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W.L. Douglas Shoe Company

 







  In 1876 William Lewis Douglas, who became Governor of Massachusetts, borrowed $875 in order to open his own shoe factory. One critical decision he made in establishing the business was that he would sell the shoes he manufactured through his own line of retail outlets, rather than shipping them to other retailers or intermediaries. His business grew rapidly: every few years the factory's output doubled, and by 1892 he was making 3,600 shoes per day. By the early 1900s his factory was the largest shoe manufactory in the world. The retail side of the business also grew: the first store opened in 1894, and by 1900 there were 55 stores nationwide.

Douglas was one of the first shoe manufacturers to widely advertise his products. He stamped the soles of his shoes with his own image (a use he took up after he saw P. T. Barnum's advertising), making it one of the most recognized likenesses of the time.

Douglas' workers were members of the Boot and Shoe Workers' Union, which in 1899 sharply raised its dues in order to finance improved benefits and welfare funds. The rank and file were unhappy with this increase, and the dispute threatened the company's ability to label its products with the union stamp. Douglas, who had a reputation as a fair employer, worked with the union to ensure his employees paid the higher dues.

 

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Last modified: Saturday, 16 June 2018