February 9, 2007

Dr. Scholl's

And the man behind the brand is...
William Scholl

Nobody cared about feet. Physicians ignored them, shoemakers were oblivious to them, even their owners just accepted the inevitability of corns, bunions and fallen arches. There were not even standard shoe sizes, you could buy either wide or narrow. It wasn’t until the Civil War that Americans actually enjoyed right and left shoes. This was simply not acceptable to William Mathias Scholl.

Born into an active La Porte, Indiana farm family of 13 children in 1882 William took personal responsibility for shodding the large brood. He designed his own shoes using a sturdy waxed thread. At 16 Scholl took his peculiar talent to a local shoemaker where he apprenticed for a year. He moved to Chicago working as a salesman by day and working his way through Loyola University and the Chicago Medical School at night.

The young physician immediately applied his lessons to, by his way of thinking at least, the monumental malaise surrounding foot care in the country.
He patented an arch support, “Foot-Eazer,” in 1904 and began manufacturing
foot products under the “Dr. Scholl’s” patent name in 1907. Dr. Scholl became
a one-man foot care industry.

He wrote manuals on foot care for physicians and more general guides for the public. He set up a podiatric correspondence course for shoe store clerks. He led a coterie of consultants who canvassed the country delivering medical and public lectures on proper foot care.

Dr. Scholl would walk into a client’s office, casually produce a skeleton of a human foot from his pocket and toss it on the desk. Having gained everyone’s attention he would proceed to describe the anatomy of the foot and demonstrate the value of his Foot-Eazer.

For Scholl there was never an end to his mission to deliver America from foot problems. He complained that for every person he saw walking properly he saw another fifty who weren’t. His remedy was to walk two miles a day, briskly with “head up, chest out, toes straight forward.”

His advertisements were scandalous for the day - naked feet! In 1916 Scholl sponsored a Cinderella Foot Contest, bringing nationwide attention to feet. Thousands of women scurried to local shoe stores on presumably perfect feet. What they discovered, as Scholl had hoped, was the disparity between their own feet and the American ideal.

The resulting quest for perfect feet led to such demand for Dr. Scholl’s yellow-and-blue packages that they were given their own sections in many stores. Scholl could certainly stock the shelves: over the years he was to be credited with more than 1000 foot aids.

A lifelong bachelor, Scholl practiced his specialty in Chicago from 1905 to 1949. In 1912 he founded the Illinois College of Chiropody and Orthopedics, later re-named the Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine. He remained active in the operation of the Scholl Manufacturing Company until his death in 1968. He liked to boast that he never forgot a foot.

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