Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

Harvard Business School Baker Library Historical Collections

Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Brown Shoe Co., Inc. - Lehman Brothers Collection

Brown Shoe Co., Inc.

List of Deals

In 1878 George Warren Brown, Alvin L. Bryan, and Jerome Desnoyers founded a women's shoes manufacturing company called Bryan, Brown and Company. Desnoyers retired in 1893, and the company's name was changed to Brown Shoe Company.

By 1900 the company's sales had reached $4 million. At that time John Bush, a Brown Shoe executive, acquired the rights to the Buster Brown cartoon character. This character would remain the company's signature logo for decades. The company's early marketing scheme involved a traveling show of performers dressed as Buster Brown, the company's mascot, who put on shows in theaters, shoe stores, and department stores. Brown Shoe pioneered the idea of marketing specific shoe brands to retailers, rather than the traditional method of traveling store-to-store with samples of every shoe manufactured by the company.

Brown Shoe Company's run-ins with unions began in 1907 when the company opened its first plant outside of St. Louis in response to increased union activity in its existing urban plants. For twenty years following this, the company pursued a policy of opening factories in rural areas, where there was little to no union activity. Brown Shoe began hiring women and children in 1911, as labor costs were increasing and it was legal to pay women and children less than men. More than half of the shoe workers in St. Louis were between the ages of fourteen and nineteen. During the Depression in the 1930s, the company lowered its costs by lowering the wages it paid to its workers.

The company was incorporated in New York in 1913, and went public on the New York Stock Exchange that same year. World War I brought a business boon to the company, as it won contracts to supply shoes to the U.S. troops. The company's second brand of shoes, Naturalizer, was introduced in 1927. Other Brown Shoe brands included Buster Brown, Brownbilt, Tread Straight, Blue Ribbon, and Connie.

Harvard Business School Harvard Business School Baker Library Histrorical Collections