February 10, 2007


And the man behind the brand is...
Joseph Hudson

Aristede Bouciaut is credited with opening the first department store in Paris in 1852. Until that time the prevailing retail philosophy was to turn stock slowly and mark prices high. A merchant never marked a price on an item, all transactions were haggled to a conclusion.

Bouciaut changed all that. He operated under a completely opposite philosophy. He was the first to establish marked, fixed prices which allowed him to start price advertising. Until Bouciault came along there was an implied obligation to buy when a customer entered a store. Bouciaut introduced the "free" entrance. He also pioneered the refund on unsatisfactory merchandise.

All these were new ideas when Joseph Lowthian Hudson arrived in Michigan at the age of 15 to begin a five-year merchant apprenticeship. Hudson was born in Newcastle-on-Tyne in industrial England and came with his family to Hamilton, Ontario in 1855. His father followed the new telegraph trade to Michigan as the Civil War broke out in 1861.

After his apprenticeship Hudson opened a small general store in Ionia, Michigan in 1866. The business flourished but expanded too quickly and filed bankruptcy. Hudson was legally obligated to pay only 60¢ on the dollar but his sense of pride and integrity would not accept the settlement. He paid back every creditor in full - plus the compound interest on the debts. This earned Hudson an unlimited line of credit for the rest of his life.

In 1877 Hudson went to Detroit to manage a men's and boy's store owned by his mentor. It was not a true department store but he was moving in that direction. Against the advice of friends Hudson invested $110,000 of his own money and $242,000 of borrowed money to build an 8-story store in downtown Detroit. Critics warned that the mega-store was too far from the commercial district but Hudson made it so attractive and value-packed that people came to shop.

In an era of economic uncertainty sales didn't increased for 13 years. Hudson was sustained during this period by smaller stores in other states. Good times returned in 1905 and Hudson quickly grew into Detroit's wealthiest merchant.
His merchandise was always of the finest quality, durability and value.
He was extremely giving to charities with his fortune and always enjoyed going
into the community and begging for anything he considered a worthy cause.

In 1912 Hudson desired to return to his homeland one more time and sailed to England. He never returned, dying in Worthing, England at the age of 66.


And the man behind the brand is...
Joyce Hall

“I’d like to be the kind of friend you are to me.” Those words, from Edgar Guest, were the first to ever appear on a Hallmark card, in 1916. In the 19th century it was simply too expensive to pay a messenger to deliver sentiments on paper and the thought of sending someone else’s words was simply preposterous. Today more than one-half of all the personal mail delivered in the United States is greeting cards, about seven billion a year. And ten million cards sent each day bear the mark of the man who changed the holiday calendar in America: Joyce Hall.

Hall was born in David City, Nebraska where his father abandoned the family when Joyce was nine. At the age of 15 he was working in a bookstore in Norfolk, Nebraska where his favorite merchandise were not the impressive new books but the intriguing picture postcards the store stocked from Europe. In January 1910 Hall moved to a room in the YMCA in Kansas City (there is even a postcard of the YMCA in Hall’s autobiography).

The next year his brother Rollie joined him in opening a specialty store for postcards, gifts and stationery. The boys were prospering until a fire in 1915 burned away their business. The promise shown by the young men was enough to land a $25,000 loan to rebuild the store and purchase a neighboring engraving firm. The first two Hall cards appeared in 1915. They were unfolded, a little smaller than a postcard, and decoratively handpainted.

Gradually the Halls built a business around gifts. During Christmastime in 1917 Joyce Hall was running out of red and green tissue paper and substituted decorative envelope lining paper. Gift wrap and greeting cards were empire-builders for Hall but no all his innovations were hits. In 1924 he introduced “Greetaphones,” flat cards with records containing an 8-line sentiment with a musical background which no steel needle could decipher when played.

Greeting cards became extravagances of the first order during the Depression in the 1930s but Hall refused to lay off any employees. In 1936 he revolutionized the greeting card business with the introduction of lighted, eye-level display cases featuring rows and rows of cards. Prior to that greeting cards were purchased by asking a clerk who would select an appropriate card.

The British invented the Christmas card but it was the rare greeting that was sent at any other time of year. In America, however, there seemed hardly any occasion that wasn’t worthy of a greeting card. Hall stoked the passions for greeting cards with the first advertising in national magazines in 1928 and by 1944 all his radio commercials were trailed by the unforgettable, “When you care enough to send the very best.” Hall had at first rejected the tag line, written by staffer Ed Goodman, as too long but it soon came to symbolize his entire philosophy.

He started a Hallmark Gallery on New York’s Upper Fifth Avenue as an elegant showcase for Hallmark products and sponsored high-quality television specials - he even aired an opera - as early as 1951. These critically acclaimed ventures were not financially successful but the reputation Hall developed was priceless. When he wanted to feature some of Winston Churchill’s paintings on greeting cards Churchill agreed when told it was for Hallmark. “A good firm,” he said.

Hall retired in 1966 but still maintained a busy work schedule. He spearheaded the conversion of 85 ruined acres, 25 blocks, on the southern edge of Kansas City into the stunning Crown Center. Work was still underway on his last project when he died in 1982 but the new Hallmark headquarters when finished embodied the credo he always lived for, “Good taste is good business.”


And the man behind the brand is...
Jack Eckerd

Jack Eckerd was never one for waiting around. It was a trait that was to mold his business career and alter American’s shopping habits.

As a 19-year old in 1932 Eckerd set out to be a barnstorming pilot around Erie, Pennsylvania. He convinced his father to buy an airplane so he could fly him around to his small chain of drugstores. After two years he flew to California for
a one-year course in commercial aviation. But waiting around for a pilot opening was not for him and Eckerd went east to the drugstore business.

He bought a quarter-interest in two Wilmington, Delaware drugstores but World War II interrupted his blossoming retail career. Eckerd spent the war in the Air Transport Command delivering planes from Wilmington to Prestwick, Scotland. After the war he bought both stores outright.

In 1948 Eckerd bought two dilapidated drugstores from his father in Jamestown, New York. He didn’t plan to just rebuild the tired stores. Eckerd had investigated self-service in California and was ready to try the no-waiting concept in his new stores. Customers were thought to want to rely on a druggist’s help but Eckerd anticipated the over-the-counter explosion with open access to goods.

When his small chain reached Erie Eckerd was forced to call his self-service drugstore QuikCheck to avoid confusion with his father’s stores. The new store was a phenomenal success but people still confused newspaper ads with the conventional Eckerds’ stores. Jack Eckerd didn’t want to change the name so he started considering a totally new market.

On a dreary March day in 1952 in his Wilmington office a direct mailing arrived from a Tampa druggist offering three stores for sale. The gray skies outside were excuse enough to fly to Florida and check out the properties. He raised $150,000 in cash, in part from his brother in exchange for 50% of the new stores and his Jamestown stores.

It took two years for the Florida stores to break into the black and after six years only three stores were added when he was offered a chance to build 5 stores with Publix, the leading Florida grocery chain. This twinning of drugstores to supermarkets ignited Eckerd’s growth. Eckerd built his chain to 1700 stored from Florida to New Jersey.

Jack Eckerd spent the 1960s building his business and in the 1970s, dissatisfied with Florida government, he entered the state gubernatorial race. Despite never running for anything in his life Eckerd forced a run-off with the incumbent governor before losing. He lost a race for a United States Senate seat in 1974 and another bid for governor but went to Washington and served as administrator of the General Services Administration under Gerald Ford. After his flirtation with politics, Eckerd retired, devoting his time to Christian charities and sailing.


And the man behind the brand is...
Lyman Bloomingdale

Lyman Bloomingdale loved store windows. He rented his first store, with his brother Joseph, in 1872 far from fashionable Union Square in New York's depressed upper East Side. The building was only 20 feet wide by 70 feet deep but it had two large, perfect plate glass windows.

Lyman set out to create exciting showcases in his windows while Joseph looked after the books. He believed that storefront windows were wasted if all they did was show merchandise. Bloomingdale's windows would be silent stages with eye-catching panoramas to lure curious customers inside.

Bloomingdale saw more in his location than attractive windows. He knew the city of New York had purchased a huge tract of land on the East Side and was developing a fresh, green haven to be called Central Park. New Yorkers would soon migrate to his location at the future park's southern tip Bloomingdale figured.

The Bloomingdale family had a history of being on the cutting edge in New York. With his father, Lyman had operated Bloomingdale's Hoop Skirt and Ladies Notion Shop to keep New York women in step with high European fashion prior to the Civil War. Joseph was a successful traveling salesman, taking hoop skirts as far as California.

First day sales were only $3.68. But one month later the brothers knocked down the storeroom partition to provide more selling room. The Panic of 1873 caused a shift in merchandising philosophy to the best value at the lowest prices. Lyman Bloomingdale created the 19th Ward Gazette, a free paper that supplemented his regular advertisements. The paper provided light news and features in depressed times, binding the store to the community.

Meanwhile New Yorkers migrated towards Central Park. Railroads developed and soon Bloomingdale's marked the epicenter of Manhattan's web of mass transit routes. Lyman set out to let the world know that "All cars transfer to Bloomingdale's." He placed the phrase on placards in New York's trolleys,
in his ads and on his horse drawn delivery cars. A patron of the arts, he commissioned scenic European paintings on his exterior store walls.

By 1880 Bloomingdale's had grown into a five-story building - a department store with plenty of show windows. Lyman took out full page newspaper ads to draw people into the store. Once inside employees demonstrated new products. He had a young woman read from popular books of the day in the book department. He installed New York's first neon arc lights, fascinating shoppers.

The brothers built their grandest building in 1886 at 3rd Avenue and 59th Street. The new store was six stories high with 245 feet of street space for window shoppers. The first story was an impressive 18 feet high to better show off Lyman's displays. He used glass elevators he called "sky carriages" to transport customers throughout the magnificent store.

In 1892 Lyman installed his first escalator, a dream machine seemingly invented for him. It was not only a fantastic attention-getter but gave people a slow, panoramic ride on their individual platforms gazing at his merchandise. Lyman invested in the escalator company.

Bloomingdale's continued catering to lower middle class patrons but started importing fine European goods for society-conscious Americans. The brothers opened offices in Paris, Berlin and Vienna to provide exclusive continental goods for Bloomingdale's.

Sales boomed. Rather than build another building Lyman and Joseph bought adjacent buildings until they owned 80% of the block. Joseph retired from the business on New Years Day 1896 while Lyman continued as sole proprietor until his death in 1905 at the age of 64. Joseph had died a year earlier at age 62. Lyman's son Sam carried on the $5,000,000 business built on its exciting store windows.


And the man behind the brand is...
John Stetson

John Stetson stood transfixed on a St. Louis hillside as the rampaging Missouri River savaged his brickyard below. Finally, as the flood waters carried off his inventory, Stetson roared, “Let ‘er go! I’m not the first man to make a fortune and lose it.” Stetson could embrace that philosophy easier than most. He had, after all, only come out to the West to die.

John Batterson Stetson was born into a family of hatters in Orange, New Jersey in 1830. The youngest of the Stetson boys, John learned the family trade as well in his father’s hat shop. But the education came at a terrible price. At the age of 21 Stetson was diagnosed with tuberculosis, a malady common to early-day hatters. Doctors gave him only a few months to live.

Young Stetson decided to spend his final days outdoors and headed to the frontier. But by the time he reached St. Louis he had regained his health.
He found work in a local brickyard and two years later Stetson owned the business - just in time to watch it wiped out by the floods.

Stetson took off for the gold fields of Colorado where he found his hatter’s skills adapted well to the trail. Tents of the time were fashioned from joined animal skins. These crude shelters were routinely compromised by the elements and quickly acquired an ungodly stench. Stetson was able to apply the ancient process of felting to produce a soft, waterproof tentcloth from the animal furs.

Turning to hats Stetson crafted a roomy, wide-brimmed chapeau for himself that shaded the withering sun of the Plains and warded off pelting rain. One day a passing rider offered Stetson a five-dollar gold piece for his hat. That one sale represented a good portion of his earnings in the Gold Rush.

In 1865 he returned to Philadelphia with $100 and set up a small one-room millinery. He busied himself repairing, trimming and making the European-looking hats of the day. At most he was able to sell one or two hats at a time.

Impatient with his progress Stetson created a daring hat based on his experiences in the American West. His “Boss of the Plains” was big with a four-inch brim and a four-inch crown. It was natural-colored and sported a leather strap for a hatband. A “Boss of the Plains” sold for an extravagant five dollars. Finer material would run you ten dollars. And, at the top of the line, pure beaver or nutria could be had for thirty dollars.

Stetson sent a sample hat to dozens of merchants throughout the Southwest with a letter asking for a minimum order of a dozen “Boss of the Plains” hats.
It was a bold move. Stetson was risking his business and his line of credit on an entirely new style.

The plan worked. The new Stetson hat soon blanketed the West. John Stetson would eventually stitch together a network of 10,000 dealers and 150 wholesalers. His one-room millinery evolved into a modern factory - fireproofed with the finest in ventilation - covering an entire Philadelphia block.

In his later years Stetson gobbled up thousands of acres of Florida real estate, including several orange groves, in the cultivation of which he took great pride.
He founded Deland, Florida as his retirement home and held a controlling interest in nearly all its industries and institutions.

He provided a million-dollar endowment for Deland Academy, which was renamed Stetson University. He took an active role in the school’s affairs, serving as president of the Board of Trustees. In 1906 John Stetson, who had been told he was going to die shortly 55 years earlier, died suddenly, in apparent good health, after a trustees’ meeting in Florida. A blood vessel had burst in his brain.

Ralph Lauren

And the man behind the brand is...
Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lifshitz was born in the Bronx in 1939, the son of an artist and house painter. The father changed the family name to "Lauren" in the 1950s, just before his son started a stint in the Army.

Lauren always had an interest in clothes. He spent most of his spare money on clothes and wanted to get into fashion designing after his discharge but he had no portfolio, no sketches. "All I had," said Lauren later, "was taste."

He worked as a salesman and garment buyer until 1967 when he landed a design job with Beau Brummel Ties. Using unusual fabrics Lauren created ties 4" and 5" wide, 50% wider than traditional ties. The tie was the only fashion statement a businessman could make and Lauren's innovative ties were wildly successful. He persuaded Beau Brummel to allow him to start his own division which Lauren called Polo because of its aristocratic image.

Lauren took Polo on his own shortly afterwards. He built his entire empire on the shape of a tie. The tie made a larger knot so he had to design shirts with large collars and suits that complemented the shirts. His clothes were distinctly American with more shape than traditional menswear.

Lauren was widely criticized not only for his clothes but lack of formal design training. He was accused of stealing styles and eras for his designs. Lauren was not affected by the carping. He was one of the first designers to leave a specialty and design across the entire spectrum of clothing. In 1971 he crossed over from mens clothes to womens clothes.

This line was popular as well but Lauren's company was near collapse. Business was not Lauren's strong suit. He had been staked by Norman Hilton in 1968 for $50,000 in exchange for 50% of the business. He bought Hilton out for $633,000 in 1972 and strained the company treasury. Now he switched some lines from manufacturing to licensing to steady the ship.

The man who sells more than a billion dollars worth of clothes with a personal fortune in excess of $400 million personally favors faded jeans and tweed jackets: "I wanted to be a history teacher. I liked the gum-soled shoes and tweed jackets and the pipes. I never liked the business world because I wanted a life that was free of not being honest or straightforward."

Liz Claiborne

And the woman behind the brand is...
Liz Claiborne

In retrospect the concept seems so logical: design attractive clothes the average woman could wear and free working women from the standard office uniform of navy blue suits. But it took until 1976 and Liz Claiborne to execute the idea.
The result was one of the fastest growing companies in United States business history, reaching the Fortune magazine list of 500 largest companies within ten years.

Liz Claiborne was a shy women who always followed her own path. As a young girl she lived so many places following her banking father that she never finished high school. She wanted a career in fashion but her father was against it so she went to Paris and Brussels, her birthplace, to study painting. In 1949, at the age of 20, Claiborne won a Harper's Bazaar design contest and a year later she returned to the United States. Against her parent's wishes she cut her long hair and got married. She took jobs as a sketch artist and New York model.

In her mid-twenties Arthur Ortenberg hired Claiborne as a designer. They shed their respective mates and married in 1957. Claiborne became chief designer at Jonathan Logan where she spent years lobbying for a new line of clothes for the emerging class of highly paid working women of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
When their son reached 21 in 1976 Claiborne and Ortenberg struck out on their own with $50,000. Two other partners brought in another $200,000. Claiborne designed well-made fashionable sportswear for the office, weaning women away from formless suits.

Within two years Claiborne's designs were generating $23,000,000 in revenue.
She had dreamed of a small company where she would make clothes for professional women. She was clearly onto something bigger. The four partners retreated to the Pocono Mountains for three days to chart their future. There were two votes to stay small - but they weren't Claiborne and Ortenberg.

Ortenberg was the genius behind the organization. They created "Claiboards" which showed department stores how to mix and match Claiborne fashions to maximize visual appeal. They hired no sales force, making buyers visit their offices to see new designs. Claiborne created six seasons rather than four so there was a constant flow of material for the department stores, the exclusive outlet for Claiborne fashions.

By 1981 Ortenberg took the company public with one of the most popular stock issues in history. Claiborne, as Chief Executive Officer, retained 4.3% of the stock in the two billion dollar company. Her designs clothed 60% of the 12,000,000 women who went to work every day in the 1980s.


And the man behind the brand is...
Levi Strauss

In 1877 two pairs of overalls arrived in the offices of Levi Strauss & Company in San Francisco. A letter was attached that read: "The secratt of them Pents is the Rivets that I put in those Pockets and I found the demand so large that I cannot make them fast enough. My nabors are getting yealouse of these success and unless I secure it by Patent Papers it will soon become a general thing.
Everybody will make them up and thare will be no money in it.

"Therefore Gentleman, I wish to make you a proposition that you should take out the Latters Patent in my name as I am the inventor of it, the expense of it will be about $68, all complit..." The letter was from Jacob Davis, a Latvian immigrant from Reno, Nevada.

Levi Strauss paid for Jacob Davis' patent for "Improvement in Fastening Pocket Openings." The patent would be the most illegally imitated patent in United States history.

Levis Strauss was already successful when he learned about Jacob Davis, had been for nearly 30 years. Strauss was born in 1829 in Bavaria, the youngest of six children. After his father died in 1846 he emigrated to New York to join his brothers Jonas and Louis in the dry goods trade.

In 1848 Strauss struck out on his own to sell dry goods in Kentucky.
Peddling on the streets Strauss often lugged 100-pound loads to his customers.
In 1849 Strauss sailed to San Francisco to join the Gold Rush. He went to work in his brother-in-law's store, in the midst of the greatest population explosion in American history.

At first Strauss served the miners, peddling goods in lawless boomtowns.
The population grew so fast that every cargo ship that arrived in port was immediately under siege from eager merchants needing to replenish their shelves. Strauss made sturdy canvas work pants, often using sails and tents when material from his brothers in New York did not arrive in time.

The company grew steadily as Strauss established himself as boss of the enterprise. He took over completely in 1861 an set up Levi Strauss & Co.
By this time Strauss was importing a French denim from which he made "waist high overalls." "Jeans" was a derogatory phrase referring to cheap-type work pants from Genoa, Italy. "Jeans" is from the French word for Genoa, "genes." Strauss dyed his denim blue to mask soil stains.

In 1865 Strauss built a new headquarters in downtown San Francisco.
Wary of the numerous fires that flashed through town he built his new offices out of brick and stone. Three months later an earthquake cracked its foundation.

Strauss was one of San Francisco's leading merchants when he bought Jacob Davis' patent. His name appeared on a list of men who were worth at least $4,000,000 in a local newspaper. He owned a large chunk of downtown San Francisco real estate.

Now his business exploded. Davis came to San Francisco to be head tailor and Strauss expanded into factory production. He sold 21,600 pairs of riveted pants and coats the first year of production. So buyers could recognize the Levi Strauss brand a special stitching was added to the pockets, shaped in a crossed, double V in orange thread.

In the 1880s a new label made of leather was created. Levi's "Two Horse Brand" work clothes were even known in Paris. Strauss promised a "new pair free" if his riveted pants pockets ever ripped. In 1890 his patent was gone. Strauss kept his high quality work pants, known as 501s, in his catalog but offered a cheaper version as well.

By this time Strauss had turned much of the business over to this nephews. Partly due to the paucity of pioneer women in his younger days Strauss never married. He traveled extensively and donated great sums for Jewish charities and education. He died in 1902 at age 73 when jeans were still a workman's pants.


And the man behind the brand is...
Henry Lee

All Henry David Lee wanted was to have his clothing orders filled on time.
He was 62 years and had built the dominant wholesale grocery business in the Midwest. But when he diversified his mercantile operation to include clothing he discovered his textile suppliers were not as reliable as his growers. Lee solved the problem the best way he knew how; he built his own garment factory near his warehouse in Salina, Kansas in 1911.

Lee was born in Vermont in 1849 and started his business career distributing kerosene in Galion, Ohio. In 1888 he sold his business to John Rockefeller and left Ohio for Kansas. The next year he was back in business as the H.D. Lee Mercantile Company, distributing food instead of fuel. Over the next dozen years he added hardware, stationery and notions - and the bothersome clothing to his line.

Lee started in the garment trade with rugged overalls, jackets and dungarees. A one-piece pullover, helpful in protecting regular clothing, called the Union-All was his first big seller. Developed in 1913 the Union-All was a pair of dungarees sewn to a jacket. It was adopted as an official fatigue by the U.S. Army in World War I and by 1916 Lee had four garment plants in operation. The next year he pioneered national advertising for apparel in the Saturday Evening Post.

The Union-All marked the beginning of product innovation for Lee. Denim cowboy pants, which would become the famous Lee Riders, reached the market in 1924; two years later jeans with zippers appeared and soon thereafter came tailored sizing. Henry Lee died, still president, in 1928; his company well on the way to becoming America’s largest manufacturer of work clothes.


And the man behind the brand is...
Rene Lacoste

Rene Lacoste was 10 years old and searching desperately for a way to beat his older sister at tennis. Hour after hour he beat balls against a wall, chasing each one down. Of course he became one of the greatest players in the world, acquiring the nickname “The Crocodile” both for his tenacious retrieving style, learned against that wall, and his countenance, dominated by a strong nose.

Lacoste became an integral part of the fable French tennis team known throughout the world as the “Mosquetaires.” When the Mosquetaires brought the Davis Cup home to France in 1927 they were accorded a reception rivaled only by Lindbergh’s at Le Bourget. In 1929, at the age of 25, Lacoste retired, partially on the advice of his doctor and partially because he considered the “play” phase of his life over. He had won two Wimbledon titles, three French championships and two U.S. Nationals.

Of frail constitution, Lacoste was especially susceptible to colds during tournaments. He suspected the culprit to be the “floating” shirts of the day - long-sleeved white shirts with cuffs and collars and buttons. Lacoste had a shirtmaker take shirts favored by polo players, with soft material and short sleeves, and attach a collar. He attracted attention wearing the shirt and some “Lacoste shirts” appeared on the market but Lacoste didn’t give it much thought.

After tennis Lacoste joined his father’s automobile company in France.
Anxious to work on his own Lacoste forged Air Equipement, a company which grew into a mammoth automobile, aerospace and parts corporation. Meanwhile, in the early 1930s a friend approached Lacoste and pointed out that it was foolish to allow companies to sell Lacoste shirts without any compensation.

Lacoste and his partner started a shirt business. It was a small proposition that ended altogether with World War II. After the war they started again, exporting the shirts to America. At first the shirt was considered odd-looking; it was given away to celebrities to help lure Americans to the new style. By the 1970s the craze hit. The shirts with the tiny crocodile emblem - called an alligator in the United States - were so popular 50 manufacturers were soon making them.

Lacoste could never understand it. The shirt with the crocodile was all the rage. Sports shirts, however, were a tiny part of his far-flung industrial interests. He had been nicknamed the Crocodile on the tennis court and it turned out to be a wildly popular identifying mark - all by chance.

A French tennis hero, Lacoste was never allowed to forget tennis. Late in his career he merged his sport and business. The lightweight steel and new plastics used in his aerospace endeavors seemed to have logical applications in tennis rackets. Steel had been used in rackets before, most notably by the Dayton Company in the 1920s but the steel strings that had to be used tore balls apart.
It was Lacoste who figured out a way to string steel rackets by wrapping gut strings with wire around the frame instead of punching holes through it.

In many ways tennis equipment in the 1960s was virtually indistinguishable from that used in the 1890s. The steel racket had nearly every advantage over the traditional wood racket but acceptance was slow. Until swashbuckling Jimmy Connors burst onto the tennis scene brandishing a lightweight steel racket.
In little more than 15 years the wooden racket was an antique.

Lacoste had once again reshaped the tennis world. But there was always more to turn ones attention to: tennis balls that became worn too soon, tennis elbow, racket shape, heavy shoes...


And the man behind the brand is...
George Kinney

For a man who had the burden of responsibility constantly thrust upon him in his personal life it is ironic that George Romanta Kinney made his fortune by abdicating responsibility. Kinney was one of America’s first franchisers - the managers of his stores made all day-to-day decisions while the “home office” was responsible only for purchasing.

Kinney was born to a Candor, New York merchant whose store failed shortly thereafter. His father died in 1875 when Kinney was nine. He raised money for the family working around town until the age of 17 when he left for the big city of Binghamton and a position with the Lester Shoe Company. In 1888 Kinney was promoted to manager of a store in Waverly, New York, providing enough of a stake to marry. But his wife died in childbirth in 1890 and the Lester Shoe Company went bankrupt.

Left alone to start over Kinney bought the failing Lester’s inventory for $1500. He opened another store in Waverly with one employee, cobbler Milner Kemp. He sold shoes to the entire family at discount prices, at a time when few retailers sold mens, womens, boys and girls shoes under one roof. Moreover Kinney hung his shoes on wallboards outside his shop and posted prices on the boards.

The innovations worked as Kinney was able to open a second store in Corning, New York within the year. By 1899 he was operating eight stores. Every new manager Kinney brought into the business was regarded as a partner. The partner invested in the store and ran the daily operations. Kinney retreated from the retail floor to the Woolworth Building in New York City where he concentrated on buying shoes and shoe factories.

George Kinney’s empire building was ended by his death in 1919 from complications stemming from a circulatory attack in 1907. At the time the 53-year old Kinney had more than four dozen shoe stores in 13 states.

Hart, Schafner & Marx

And the men behind the brand are...
Joseph Schaffner and Harry Hart and Max Hart

In 1887 Joseph Schaffner stopped in the shop of two of his close friends, Chicago clothiers Harry and Max Hart. He was seeking career advice. After seventeen years of bookkeeping in the credit business Schaffner was contemplating a new opportunity in Minnesota, a total departure from his accounting work.
Before making such a radical change, the Harts suggested, why don’t you
come into business with us?

Harry Hart, then 21, and his brother Max, 18, had been selling men’s clothing since 1872 when they pooled $2700 their father had saved from their teenage days as delivery boys to start a mens store. The Harts figured that Chicago’s estimated 100,000 homeless after the Great Fire of 1871 would need to be clothed. Within three years they were successful enough to open a second store and began manufacturing suits for other retailers.

The Harts brought brothers-in-law Levi Abt and Marcus Marx into the business in 1879 and it was Abt who Schaffner would be replacing in the team’s management. Schaffner, the life-long bookkeeper was, incongruously, a literary man at heart. With Hart Schaffner & Marx he supervised the firm’s sales letters with such eloquence that when an anthology of Selected English Letters was published years later one of the firm’s sales letters was included alongside those of Jonathan Swift, Abraham Lincoln and others.

Schaffner’s literary bent led inevitably to the industry’s first national clothing ads in 1897. The industry was not impressed and it was years before other clothiers joined Hart Schaffner and Marx in print. Schaffner’s illustrated ads were supported by moralistic books he penned on “Courage” and “Enthusiasm.” Many booklets didn’t even include the company in the copy.

Hart Schaffner and Marx assumed industry leadership in other areas as well.
At a time when salesmen of the day lugged as many as twenty wardrobe trunks of samples into accounts, Hart Schaffner and Marx salesmen switched to displaying fabric swatches. They pioneered standard pricing with no discounts for favored customers. A Hart Schaffner and Marx suit was the first to be guaranteed to be 100% wool when it said 100% wool. In 1906 Hart Schaffner and Marx identified 14 basic body types with led to the creation of 250 specialty sizes in suits.

It seems the Harts had given Joseph Schaffner excellent career advice a generation before.


And the man behind the brand is...
Marcus Hanes

Hanes is the only corporation in America ever to form from two independent , non-competing businesses from the same family. That merger, in 1962 brought the saga of the Hanes family, founded when Marcus Hanes settled in York, Pennsylvania from Germany in 1738, around full circle.

Marcus Hanes bought 1060 acres in North Carolina and moved his family south. Here, brothers Pleasant Henderson Hanes and John Wesley Hanes grew up in the middle of the 19th century. Pleasant, five years older, was born in 1845 and served in Company E of the 16th North Carolina Cavalry during the Civil War. Hanes distinguished himself in duty and was named a special courier to Robert E. Lee, serving with the Confederate commander until Appomattox.

After the war the brothers began selling plug tobacco from wagons they guided throughout North Carolina. In 1872 the brothers started a tobacco company in Winston. Pleasant and John shepherded the P.H. Hanes Tobacco Company through two factory fires until they had built the third largest tobacco business in America. A serious illness to John forced the brothers to sell the business to R.J. Reynolds in 1900 for $175,000. When John regained his health the Hanes re-invested their profits into the textile industry - but as independent proprietors.

John Wesley concentrated on men’s stockings and named his company Shamrock Mills; Pleasant manufactured a new type of knitwear, men’s heavyweight, two-piece underwear. John’s health broke again and he died in 1903. The company changed names in 1914 to the Hanes Hosiery Mills and by 1920 women’s hosiery had replaced men’s socks as the firm’s only product.

Pleasant Hanes continued in charge of his P.H. Hanes Knitting Company until his death in 1925 at the age of 79. The two firms continued to operate autonomously under the brothers’ descendants until 1962 when the two Hanes companies consolidated, back under the family name once again.


And the man behind the brand is...
Joseph Haggar

Joseph Marion Hajjar was born into hardscrabble circumstances on a Lebanese farm in 1892. His father died in a fall from a horse when he was just two putting further hardship on the family to cull a living from the sparse soil. At 13 Joseph fled the impoverished village to join a sister in Mexico. He stayed three years, peddling on the streets until he left for the United States, paying a $2 border tax to cross into Laredo.

Penniless and speaking no English, Haggar, as he would now be known,
got work on a railroad, then a cotton farm and eventually migrated to the Little Lebanon region of St. Louis where he made his first real money brokering an oil lease. He further homed his business skills as a salesman for Ely & Walker, a dry goods wholesaler, where he closed deals in his native Arabic, acquired Spanish and adopted English.

Having earned enough to marry and start a family and supremely confident in his sales ability, Haggar went out on the road selling Oberman work pants on straight commission. By 1926 he was ready to open his own business, making menswear in Dallas. He sold only on a one-price policy, unique for the industry, which he hit upon while selling on the road.

Haggar’s pants were unlabeled and just a cut above work pants.
He sold enough to weather the Great Depression and in 1939 he became the first manufacturer to nationally advertise branded slacks. At the time the only men’s clothing identifiable by name was Arrow shirts. Haggar was always ahead of the industry: first to offer two pairs of pants for a reduced price, first to sell pre-packaged ready-to-wear slacks, first to manufacture double knit pants. Legend had it that the “Slacks King” could handle a piece of fabric and tell what mill it came from.

In 1976, on the occasion of his company’s 50th anniversary, Joseph Haggar was presented with the Horatio Alger Award, in recognition of how far he had come from the rocky Lebanese desert. In the same year he received an honorary doctorate of law from Notre Dame University, an ironic tribute to a man who always crossed out the legalese on the back of contracts and scribble in his own personal guarantee.


And the man behind the brand is...
Guccio Gucci

In the 1970s the Gucci shop in New York City earned the title, bestowed by New York magazine, as “The Rudest Store in New York.” Gucci management was so “upset” by the customer abuse detailed within that the author was sent a $500 floral bouquet. After all, Guccio Gucci had cultivated snob appeal from the time he opened his first store in Florence, Italy in 1922.

Guccio was born in Florence in 1881 where his family managed a struggling straw hat factory. He had no intention of fighting his father’s battles and left for London at the turn of the century. Gucci found a job at the world famous Savoy Hotel where he was waiter to the rich and famous for three years. On the job Gucci paid studious attention to what the glamorous patrons wore and how they spent their money.

When World War I ended Gucci was ready to implement his ideas.
He learned the leather goods business with an Italian firm called Franzi and then opened Gucci’s. From the start Gucci specialized in the highest quality leather luggage and handbags, many of his designs based on what he had seen in the Savoy. Gucci bags traveled on the arms of international trendsetters who had stopped in Florence to view the city’s many art treasures.

Guccio Gucci created a linked GG symbol that resembled a jointed mouth bit for a horse and equine motifs became a Gucci trademark. The signature Gucci red and green stripe was borrowed from horse blankets. The Gucci trademark was internationally registered in 1953, launching an almost continuous barrage of lawsuits against Gucci knock-offs.

1953 was a landmark year for Gucci in other ways as well. Gucci opened its first New York store in a small nook in the Sherry Netherland Hotel, bringing the elegant Gucci moccasin and hand-stitched glove and other desirable luxury items to the United States. Americans would learn the name Gucci from movie stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly and Kim Novak who were some of Gucci’s best customers. But they would never get a chance to know Guccio Gucci; he passed away in 1953.


And the men behind the brand are...
Samuel Foster and William Grant

In 1920 Jack Goodman received a large order for plastic dice embedded with rhinestones from Kresge stores. It was a huge account and Goodman would do whatever he must to satisfy Kresge. That included taking a harrowing trolley ride twenty miles out to Leominster, Massachusetts to visit the Viscoloid Company,
the leading plastics manufacturer of the day.

Viscoloid was too busy to fill Goodman's order. The account was too important to abandon his quest and Goodman began to investigate the small plastics firms around Leominster that handled Viscoloid's overflow business. When he happened upon the dilapidated Foster Grant office it hardly seemed worth his time. But the 37-year old man with the endearing Austrian accent he found inside soon changed his mind.

Samuel Foster turned out plastic dice of such superior quality that within a year he was making 1/3 of all Goodman's plastic products including combs and costume jewelry. In another two years he was producing it all. The Foster Grant Company was a going concern at last.

Foster had been working ever since his family had arrived in New England in 1897 when he was 14. His first venture was making and selling fireworks but the tiny enterprise literally exploded on him. He became a waiter and a maker of costume jewelry when he went to business for Viscoloid supervising their plastic comb-making operations in 1907.

Foster stayed with Viscoloid for a dozen years until leaving to start the Foster Manufacturing Company to produce tiny plastic flower jewelry. He took on a salesman-partner named William Grant. For whatever reason Grant lasted only three or four months. Returning Grant's investment left Foster so financially strapped that he couldn't afford to legally change the company name back from Foster Grant and so it stayed.

Now with Goodman's business Foster's fortunes swung. He found success with a 4" x 6" plastic bird cage and plastic canary. He created a memo pad with attached plastic crayons capable of carrying imprinted advertising which were a huge hit.
No one knows when Samuel Foster first decided to make sunglasses; it was sometime between 1927 and 1929. He sketched a design on ordinary brown paper wrapping and moistened it in oil. He applied several pieces to plastic frames and temple bars fashioned on a jigsaw. The first pair of Foster Grants were made as a kiddie toy and sold for 10¢.

Tinted glasses had been used sporadically to that time, mostly as protection in industry. But as the movie industry grew in Hollywood picture stars were photographed in fan magazines wearing sunglasses to shield their eyes from the California sun. The style quickly caught on with the public.

Foster Grant was a pioneer in plastic frames. In 1930 Foster brought a German machine to Leominster for injection molding of plastics. Foster Grant technicians made it the first commercially adaptable injection molding machine in the United States. By 1942 Foster Grant had perfected injection molding techniques and Samuel Foster withdrew from the company at the age of 59.

He took a financial settlement and headed to Los Angeles. Foster established a string of self-service gas stations and dabbled in real estate as Foster Grant became the most famous name in sunglasses.


And the man behind the brand is...
Sigmund Florsheim

Sigmund Florsheim sold shoes in Chicago from a shop he opened in Chicago in 1856. In 1892 his son Milton, then 24, founded the Florsheim Shoe Company. Florsheim turned out 150 pairs of shoes a year, each stamped with his name on every sole, one of the first shoes identified with a brand name. It was one of many innovations by Milton Florsheim in the shoe industry.

He began national advertising in The Saturday Evening Post, one of the first nationally advertised shoes. He introduced low-cut shoes for men which quickly became the standard for the well-dressed man. Florsheim pioneered retail stores for shoe manufacturers and his stores were the first to put all styles of shoes on display rather than have the salesman bring the merchandise out one style at a time for the customer to inspect.

Milton Florsheim was chairman of the board until his death in 1936.
Florsheim’s sons continued the business until selling out in 1953.


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.


And the man behind the brand is...
Marquis Converse

It is a sad irony that the man whose name graces one of America’s greatest athletic shoes was, for much of his life, sickly. Marquis Converse was born in Lyme, New Hampshire in 1861. Infirmities stalled his early business career but he worked his way into a superintendent’s position in Boston’s Houghton & Dutton department store by his early twenties. The job was short-lived, however,
as sickness forced him to resign.

In 1887 Converse co-founded a rubber shoe agency but once again illnesses left him to weak to participate in the venture. This time he spent three years recovering. When Converse resumed his business activities it was as a salesman. In 1908, at nearly 50 years of age, Converse started his own firm again.

By 1910 the Converse Rubber Shoe Company in Malden, Massachusetts was producing 5500 rubber shoes a day. In 1917 Converse introduced the high-topped canvas All Star, America’s first basketball shoes. Charles “Chuck” Taylor was hired as one of sport’s earliest player endorsers. In the days before professional basketball Taylor starred for barnstorming teams across the country, playing and pushing his Converse shoes.

From his experiences on the court Taylor designed sturdier soles and increased ankle support and traction. In 1923 Taylor’s signature was sewn to an ankle patch. The highly recognizable shoe was adopted by the United States Olympic team in 1930. One year before he died in 1969 Chuck Taylor, a pioneer in sports marketing, was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Despite the success of the All Star business was as much a daily struggle for Marquis Converse as was his health. By 1929 his firm had slipped into receivership. Two years later he dropped dead on the streets of Boston from a fatal heart attack. He had improbably lived into his seventieth year but did not live to see the athletic shoe become a part of everyday fashion.


And the man behind the brand is...
James Cannon

James William Cannon came of age in the Reconstruction Period of the South.
His schooling ended when the Civil War ended at the age of 13. There was distress and destruction everywhere. The war-torn South was a total economic disaster area.

Cannon began clerking in a general supply store for bed and board, earning nothing but his keep. He clerked until he had developed a successful business buying and selling cotton crops and opened a general merchandise store in Concord, North Carolina in 1877.

The South was still reeling from the devastation of the War. For ten years Cannon watched poverty-ridden farmers come to his store and pay high prices for commodities imported from the North, particularly cloth manufactured out of cotton they ad sold for pennies a pound.

Like other men of the day Cannon realized that the South must have industry, not just agriculture. He studied the small mills around Concord with the idea of starting mills to provide employment and rupture the high-priced competition. With $12,000 of his own money and $75,000 from the sale of stock he started Cannon Mills in 1887.

His product that first year was a cotton yarn and he then introduced a coarse grade of cotton known as Cannon cloth. In 1898 Cannon produced the first cotton hand towel produced in the South. He built a series of mills to produce the popular towels until 1905 when he purchased a 600-acre farm to build a state-of-the-art factory to produce hand towels.

A rambling company town soon formed on the farm to house Cannon's 20,000 employees. It was called Kannapolis (Greek for "loom city') as Cannon grew to be the largest of the manufacturers of household textiles. Cannon was able to make it all work because of integrity and industry. He had never played as a boy and never played as an adult. He had no hobbies, no form of recreation. He was not social, not public-minded, not inclined to publicity. "The less you say the less you will have to take back," said the man who presided over the mills until his death in 1921.

Much of the progress and development in household textiles is the result of Cannon's merchandising, advertising and research. He planned a vast consumer advertising program - unheard of in the textile trade - but couldn't come up with a way for people who liked his products to ask for them by name before he died.
It was left to one of his six sons to discover a way to sew the Cannon trademark to each towel and expand the immense textile business beyond even his father's vast vision.

Calvin Klein

And the man behind the brand is...
Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein and Barry Schwartz were childhood friends growing up in the Bronx. Calvin always seemed to have a knack for knowing which combinations of clothes looked good. When Barry's mother took him clothes shopping she always took Calvin along to hear his opinions.

Klein attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and began work in 1962 as a 20-year old apprentice at $25 a week. Schwartz went into the army but his father was killed in a hold-up at his Harlem grocery store and Barry was discharged to run the store and support the family. He turned the grocery store into a profitable business. In 1968 he offered 50% of the business to his friend Calvin.

Klein was sorely tempted. After six years he had found little success.
But he suggested they both come into his industry instead. Klein invested $2000 and Schwartz $10,000 to start Calvin Klein, Limited. A few weeks later Martin Luther King was assassinated and rioting looters destroyed the Harlem store. Schwartz was in the fashion business full-time.

It was not a boom time in the world of fashion. The Hippie generation was an era of dressing down, anti-fashion. On area where style was still in vogue was women's coats and Klein concentrated his efforts there. He created a classic understated version of the trench coat and personally wheeled his samples through the offices of Bonwit Teller, landing a $50,000 order. Calvin Klein Limited was off.

Klein designed and Schwartz sold. When Klein launched a line of ladies sportswear Schwartz wouldn't sell any popular Klein coats unless the buyer bought the sportswear too. While European designers still emphasized a layered look Klein created clean, classic clothes that showed off women's bodies.

In 1975 Klein announced he would no longer use man-made fabrics and introduced a designer jean. Jeans had been the lowest garment imaginable.
They were popular as a uniform in the grungy 1960s and early 1970s but as fashion came back jean sales fell off. Connie Dowling, a Bloomingdale's buyer, suggested that Klein make a stylish jean and market it as a high-fashion item emblazoned with his name.

Klein priced his new jeans at $50, twice the cost of traditional jeans.
They were a hit and when Klein launched provocative advertising campaigns they became a sensation. For many Americans Calvin Klein jeans were the first designer item they ever owned.

Klein's quality and designs for the masses made America the fashion capital of the world. By the 1980s European designers were copying American mass culture. Stores were selling over one billion dollars of Calvin Klein clothes as he became a celebrity.


And the man behind the brand is...
Joseph Bulova

Joseph Bulova arrived in New York City in the years following the Civil War.
In his native Bohemia, now Czechoslovakia, Bulova had learned the watchmaking and jewelry trade. For several years Bulova worked around town, studying the prospects for a jewelry business. Finally in 1875, at the age of 23, Bulova realized his dream by opening a small jewelry store on Maiden Lane.

Bulova began making timepieces so that his jewelry shop could offer a wider selection of items for his customers. For the next quarter-century Bulova sold pocket watches and jewelry in New York while building his reputation.
In 1911, as he sold fine pocket watches in unprecedented numbers, he began manufacturing Bulova boudoir and desk clocks.

Wristwatches appeared sporadically before World War I but men still preferred the pocket watch. During the war, soldiers discovered the greater convenience of wearing a wristwatch and returning veterans inaugurated a new market. Bulova responded instantly to the new fashion trend. He marshalled his production facilities to design jeweled wristwatches, introducing his first full line of men’s watches in 1919. It was followed by the industry’s first complete line of ladies’ wristwatches and the first collection of diamond wristwatches.

Bulova was an innovator in advertising to promote his new wristwatches.
In 1926 radio stations across the country began announcing the hour as “at the tone, it’s 8 p.m., Bulova watch time.” Bulova cemented his relationship with the medium of radio when he introduced the world’s first clock radio in 1928.

In 1931, Bulova broke all industry records by launching a million-dollar advertising campaigns. He supported retailers by offering Bulova watches on time-payment plans. The campaign culminated on July 1, 1941 when Brooklyn Dodger fans sat down to watch a televised baseball game and were greeted by a simple picture of a clock centered in a map of the United States. Across the bottom of the screen they were told, “AMERICA RUNS ON BULOVA TIME.”
It was the first TV commercial.

Although he never retired before his death in 1935 at the age of 83, Joseph Bulova turned most of the everyday operations to his son Arde in later years.
At the end of World War II, after supplying the United States military with an assortment of precision instruments, Arde Bulova established the Joseph Bulova School of Watchmaking in honor of his father. The school opened its doors to disabled veterans hoping to become self-sufficient. To this day watchmakers still send already accomplished craftsmen to the Bulova school for advanced training.

Brooks Brothers

And the men behind the brand are...
Henry Brooks and John Brooks

On the seventh of April, 1818 Henry Sands Brooks, then 45 years old, realized the culmination of a dream when he opened a clothing emporium on the corner of Catharine and Cherry Streets in Manhattan. The son of a Connecticut doctor, Brooks had been a successful enough New York grocer to enjoy shopping junkets to Europe where he indulged his taste for fancy clothes. Like every other merchant starting out Brooks pledged “to make and deal only in merchandise of the best quality and to sell it at a fair profit only.”

The business was not confined to retail selling but also did a great trade among seafaring men in that part of New York. A grand tradition evolved when a seaman purchased an outfit: he was regaled with a hearty draft from a black bottle kept for this purpose beneath the counter.

Brooks brought his relatives, first his brother John and then his sons Henry and Daniel, into the business which allowed the small shop to continue after his death in 1833. Men’s clothing styles closely emulated English fashion trends and like other clothiers Brooks offered as many classic London lines as possible.

Henry and Daniel envisioned the future of American dress. In 1845, at a time when most clothes were still tailor-made or sewn in the home, the Brooks brothers were the first to recognize the potential of ready-made clothing. They created the first ready-to-wear suit, an innovation that made fashion affordable.

In the 1850s four younger brothers gravitated to the clothing business and the name officially became Brooks Brothers, by which time the Brooks tradition of clothing originals was firmly established. A sheep suspended by a ribbon was adopted as the official Brooks Brothers trademark. This symbol of British wool merchants dates back to the fifteenth century when it was the emblem of the Knights of the Golden Fleece.

Brooks Brothers continued to adapt British styles to American wardrobes, introducing the foulard necktie in 1890 and the button- down collar shirt in 1896, inspired by English polo players who buttoned their collars against the wind.

It was the sack suit that cemented Brooks Brothers as the father of the classic American style of dress. Designed to flatter all body types, the sack suit was an immediate hit when it was introduced shortly before the turn of the century, replacing the tubular silhouette and padded-shoulder look that had been popular until then. The Brooks Brothers sack suit would become known as the first genuinely American suit, the quintessential business suit.

In 1915, shortly before Brooks Brothers’ centennial, a new flagship store opened at 346 Madison Avenue in New York City, its current location. The store started by Henry Sands Brooks, who toasted sailors across the counter when they bought a suit, has been providing furnishings for men, women and boys for 175 years.


And the man behind the brand is...
Linus Yale

As more and more Americans began entrusting their money to banks in the early 19th century it became incumbent on these new institutions to guarantee the safety of these deposits. Many tinkerers were working on an infallible vault lock. One was Linus Yale. Another was Linus Yale.

Linus Yale, Jr. was born in Salisbury, New York in 1821 where his father was an inventor of sorts, having produced a thresher, among other machines. Young Yale received a formal education but followed an artist’s muse after school. He scraped out a living as a mediocre portrait artist for nearly ten years. Meanwhile, in 1840, Linus, Sr. began to manufacture bank locks in Newport, New York.

Independently Linus, Jr. began to work on locks as well. While his father created the association between the name Yale and locks it was the son’s “Yale Infallible Bank Lock” which revolutionized the security industry. He improved his lock constantly, patenting in rapid succession the “Yale Magic Bank Lock” and the formidable “Yale Double Treasury Bank Lock.”

At the time a “lock controversy” raged on the ultimate security afforded by bank locks. At the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London in 1851 it was demonstrated that the best English locks could be picked. Yale traveled to England and figured how to pick the celebrated Day & Newell “Parautoptic Bank Lock.” When he returned to his Stamford, Connecticut factory he discovered how to pick his best Yale Double Treasury Lock. The experience led him to develop the Monitor Bank Lock, the first of the combination, or dial, locks.

Between 1860 and 1865 Yale undertook work on a small key lock for doors and storage chests. Keys of the day were clumsy and often weighed more than one pound. Yale crafted a flat key “Cylinder Lock” based on a pin-and-tumbler mechanism devised by the ancient Egyptians. With refinements the lock was virtually pickproof.

Yale lacked the financial resources to mass produce his new security locks until he met Henry Robinson Towne in 1868. Although half his age, Yale found much to recommend the 24-year old Towne. He had graduated early from the University of Pennsylvania and was designing and installing Naval engines while still in his teens in the Civil War. And he brought with him plenty of capital as the son of a wealthy foundry owner.

There would be no locks sold by the new partners, however. On Christmas Day 1868 Yale suffered a massive heart attack and died at the age of 47. Although their business association lasted only a brief three months Henry Towne had great respect for Linus Yale and saw to it that his name was stamped on every key blank the company stamped.


And the man behind the brand is...
Frederick Weyerhauser

Who owns the most land in America? Well, if all the land in the United States was divided up equally we would all get about 10 acres. The Weyerhauser Company owns a little more than their share; they control over 4 million acres.

Frederick Weyerhauser came to America from Hessen, Germany in 1848 when he was 14 with a profound respect for thrift and a hearty appetite for hard work. He began in a lumberyard in North East, Pennsylvania before joining his brother-in-law to operate a sawmill in Rockville, Illinois in 1860.

Weyerhauser-Denckman soon prospered. But being downriver from the timber growing regions of Wisconsin meant his logs had to float past many other mills to reach his.

To insure a steady flow of logs Weyerhauser travelled up and down the Mississippi to urge other small mill operators to join him in buying logs from Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley. Together, he reasoned, they could buy logs in quantities large enough to secure a steady supply and good prices. The Mississippi River Logging Company organized as one of America's earliest mergers of substantial size in 1871.

Years of dispute followed with the local Chippewa millmen who watched enormous flotillas of logs go by their mills downriver to Weyerhauser's co-operative. In 1880 devastating floods crushed many Wisconsin sawmills and washed their log inventories downstream and smack into the log booms of the hated Mississippi River Logging Company.

Weyerhauser now held the future of many of his competitors in his log booms. He engineered a peaceful settlement by agreeing to buy the stray logs at market price and sell others at the same price to Chippewa mills that would re-start.
This agreement ended the decade-old power struggle and brought the Chippewa loggers into the co-operative. Weyerhauser was elected president of the Chippewa Logging Company, the largest sawmill in the world.

In the 1890s Weyerhauser began buying timber stands and sawmills in Minnesota. He moved to St. Paul and purchased a house on chic Summit Avenue, although he did not seek the haughty social life. Weyerhauser was painfully shy because of his thick German accent and spent much of his leisure time keeping bees. But he did become friendly with his new next door neighbor.

After moving in Weyerhauser discovered his new neighbor was James J. Hill, railroad baron of the great Northern Pacific. In 1899 Hill wanted to sell land awarded the railroad as a land grant and offered 900,000 acres of remote western land to Weyerhauser for $7 an acre. Weyerhauser countered with $5; they settled on $6. The two neighbors had consummated the largest private land sale in American history.

Company officials grumbled that Weyerhauser could have gotten the land cheaper. They learned that Hill had been offering parcels of some of the land to the public for 50¢ an acre a year earlier. No matter, Weyerhauser just loved to buy timber. He said, "The only mistake we ever made was in not buying pine trees whenever offered."

Weyerhauser bought much of the extremely speculative Douglas fir regions of the Pacific Northwest. He once remarked to an associate that he liked to buy timber when it rained and sell it when the sun shone. However, no one recalled that he ever sold any pine timber, rain or shine.

The Weyerhauser Company would continue to buy timberland after Frederick's death and became noted for their efforts to renew the timber stands they already owned. Weyerhauser introduced the first tree farms, tending mountains that wouldn't be harvested for 60 years, refurbishing the founder’s legacy in America’s timberlands.


And the man behind the brand is...
Earl Tupper

When Brownie Wise received her first plastic Tupper “Wonder Bowl” it took her three days to figure out how to work the seal. Then, once she got the bowl sealed, she dropped it as she was putting it in the refrigerator. But instead of breaking the bowl bounced. And the stubborn seal kept the contents from spilling. The world was about to discover plastic.

Earl Silas Tupper became convinced that plastic was “the material of the future” when he worked with polymers in a DuPont chemical plant during the Depression. Born and raised on a rural New Hampshire farm in 1907 Tupper always fancied himself an inventor imbued with Yankee ingenuity. So he left Du Pont to form the Tupper Plastics Company in 1938.

Nothing much happened for a few years and then World War II forced the government to restrict distribution of critical raw materials. Tupper’s experiments with plastics could only continue when he obtained some leftover material from his former employer, a chunk of rock-hard, putrid polyethylene slag. Tupper worked with the black slag until he developed a purifying refining process. He also pioneered an injection-molding machine which produced the first unbreakable plastic. The first of what would grow to be more than 400 Tupperware products was a seven-ounce tumbler.

Some of Tupper’s creations were busts. Americans would never see his plastic shoe heels but they would come to know his food containers. Plastic was viewed with suspicion by consumers in the 1940s; quality was inconsistent and no one saw the urgency to switch from comfortable glass. It was Tupper’s seal that broke down consumer resistance.

He modeled his airtight seal after a paint can, flaring the rim out slightly and molding the lid to lock onto it. When the air inside was “burped” out a partial vacuum was created and the food inside would not dry out in Americans’ new refrigerators. This is what Brownie Wise discovered in her own kitchen.

Tupper first sold his containers through hardware stores and catalogs when they were introduced in 1945. He then began to tap into the popular home demonstration parties after World War II. Wise was a Stanley Home Products distributor when she started to buy Tupper’s plastic containers from her wholesalers. When shipments were delayed one day in 1949 she called Tupper directly to complain. By the time he put down the phone he had made her director of a new home-sales program.

Wise was so energetic, so positive, so successful that Tupper pulled his products from store shelves and sold exlusively through direct sellers. In 1951 Tupper Plastics became Tupperware Home Parties. When Wise took over there were some 200 independent dealers in Tupper’s sales system. Three years later there were 9000 and $25 million in sales.

Tupperware was strong and elegant in its simplicity. Tupper used only the best raw materials and adhered to the strictest tolerances in his molds. Tupper was so exacting in his manufacturing specifications that he sold his products with a lifetime warranty. The only receipt a customer ever needed to replace a defective product was the name Tupperware on the container.

In 1958 Wise left the company and Tupper sold the business to Rexall Drugs for $9 million. He retired to Costa Rica and by the time Earl Tupper died in 1983 it was estimated that Tupperware could be found in 90% of all American homes.


And the man behind the brand is...
Bill Tappan

W.J. “Bill” Tappan was well-known in the Ohio Valley in the 1880s. There wasn’t a single door in the territory he had not knocked on trying to sell the iron stoves he cast in his foundry. Many of the farmers were poor and Tappan often accepted payment in vegetables and grains because he felt folks should be able to cook on a good stove.

In 1891, after Tappan had stoked his foundry for ten years, a solar eclipse darkened the eastern half of the United States. He viewed the astronomical event as an omen and changed the name of his entire company from the Ohio Valley Foundry Company to the Eclipse Company. Perhaps it was an omen meant specifically for Bill Tappan because his Eclipse Stove was soon selling beyond the Ohio Valley and became one of the best-selling ovens in America.

Tappan went on to become one of the leading innovators in the American kitchen, becoming a name synomous to cooking. In 1920 the old Tappan cast iron stove gave way to sheet steel and the modern range. In the 1940s the company name reverted back to the Tappan Stove Company and when it introduced the first commercial microwave oven in 1955 there was no need to take it door to door as Bill Tappan had done 75 years earlier. It was readily accepted as the quintessential American convenience.