The J. G. McDonald Chocolate Company Building, built in 1901, is significant
for its pioneering role in the development of Utah’s candy manufacturing industry, and honors one of Salt Lake City‘s more prominent businessmen, James G. McDonald.
The McDonald Candy Co. business originated with John T. McDonald, who sold salt water taffy from saddlebags on horseback. He was one of Utah’s first merchants and eventually operated a wholesale and retail grocery and confectionery business which was founded in 1863.
James G. McDonald, one of several sons, took over his father’s business at the age of eighteen. By this time various types of candy were being produced as the railroads had reached Utah and sugar became available, replacing the pioneer staple of sorghum molasses. Heretofore salt water taffy was the only kind of candy made under the McDonald label.
In 1912 the company began to specialize in boxed chocolates and cocoa, and the company name was changed to the James G. McDonald Chocolate Company. It was the beginning of a “new Utah industry” on a large scale production level.
James G. McDonald was a promoter of home manufacturing and developed a chocolate drink intended to supplant the “injurious use of tea and coffee.” He was also recognized as the “first to place a five cent candy bar on the market” and his practice of using the roof of his factory as a roof garden and refectory for his employees was adopted by other American factories.
The company became world-renowned and was the recipient of over forty-four gold medals and awards, including the highest international award possible, the “Grand Prix for excellence and quality.” McDonald was a member of the jury of honor at the world’s fairs for several years.
James G. McDonald was born in Salt Lake City and was an active member of the Mormon Church, having served in several leadership positions.
During his lifetime he was senior director of the Utah State National Bank,
director of Heber J. Grant and Company, president of the Utah State Fair Association, vice-president of the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce, president of the Traffic Service Bureau and organized the Salt Lake Real Estate Association. He was also one of the organizers of the Utah Association of Credit Men, the Utah Manufacturers Association, and director of the Salvation Army board. During the Roosevelt administration McDonald was the government supervisor for confectioners under the N.R.A. (National Recovery Act).
Located at 155-159 West 300 South in Salt Lake City, Utah
The chocolates once produced in this building won over 40 gold medals for excellence in international competitions. The J.G. McDonald Chocolate Company specialized in boxed chocolates and a chocolate drink intended to replace the “injurious use of tea and coffee.” The company constructed this building in 1901 as its headquarters.
Originally, the building was three stories tall. A fourth story and a partial fifth story featuring an elaborate roof garden were added in 1914. The fifth story was later removed, but then reconstructed in 1999 when the building was converted to condominiums. Look for the letter “M” in brick relief on the corners of the fourth story.