, El Paso, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Seattle, Spokane, and Wichita. These photographs document both the work stations of the region and Hills Bros. personnel in their work environment. The interior and exterior of the division offices are also shown. There is one image of an unidentified office. Materials are arranged in alphabetical order by the name of the city in which the offices are located.
Subseries 5.3, Facilities and Vehicles, 1927-1973; undated, primarily document the work environment and social spaces for many of the plant and factory workers. There are a number of images of female employees engaged in work. Some of the photographs show machinery used for transporting bags of green coffee into the warehouse, controlled roasting, vacuum packing, and granulation control. The architectural design, construction and outside views of the Edgewater Plant, 1939-1940, are also included among these materials. The location of this plant was critical for shipping green coffee up the Hudson River from the New York Harbor to the plant. In addition, there are images of trucks used by the company. Images of the cafeteria dating from 1927 and exhibits for employees dating from 1938-1968 are also found among these materials. The materials are arranged in chronological order by date. Subseries 5.4, Advertising, 1925-1959; undated includes images of the various logos, designs, displays and illustrations used by Hills Bros. throughout the years. There are a number of images of the Arab trademark photographed in various settings. Many of the images have negatives and include advertising forms, point of purchase displays, outdoor displays, food show exhibits, newspaper advertisements, a 1940 medal award for newspaper campaign advertising and selling, service cards and displays installed by advertising service men. Most of the materials are dated and are arranged in chronological order.
Subseries 5.5, Sales, circa 1921-1939; undated, consist of photographic materials maintained by Hills Bros. for use in sales presentations. Included among these materials is an incomplete set of plates from a jobber portfolio for the Midwest area dating from 1921-1922. There are also a number of negatives of sales maps dating from 1931-1939 and telephones. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 5.6, Packaging, 1884-1969; undated includes both prints and negatives of containers used by Hills Bros. to prepare and store coffee products. There are images of boxes, cans, glass jars, coffee guides and coffee pots. An evolution of packaging design as it relates to historical events is evident throughout the images. Of note are prints of the Hills Bros. coffee cans in the paintings by artist Fred Machetanz dating from 1969. The materials are arranged in chronological by date.
Subseries 5.7, Grocery Store Displays, circa, 1901-1935, contain the largest amount of materials in this series. Hills Bros. photographer, Ken Allen visited a number of retail grocers around the country to document Hills Bros. coffee displays. Some of these photographs were used in broadsides created by Hill Bros. entitled "Interesting Grocery Stores" and "Before and After." The broadsides were created from 1928-1933 with the retail grocer as the target market. Approximately 30,000 broadsides were mailed to customers. The photographs are identified by the name of the store and location. Most of the prints also have negatives and correspondence granting Hills Bros. permission to publish the photographs. Materials are arranged in alphabetical order by the name of the grocery store.
Subseries 5.8, Store Tests, 1938, consists of photographs, negatives, reports and drawings from merchandising tests conducted in grocery stores in California, Arizona, Oregon, Missouri and Minnesota. "Before" photographs document shelf displays while the "after" photographs document the new floor displays. Reports on the corresponding sales figures used to promote Hills Bros. merchandising service in retail grocery stores are also include among the materials. The materials were maintained in the order that they were created by the company.
Subseries 5.9, Window and Wall Displays, 1928, 1930, 1934, contain a large number of photographs documenting the installations of window and wall displays. The displays were created by the advertising department in San Francisco and given to advertising service representatives as patterns for the installations. Advertising service representatives operated throughout the entire marketing area from the Pacific Coast to Chicago. It was custom to visit every grocery store at least once a year. Representatives offered to install a window display or wall display free of cost to the store. The materials are arranged by number and include some duplicates.
Subseries 5.10, Publicity, 1933-1936; undated, include photographs and correspondence that were maintained by Hills Bros. for publicity purposes. A large portion of the photographs consist of Hollywood movie stills with scenes using Hills Bros. coffee primarily from the 1930s. There is a substantial amount of material on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Incorporated polar expedition (1933) for the production of the movie "Eskimo." Based on the novel of the same name by Peter Freuchen, a Scandinavian surveyor, the movie chronicles his experiences charting the North Arctic Zone for use in maps put out by the Danish government. The Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Incorporated crew was sent above the Arctic Circle to film the production using natives. A supply of Hills Bros. coffee was included among the food provisions to last the crew for a year. Photographs of the expedition and movie stills were later used by Hills Bros. for advertising in grocery stores. In addition, there is also a newspaper article from the Citizen News dated January 1934 that discusses the adventures of the cast and crew of Eskimo. The materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 5.11, Miscellaneous, 1898-1949; undated, is a random mix of images including the return of troops from the Spanish American War on Market Street; Boeing Air Transportation, Incorporated; Frank Goss from the Columbia Broadcasting System; Fresno Bee National Recovery Administration; Infants' Choir; Kinner Airplane and Motor Corporation, Ltd.; gold miners with hot coffee by the camp fire; and Fred N. Palmiter. The materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 5.12, Coffee and Tea Industry, 1900s-1947; undated, consist of prints and negatives relating primarily to the cultivation, growth and processing of green coffee. A number of these images document women laborers from Guatemala and El Salvador examining, hand picking and sorting coffee beans. The photographs were created to illustrate the production process in the 1930s. A photograph of Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Brown on a coffee buying trip in the 1900s is also included among the materials. There are photographs of coffee mills and Hills Bros. Company's participation in food shows. In addition, there are some images relating to the tea trade including the loading of tea in Asia. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Series 6, Sales and Marketing Records, 1906-1989; undated, primarily consist of the materials that were created by the company to communicate with the sales force. Bulletins and correspondence make up the bulk of these materials. There are also materials that were used by salesmen on a daily basis while conducting business in the field. Some of the activities of the sales department including meetings and conventions are also documented. In addition, market research, reports and studies inform the sales department about the coffee industry and consumer consumption. The materials are divided into eight subseries.
Subseries 6.1, Bulletins for Salesmen, 1912-1969 were created and distributed by the company to keep the sales force informed about sales activities. Some of the earlier bulletins contain quotes by Reuben Hills. As the primary means of communication from management to the sales force, this body of materials is rather extensive and documents over a period of time issues, concerns, advertising, sales approach of the company and changes in price structure. Eventually the bulletin system phased out due to extensive use of telephone and computer communication. The San Francisco division has some of the earliest bulletins. The materials are arranged first in alphabetical order by division or city and then in chronological order by date.
Subseries 6.2, Division Bulletins and General Letters, 1925-1927 include the correspondence that was distributed to the different divisional regions including Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Portland and Salt Lake City. These materials were created for the salesmen and provide information on progress reports, goals of the company and sales techniques. The materials are arranged in alphabetical order by division and then in chronological order by date.
Subseries 6.3, Correspondence, 1919-1989, include general letters to sales representatives, memos, and management letters. The materials primarily document sales activities but also include the perspective of the entire company. Letters discuss trading in the green coffee market, special promotions, divisional sales performance, dealer coffee inventories, policy changes, etc. In 1962, the name of the management letters was changed from Monday to weekly; however, the company maintained the same format. The letters are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 6.4, Conventions and Meetings, 1915-1971, consists primarily of programs and menus from sales conventions dating from 1915-1943. These materials provide valuable information about the activities at the sales conventions and include the location and agenda for each meeting. There are some song books that were used at the conventions. (See series five for photographs of the sales conventions). There is also information from the divisional managers' meetings which include new sales and marketing strategies and date from 1935-1956. In addition there are materials from a NED sales meeting, a District sales meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1966 and a sales meeting and marketing presentation in Buffalo, New York in 1971. The materials are arranged in chronological order.
Subseries 6.5, Salesmen Materials, 1906-1973; undated provide valuable information about the tools that informed the sales force. It includes materials given to salesmen upon employment and information needed to conduct daily business transactions in the field. Some of the earliest materials are a salesman's notebook dating from 1906 and a sales department territory book for the western region dating from 1907-1908. There are reference and instruction books dating from 1912-1949. Instruction books were created to provide tips and instructions on how to improve sales performance. Materials relating to salaries date from 1925-1937 and contain information on most of the sales representatives charted over this time period and presented in yearly earnings. There is a substantial number of price lists, pocket sized cards containing prices of various products, carried by each sales representative and dating from 1925-1969. An order form book, order forms and delivery forms also carried by the sales representatives are included among the materials. In addition there are monthly sales standing dating from 1931-1935, instructions on the pickup and disposition of unsalable coffee, a 1973 sales presentation and the territorial arrangement of the city of Chicago in 1930. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 6.6, Reports and Studies, 1941-1978 primarily inform the company about the sales of the various coffee products primarily by division, territory or state. There is a study that compares the sales of ground and instant coffee by division. An exploratory study concerning consumer attitudes toward freeze dried coffee conducted in August and September in 1968 is also included among the materials. In addition, two studies from the 1970s relating to sales force capacity and high yield coffee can also be found among the materials. The materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 6.7, Marketing Research, 1956-1978; undated consist of reports, research studies and surveys created by Hills Bros. and outside companies relating to various aspects of the coffee trade and consumer market. The materials include information on criteria for label design, packaging, types of coffee consumed, brand images, how advertising affects consumption and marketing plans. In addition there is a study investigating the economic and financial aspects of the United States coffee industry created in 1978 and an undated copy of the Brazilian coffee performance marketing plan. The materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 6.8, Pricing Information, 1949-1965 include correspondence, press releases and company memos relating primarily to coffee importation and pricing. There is some correspondence between Hills Bros. and the Office of Price Stabilization relating to regulations from the federal government concerning the exchange rate of green coffee and coffee prices to the consumers. The materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Series 7, Employee Records, 1934-1966, contain useful information relating to the employees and what it means to work for the company. Service and retirement materials include an executive employee service record created in 1934. It is a list of employees in upper management including the name, date of employment, and length of service. There is information on retirement plans for employees in 1953. A list of the retirement dates, birth dates, and employment dates for employees who were participants in the retirement plan from 1953-1959 is also included among the materials. A photograph of a silver plate commemorating the fiftieth anniversary in 1967 of Eugene F. Hoelter with the company is included among these materials. Employee guides from the 1960s provide information on the company's perception of its position in the coffee industry, short histories of the company, the organization of the company, and employee benefits. There is also general information and instructions for plant employees at the Edgewater, New Jersey plant which is undated. In addition, there is Herbert Grey Hills's company identification card and exhibitor's employee's pass. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Series 8, Accounting and Financial Records, 1903-1960; undated include some of the earliest materials from the company that were not destroyed in the 1906 fire and documents the sale of other products such as tea. There is a distributor's notebook dating from 1903-1904 with a 1925 letter enclosed inside. Record books dating from 1904 provide information relating to coffee stock distribution. They also contain information relating to tea distribution by the company and pricing. Coffee acquisition ledgers dating from 1906-1917 are grouped according to the kind of coffee bean which refers to the general region or seaport from which the beans originate including Ecuador, Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala. There is one exception which is listed by stock number and contains mixed kind categories. The ledgers provide stock numbers, mark, quantity, location of coffee bean purchases, date of purchases, costs and grades. Entries are not consistently in chronological order by month. There are also a number ledgers maintained by the company that record information relating to retail grocers and how much they purchased from the company including product types, prices and quantities ordered. Analysis of expense account records date from 1917-1921. A tea acquisition ledger dating from 1920-1923 is divided into groups including natural leaf, Oarjeeling, Hilvilla Black, Ceylon, Java, Oolong, Gunpowder and sample (green and black). Information about stock numbers, mark, quantities, invoice weight, house weight, C.F.I. date, and where the tea was purchased can be obtained through these records. In addition there are financial statements dating from 1959-1960 and an undated coffee stock book. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Series 9, Office Files, 1915-1970; undated consist of materials relating directly to the business of the company and some materials that were kept on file probably as reference information. The series is divided into two subseries. Subseries one is general materials and includes court documents, correspondence, manuals, maps and some images. Subseries two is T. Carroll Wilson's correspondence dating from 1941-1970.
Subseries 9.1, General, 1915-1969; undated includes information relating to the company's participation in the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915. At the exposition Hills Bros. installed and operated the first automatic machine created to vacuumed-pack coffee. Other materials from the expo include rules and regulations governing the delivery, location, installation, maintenance and transportation of exhibits and merchandise. The Museum's Division of Cultural History has some of the artifacts relating to the exposition.
Legal records including court documents for the Federal Trade Commission versus Hills Bros. Company case in 1925 and the United States Department of Justice, Anti-Trust Investigation, 1948 are included among the materials. There are correspondence granting Hills Bros. exclusive rights to use "Hot Coffee" for radio and advertising purposes. There is also information relating to the company's cooperation with the National Recovery Administration, President's reemployment agreement. In addition there is correspondence collected by the company relating to rumors, religion and race dating from 1958-1964 and correspondence about the jig-saw puzzle campaign.
Packaging materials dating from 1931-1969 primarily document the history and uses of various types of containers used by Hills Bros. for its products and labels. A paper written by Ralph Vilas discussing the historical evidence of vacuum packaging from 1931-1934, correspondence and photographs of packaging for the "Blue Brand", an article discussing the selling and merchandising of carton coffee, memos and newspaper clippings relating to vacuum packing, a paper discussing the tinplate used in can making, requirements for packaging and information relating to the coffee can using an Ansel Adams' photograph are all included among these materials.
In the 1930s Hills Bros. created the Arab Chronicle and Broadsides which were primarily distributed to retail grocers. The broadsides were the size of newspapers and folded to about one-sixth of a page for mailing. They consisted of photographs, advertisements, information relating to new advertising campaigns, advice to increase sales and news of events around the world. In addition to completed copies of the broadsides there are also drafts of the articles for each issue.
Hills Bros. opened a coffee house in 1958 at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The Hills Bros. Coffee House operated as a restaurant for several years and provided a sandwich type menu with its coffee products. It was also used as a facility for taste-testing by the marketing research department.
In the 1960s Hills Bros. owned and operated three vans known as Hillsmobiles. The Hillsmobiles were used to promotion sales in various communities. The vans would ride through the neighborhoods distributing free samples of coffee. Included among the materials are letters and memos, manuals for the promotion and operation of the hillsmobiles as well as photographs, images and negatives of the vehicles.
Random materials include a Gertz Bros. Company catalogue dating from 1925, information about Chase and Sanborn coffee, maps illustrating where to go in New England, a marketing map of the United States used as a practical aid for economic sales and advertising and information about St. Augustine's oldest store museum. The materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 9.2, T. Carroll Wilson Correspondence, 1941-1970 relate primarily to his association with the National Coffee Association. The materials date from April 7, 1941 to December 8, 1970. The correspondence is arranged in chronological order by date.
Series 10, San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Materials, 1933-1986; undated, provide background information and a photographic almost daily account of the construction. Leslie Hills suggested placing a camera mount on the parapet of the building on Harrison Street at the beginning of the construction. From this position Ken P. Allen documented the progress until its completion in 1936. Allen also created motion film of the construction from the same position. The State Bridge Authority produced a movie in 1940 using the Hills Bros. materials. The series is divided into two subseries. Subseries one is the textual records that provide background information on the construction of the bridge. Subseries two is the photographic materials documenting to the construction.
Subseries 10.1, Background Information, 1933-1986; undated, include correspondence between Hills Bros., the State Department of Public Works and the California Commission for the Golden Gate International Exposition in reference to Hills Bros. providing the state with the original negatives of its films. The two organizations used these materials to develop a motion picture for the Golden Gate International Exposition. A list of the scenes for reels two and three and a script of the movie are also included. There are black and white photographs of the construction of the bridge and a photograph of Charles Henry Purcell, chief engineer, taken by Ken Allen. In addition there is a newspaper article from the San Francisco Chronicle dating from 1986. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 10.2, Photographic Materials, 1933-1936; undated, consists of 8 x10 and 4 x 5 black and white negatives of the construction of the Bay Bridge. Most of the negatives are dated. The materials are arranged first by size and then by date in the order that they were created.
Series 11, Golden Gate International Exposition Materials, 1915-1940; undated, primarily document the construction and management of the Arabian Theater. The Arabian Theater was located inside the Food Pavilion on Treasure Island. A color and sound version of the film "Behind the Cup: The Story of Hills Bros." was created and shown in the theater. Materials include correspondence, blueprints, photographs, newspaper articles, forms, insurance documents, passes and visitors comments. Other materials relating to the Golden Gate International Exposition can also be found in volume seven of the historical albums in series four subseries two. The series is divided into nine subseries. The materials were maintained in the order created by the company.
Subseries 11.1, Coffee Theater, circa 1939, include correspondence between Hills Bros. and NW Ayer about the creation of the murals in the theater. There is also information concerning script creation, production, promotion and the success of the Behind the Cup film. In addition there is information relating to the theater staff, visitor comments and the general management of the theater. The materials are maintained in the order that the company kept them.
Subseries 11.2, Exposition Attendance, 1915-1940, contains comparisons of the 1915 and 1939 attendance figures, statistics on paid and non-paid admission, operating period, average gate receipt, total paid and non-paid admissions. Daily attendance records document numbers for the fair, theater, monthly totals and the weather. In addition, hourly attendance includes time, entrance, and cumulative totals. The materials are maintained in the order that the company kept them.
Subseries 11.3, Correspondence, 1937-1940; undated, includes both incoming and outgoing communications between Hills Bros. and the Golden Gate International Exposition Company. These letters discuss permits, contracts and agreements, payment, approval for construction, regulations, applications of exhibit colors, shipment procedures, etc. The materials are maintained in the order that the company kept them.
Subseries 11.4, Construction, 1937-1940; undated, contains information on the building of the food and beverage facility. There is correspondence and invoices relating to payments; removals; services including telephone, water, gas, electricity; estimates, and furniture. Fire insurance documents contain information on the types of coverage and public and regular liabilities. In addition there is information relating to exhibitors questionnaire and endorsements, cost of exhibit space, permission to dismantle forms, application for exhibit space and an application for a construction permit. The materials are maintained in the order that the company kept them.
Subseries 11.5, Blueprints, 1937-1939, were created by the architect Harry A. Thompsen Jr. These blueprints include the foundation plan, the main floor plan, the lobby, the auditorium, front and side elevations, details of the upper chenau, and the mezzanine. There are also plans of Vacationland, the health and education building and the science building. A small amount of material exists on the sandwich slide, prices of coffee, average revenue and expenses, coffee equipment, coffee making instructions, the production of sales, the menu and an inventory of cups and saucers and the heating and ventilation system. A description of Threlkeld's restaurant and a history of the Threlkeld's Commissary Company are also included. The materials are maintained in the order that the company kept them. Subseries 11.6, Behind the Cup, 1937-1940; undated, contains correspondence between Hills Bros. company executives and the Consulate General of El Salvador relating to filming in El Salvador and Guatemala for the "Behind the Cup" movie. There are also newspaper clippings from San Salvador, a translation of the script and a photograph of T. Carroll Wilson and Ken P. Allen. Other materials include correspondence between Ken Allen and T. Carroll Wilson, releases for photographs, camera reports, narration arrangements and contracts. A copy of the "Behind the Cup" booklet which was produced by the NW Ayer Advertising Agency is also included. The materials are maintained in the order that the company kept them. Subseries 11.7, Newspaper Cooperation, 1939, contain clippings about "Behind the Cup" in Chicago, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; Kansas City, Missouri; Los Angeles, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; and San Francisco, California. The materials are maintained in the order that the company kept them.
Subseries 11.8, Solicitations and Replies, 1938-1940, contain letters to Hills Bros. with replies attached. In addition there is information on the type of equipment or services available for use by Hills Bros. at the expo, business cards, postcards and promotional materials. The materials are maintained in the order that the company kept them.
Subseries 11.9, Miscellaneous, 1938-1940, contains a scrapbook including descriptions, images, a listing of business and industry participants, brochures, general summaries, construction of buildings, government involvement in the expo, personnel article and rules and regulations governing the transportation of exhibits. There is also information on the sandwich slide, model freight cars, Treasure Island employees and articles from the San Francisco Chronicle. The materials are maintained in the order that the company kept them.
Series 12, World War II Materials, 1942-1949; undated, primarily document the United State government's coffee rationing and wartime packaging requirements. The United States War Production Board issued regulations designed to control the use of metals during this time period which greatly affected the coffee industry. These materials reflect the impact of rationing and regulations not only on the coffee industry but Hills Bros. in particular. The company's response to these measures is documented among these materials. The series is divided into six subseries.
Subseries 12.1, Production and Quotas, 1942-1946, is a compilation of correspondence, memos and conservation orders from the War Production Board maintained in the files of Herbert Grey Hills and T. Carroll Wilson. These materials relate to production quotas of coffee for roasters; restrictions on manufacture, sale and delivery of glass containers; price differential in relation to ceiling prices; small buyers and consumers accounts; new accounts and the exchange of brands and sizes. A copy of the National Coffee Association Bulletin: War Production Board, Conservation orders M135 and a copy of the red can brand quota plan dating from 1944-1946 is also included among these materials. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 12.2, Rationing, 1939-1946, consists primarily of correspondence, orders, instructions and forms from the War Production Board concerning quotas for coffee distribution and production, allowable inventory and operating inventory, ration stamps or certificates and army and navy re-orders. Post-rationing sales control and how it would affect or apply to consumers and the armed forces is also discussed. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 12.3, Containers and Closures, 1942-1949; undated, is government orders relating to quotas on size and standards for glass jars and closures, shipping containers, cans and glass jar labels. Hills Bros. specifications based on these orders is also included. There are photographs of glass jar products, discussions on original art work for labels and considerations for packing and shipping. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Subseries 12.4, Appeals, 1948, are a group of materials compiled as a presentation to the United States Department of Commerce by the Packaging and Container Committee of the National Coffee Association. This presentation was submitted on April 22, 1948. It is the National Coffee Association's attempt to use cans again.
Subseries 12.5, Advertising Campaigns, 1942; undated include correspondence relating to the "Gone with the Tin" advertising campaign. Along with the correspondence are announcements for the campaign, newspaper clippings and positive feedback from the public attesting to Hills Bros. participation in winning the war while still providing customers with the best possible products. There is also information relating to the "Waste is a Fighting Word Today" advertising campaign. Favorable responses and announcements for the advertisements are included among the materials. In addition there are some miscellaneous forms. Materials are arranged in chronological order by date.
Series 13, Machinists Strike Scrapbooks, 1945-1946, consist of three scrapbooks of press clippings covering the machinist's strike that occurred in San Francisco over more pay and less hours. Hills Bros. Coffee plant which was identified as one of the big "fringe shops" was impacted by the strike due to a few maintenance machinists' participation. Hills Bros. warned grocers and their customers not to expect large supplies of coffee due to the strike. The scrapbooks are arranged in chronological order by date.
Series 10, Audiovisual Materials, 1934-1984; undated, consists of film, vifro, and sound recordings including television and radio commercials, television and radio programs, promotional materials and Hills Bros. company activities. Hills Bros. had a photography and filming unit that began producing motion picture documentation of Hills Bros. activities in the early 1930s. This effort resulted in a detailed documentation of the construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (Bridging the Bay, 1938-39) and a promotional film that was shown at the Golden Gate International Exposition Fair (Behind the Cup, 1939). In addition, Hills Bros. became involved with radio programming and advertising in 1934 and television advertising in the early 1950s. The collection includes a substantial number of television commercials dating from 1951-1984 as well as television programs that were sponsored in part by Hills Bros. including Shirley Temples Storybook (1958) and Meet Me at Disneyland (1962). The series is divided into six subseries.
Subseries 13.1, Moving Images, 1951-1984 consists of television commercials, television programs, film and video documentation of corporate activities. The subseries is further organized into five subsubseries.
Subsubseries 13.1.1, Television Commercials, 1951-1984, consist of a representative sample of Hills Bros. television commercials beginning with their first efforts in the early 1950s. The commercials were created by a succession of adverting agencies beginning with N.W Ayer and including Doyle, Dane, Bernbach; Foote, Cone, and Belding; and Wells Rich Greene/West. Products advertised include Hills Brothers regular roast, instant, drip roast, high yield, and flavored "European Style" coffees.
Subsubseries 13.1.2, Television Programs, 1951-1967, consist of television programs that were sponsored, in part, by Hills Bros. coffee or that were related to Hills Bros. Hills Bros. major television sponsorship effort resulted in several series including Shirley Temple's Storybook (1958), Meet Me at Disneyland (1962), Bat Masterson (1959-60), and Lead off Man (1964). Hills Bros. also provided consultation services for the program Science in Action (1951) as well as major funding for NET Festival White House Red Carpet (1967).
Subsubseries 13.1.3, Promotional Materials, 1939-1977, include material created by the company to promote their products and activities. This series includes two films of particular interest. Behind the Cup: The Story of Hills Bros. Coffee (1939), created for the Golden Gate International Exposition Fair, was produced in 35mm Cinecolor for theatrical screening. Also of note are two short films probably produced for screening at a meeting of Hills Bros. employees. In the first Gene Barry, star of
Bat Masterson
and Hills Bros.' spokesman describes the next season's plans for
Bat Masterson
and presents a portion of a proposed episode. In the second film Walt Disney talks about his company's plans for the next year including additions to Disneyland and planned episodes of Walt Disney Presents.
Subsubseries 13.1.4, Hills Bros. Activities, 1930-1962, consists of primarily 16mm "home movie" documentation of activities as diverse as the 1941 Detroit Sampling Campaign, coffee production in El Salvador, and activities in the Hills Bros. processing plant.
Subsubseries 13.1.5, Miscellaneous Film and Video, 1938-1966, includes films about coffee, travelogues, and a substantial amount of film documenting the construction of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge.
Subseries 13.2, Sound recordings, 1934-1964; undated, include materials from Hills Bros. and other coffee manufacturers. There are the radio series
Tune of the Day
which includes Hills Bros. commercials, Hills Bros. radio commercials, Shirley Temple "Dreams Are Made for Children" produced by Columbia Pictures Corporation, Maxwell House Coffee programs and a coffee jingle from the Pan American Coffee Bureau.
Subsubseries 13.2.1, Radio commercials, undated, consists of the radio versions of commercials for various advertising campaigns.
Subsubseries 13.2.2, Radio Programs and Other Broadcasts, circa 1934-1964; undated, includes the
Tune of the Day
series, Ruth Ashton's Women's News Desk and two baseball broadcasts.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged in thirteen series.
Series 1, Hills Family Papers, 1856-1942; undated
Subseries 1.1: Austin Herbert Hills, Sr. Papers, 1856-1875; undated
Subseries 1.2,: Austin Herbert Hills, Jr. Papers, 1875-1923
Subseries 1.3: Herbert Gray Hills Correspondence, 1923-1942
Series 2: Background Materials, 1896-1988; undated
Series 3: Coffee Reference Files, 1921-1980; undated
Subseries 3.1,: Hills Bros. Coffee Company Literature, 1921-1976; undated
Subseries 3.2: Coffee Industry Literature, 1924-1980; undated
Series 4: Advertising Materials, circa 1890s-1987; undated
Subseries 4.1: Scrapbooks, 1906-1978; undated
Subseries 4.2: Historical Albums, 1911-1967
Subseries 4.3: Ephemera, 1890s-1987
Subseries 4.4: Portfolios, 1919-1985, undated
Subseries 4.5: Proof sheets, 1922-1968
Subseries 4.6: Advertising Forms, 1922-1971; undated
Subseries 4.7: Newspaper and Magazine Advertising, 1926-1971; undated
Subseries 4.8: Sampling Campaigns, 1928-1941
Subseries 4.9,: General Files, 1923-1978; undated
Subseries 4.10: NW Ayer Advertising Agency Materials, 1943, 1958
Subseries 4.11: Foote, Cone & Belding Advertising Agency Materials, 1963-1968; undated
Series 5: Photographs, 1882-1973; undated
Subseries 5.1: Employees, 1882-1961; undated
Subseries 5.2: Division Offices, 1924-1931; undated
Subseries 5.3, Facilities and Vehicles, 1927-1973; undated
Subseries 5.4: Advertising, 1925-1959; undated
Subseries 5.5: Sales, circa 1921-1939; undated
Subseries 5.6: Packaging, 1884-1969; undated
Subseries 5.7: Grocery Store Displays, circa, 1901-1935
Subseries 5.8: Store Tests, 1938
Subseries 5.9: Window and Wall Displays, 1928, 1930, 1934
Subseries 5.10: Publicity, 1933-1936; undated
Subseries 5.11: Miscellaneous, 1898-1949; undated
Subseries 5.12,: Coffee and Tea Industry, 1900s-1947; undated
Series 6: Sales and Marketing Records, 1906-1989; undated
Subseries 6.1, Bulletins for Salesmen, 1912-1969
Subseries 6.2, Division Bulletins and General Letters, 1925-1927
Subseries 6.3, Correspondence, 1919-1989
Subseries 6.4, Conventions and Meetings, 1915-1971
Subseries 6.5, Salesmen Materials, 1906-1973; undated
Subseries 6.6, Reports and Studies, 1941-1978
Subseries 6.7, Marketing Research, 1956-1978; undated
Subseries 6.8, Pricing Information, 1949-1965
Series 7: Employee Records, 1934-1966
Series 8: Accounting and Financial Records, 1903-1960; undated
Series 9: Office Files, 1915-1970; undated
Subseries 9.1: General, 1915-1969; undated
Subseries 9.2: T. Carroll Wilson Correspondence, 1941-1970
Series 10, San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Materials, 1933-1986; undated
Subseries 10.1: Background Information, 1933-1986; undated
Subseries 10.2: Photographic Materials, 1933-1936; undated
Series 11: Golden Gate International Exposition Materials, 1915-1940; undated
Subseries 11.1,: Coffee Theater, circa 1939
Subseries 11.2: Exposition Attendance, 1915-1940
Subseries 11.3: Correspondence, 1937-1940; undated
Subseries 11.4: Construction, 1937-1940; undated
Subseries 11.5: Blueprints, 1937-1939
Subseries 11.6: Behind the Cup, 1937-1940; undated
Subseries 11.7: Newspaper Cooperation, 1939
Subseries 11.8: Solicitations and Replies, 1938-1940
Subseries 11.9: Miscellaneous, 1938-1940
Series 12,: World War II Materials, 1939-1949; undated
Subseries 12.1, Production and Quotas, 1942-1946
Subseries 12.2, Rationing, 1939-1946
Subseries 12.3, Containers and Closures, 1942-1949; undated
Subseries 12.4, Appeals, 1948
Subseries 12.5, Advertising Campaigns, 1942; undated
Subseries 12.6, Machinists Strike Scrapbooks, 1945-1946
Series 13: Audio Visual Materials, 1930-1984; undated
Subseries 13.1, Moving Images
Subsubseries 13.1.1, Television Commercials, 1951-1984
Subsubseries 13.1.2, Television Programs, 1951-1967
Subsubseries 13.1.3, Promotional Materials, 1939-1977
Subsubseries 13.1.4, Hills Bros. Activities, 1930-1962
Subsubseries 13.1.5, Miscellaneous Film and Video, 1938-1966
Subseries 13.2, Sound Recordings, 1934-1964; undated
Subsubseries 13.2.1: Radio Commercials
Subsubseries 13.2.2, Radio Programs and Other Broadcasts

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Administrative History: Reuben Hills stated on one occasion, regarding his company's growth, "... success in business is fifty per cent judgment and fifty per cent propitious circumstances." The rise of Hills Bros. Coffee, Incorporated from a dairy stall in San Francisco's old Bay City Public Market reflects the reality of Reuben's statement. Aided by brother Austin's three years of experience in the retail dairy business, the early success of the brothers was in Reuben's own words both circumstance and hard work. When Reuben and Austin began to produce roasted coffee there were at least twenty five other companies already engaged in some form of coffee production and distribution in San Francisco. One such business included Folgers Company started by William Bovee, which had, began in San Francisco thirty years earlier. Most of the coffee businesses were started by family groups who contributed to the growth of San Francisco.
San Francisco in the nineteenth century was ripe for the importing and roasting of coffee. The foundation for commercial production of coffee dated back to the 1820s when English planters brought coffee to Costa Rica. By the early 1840s German and Belgian planters followed with coffee plantations in Guatemala and El Salvador, two of the several Central American countries Hills Bros. would obtain its mild coffee beans. During the Gold Rush in 1849, San Francisco rapidly expanded and grew. Coffee was imported and sold, after roasting, to restaurants and hotels. The Yankee gold miners did not have equipment to roast and brew their own coffee so they populated the coffee houses with other similar workers.
In 1873 two brothers, Austin Herbert and Reuben Wilmarth Hills arrived in San Francisco from their home in Rockland, Maine with their father Austin who had come to California some years earlier. Within five years, Austin and Reuben established a retail stall to sell dairy products in the Bay City Market under the name of their partnership "Hills Bros". Their small business expanded in less than four years with the acquisition of a retail coffee store entitled "Arabian Coffee and Spice Mills" on Fourth Street in San Francisco. In two years (1884) the brothers moved to larger quarters occupied at Sacramento and Sansome Streets. Soon after they disposed of their retail dairy business, but continued as wholesale distributors of some dairy products including butter. Their coffee was labeled "Arabian Roast" supported by the now famous trademark design of a man in turban and beard with a flowing yellow gown. This was created by a San Francisco artist named Briggs and since 1897 has remained as the official trademark of Hills Bros. Coffee-a lasting symbol of coffee quality. Hills Bros. dairy division was completely eliminated in 1908 after the company was destroyed by the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. By 1924 all miscellaneous products, including tea, had been dropped by the company which referred to itself as "coffee only".
Emphasis on the quality of the finished product has long been a major selling point in the history of Hills Bros. advertising and marketing. The company's desire to keep abreast of technological advances in coffee production is a legacy of Austin and Reuben Hills, and is reflected in the company records, in its advertising and its self-perception. It was probably 1898 when Austin Hills and Thomas Hodge, partners who managed the wholesale dairy product operations were looking for a suitable can for exporting butter that could not be manufactured in San Francisco at that time, and they decided to consult Norton Brothers, a progressive can manufacturing company in Chicago. It is unclear whether Austin traveled to Chicago or arranged with his brother Reuben to stop off there en route to New York (where he frequently spent time at the New York Green Coffee Exchange) to present the problem to Norton Brothers. Which brother made the actual contact with Norton Brothers is not important today, but the results of that visit are significant. Norton Brothers had just received patents on a process for vacuum packing foods and thought it might solve the butter problem. In short order, they concluded an agreement that would provide Hills Bros. Exclusive West Coast use of the packaging process and arranged to ship cans and machinery from Chicago to San Francisco to begin production. Thus, Hills Bros. butter became the first known food product to ever be vacuum packed. Once this had started Reuben Hills thought that what worked well for butter might also be used for coffee. Experimental vacuum-packing of coffee in butter cans supported the theory that taking the air out of coffee would keep the product fresh for indefinite periods. No time was lost in getting new cans and more machinery and in July 1900, Hills Bros. Coffee as "the Original Vacuumed-Pack" was placed on the market. With the advent of this technology, Hills Bros. changed the product name from "Arabian Roast" to "Hills Bros. Highest Grade Java and Mocha Coffee" and continued with the new trademark that had been adopted in 1897. Vacuum-packing extended the shelf life and travel ability of the product, thus new markets, national and international, were opened.
A change in the coffee industry of America was on the way. Hills Bros. remained the pioneer of vacuum-packing for thirteen years until a similar process was adapted by MJB, another leading coffee company in San Francisco. Other packers on the West Coast soon followed, but it was not until after World War I that East Coast coffee producers turned to vacuum packing. Production and advertising of coffee continued to change with new technology. In the late 1880's San Francisco coffee importers began to "cup test" coffee beans for quality, but the majority still depended on sight and smell. Reuben Hills and a few other coffee personalities in San Francisco are credited with the cup test method of appraising coffee quality. In its new home office and plant opened in 1926, Hills Bros. adapted "controlled roasting" in which coffee was roasted a few pounds at a time, but continuously. Developed in 1923 under the direction of Leslie Hills and company engineer, Lee Maede, "controlled roasting" employed the use of instruments to control the temperature and speed of operations, resulting in perfect roasting control that could not be depended on from batch to batch by even the most experienced coffee roasting expert. In 1914, the partnership known as Hills Bros. was incorporated under the same name. In 1928 a sales organization was formed under the name of Hills Bros. Coffee, Incorporated but within four to five years the parent company absorbed Hills Bros. Coffee, Incorporated and adopted its name. A second plant was built in Edgewater, New Jersey, completed in 1941 to meet the needs of the increasing growth of areas between Chicago and the East Coast.
During World War II Hills Bros. Company faced conservation rules restricting use of tin for coffee cans. A timely method of high speed packing in glass jars by Owens Illinois Glass Company made it possible for Hills Bros. as well as other companies in the industry to continue vacuum-packing during this period. Price control and coffee rationing were other war time necessities to which the industry adjusted. Hills Bros. passed out of family ownership in 1976 when the company was purchased by a Brazilian corporation named Copersucar. In 1983 a group of local investors in San Francisco brought ownership back to where it had started and sold the business in 1984 to Nestle' Holdings, Incorporated (effective January 1, 1985) which handled the acquisition of several companies in the United States for Nestle' S. A., Vevey, Switzerland.

Administration
Processing Information
This collection was processed by Vanessa Broussard Simmons, archivist, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Author
NMAH Staff
Immediate Source of Acquisition
These records were donated to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History by Hills Bros. Coffee, Incorporated.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Preferred Citation
Hills Brothers Coffee Incorporated Records, 1875-1965, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian.

Keywords
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Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
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