February 10, 2007

Endicott-Johnson

And the men behind the brand are...
Henry Endicott and George Johnson

The man who was destined to have one of the largest payrolls in America didn’t seem to be able to hold a job of his own. Henry Bradford Endicott left his father’s Dedham, Massachusetts farm in 1871 at the age of 18 for the big city. In Boston he got work in a plumber’s shop. Later he would allow that all he ever knew about the plumbing business was the extortionate prices one had to pay. When a state fair opened Endicott went there instead of the shop. He was fired.

His job at a hardware store lasted ten days because he didn’t like the way the customers were treated. Positions as an errand boy, porter and woolen goods clerk all came and went before the year was out. Then Henry Endicott wandered into the leather district.

This he liked. When he was 22 he used a legacy from his grandfather and a loan from his father, $2900 in all, to open his own leather supply business.
He prospered in this endeavor and in 1890 he bought into a distressed Lester Brothers Shoe Company in Binghamton, New York.

Endicott sold enough boots to turn a small profit but he was dissatisfied with his manager. A foreman applied for the job and stated confidently that he would work for nothing for one year if he did not show results. George F. Johnson would eventually become Endicott’s partner.

With Johnson handling the manufacturing and Endicott the finances the business grew rapidly. Endicott-Johnson became the first manufacturer to open its own company shoe stores. They built tanneries and achieved total integration of the shoe business.

They initiated an “Industrial Democracy” to manage their work force, which would grow to over 30,000 under their command. Companies towns of Endicott, West Endicott and Johnson City sprouted in southern New York to house workers. An Endicott-Johnson employee was given an opportunity to acquire neat, clean homes at cost and enjoyed recreational facilities, health care and libraries.
In an era of unrest Endicott-Johnson suffered not one strike. Endicott and Johnson initiated a profit-sharing scheme by which all profits went to the employees after 7% had been earned on the preferred stock and 10% on the common.

With the onset of World War I Endicott was recruited to assist the war effort on the homefront. He threw himself completely into the role, never once visiting his company office for the duration of the war. Endicott personally adjusted nearly 150 labor disputes to keep the American war machine rolling.

The effort seemed to sap the life out of him. He died in early 1920 at the age of 66. Johnson assumed the mantle of presidency for America’s leading shoe manufacturer. By the time Johnson stepped down in 1930 Endicott-Johnson had sold its one billionth shoe.

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