- Corporate body
- 1911 - 1996
In 1897, brothers John McKinnon McDermid and Duncan Hugh McDermid joined the C.R. Somerville Company in London, Ontario. C.R. Somerville manufactured chewing gum, popcorn, and boxes, among other products. In 1908, the company was sold to an American firm and the candy manufacturing division moved to Toronto while the box division remained in London under the new name, Somerville Paper Box Company, with J.K. McDermid as its President. In February 1911, the McDermid brothers purchased the company for the manufacture of chewing gum. Their new company was named the O-Pee-Chee Gum Company. Opeechee, meaning Robin in Ojibwe, was the name of the McDermid cottage in Grand Bend, Ontario.
In 1921, the O-Pee-Chee Gum Company was incorporated as a public company with members of the McDermid family holding the five shareholder positions and the four director positions. The company’s name changed from the O-Pee-Chee Gum Company to the O-Pee-Chee Company Limited at the time of incorporation. The company now manufactured chewing gum, mints, and popcorn, including the popular Krackley Nut. A manufacturing plant was constructed at 430 Adelaide Street in 1928. The company experienced an increase in production in the ensuing decade as a result of various licensing agreements in Canada and the United Kingdom. The 1930s also saw the introduction of collectable cards sold within their gum packaging. These included a baseball set, a Mickey Mouse set, and a Fighting Forces set.
The O-Pee-Chee Company was forced to rethink their business strategy during World War II and the onset of sugar rationing. They signed war contracts to supply dried egg powder overseas. The only confectionary product sold during the war was Thrills chewing gum. In addition to changes in production, there were many leadership and corporate changes during this time. D.H. McDermid passed away in 1942 and J.K. McDermid passed away in 1945. The company changed from a public company to a private company in 1945. John Gordon McDermid, son of J.K., took over the role of President in 1946. He remained in this role until his death in 1953.
Frank P. Leahy, who had worked as a Sales Manager for many years, became the company’s next President. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Leahy arranged multiple licensing agreements with various companies, such as Topps Chewing Gum Company, to manufacture and market brands to the Canadian market, which substantially increased the company’s sales. In 1958, the O-Pee-Chee Company began promoting trading cards on a regular basis. This first year included hockey and football cards. In the 1960s, the company produced cards for baseball, football, and hockey, as well as entertainment cards, such as the Beatle Bubble Gum cards.
In 1961, Frank Leahy purchased the company from the McDermid Estate. He remained President until his death in 1980. Leahy’s son-in-law, Gary Koreen was the owner and President of the company until it was purchased by Nestle Corporation in 1996. The O-Pee-Chee brand is still used in the trading card business through licensing agreements with Topps (1996-2004) and Upper Deck (since 2007).