Naturalizer Shoes BiographySource (google.com.pk )
Brown Shoe Company, Inc., is a retailer, wholesaler, and licenser of men's, women's, and children's footwear. Brown operates 900 retail stores in the United States under the names Famous Footwear, Supermarket of Shoes, Warehouse of Shoes, and Factory Brand Shoes. Naturalizer, the company's flagship brand of women's shoes, supports a chain of nearly 400 retail outlets in North America. The company's wholesale division markets branded, licensed, and private label footwear to mass merchandisers and department stores throughout the country. Buster Brown & Co., which represents the company's children's footwear business, markets Buster Brown shoes as well as other brands geared toward children. Brown operates online through Shoes.com, which features more than 150 footwear brands.
A 19th-Century Shoe Manufacturer
Brown Shoe Company began as a shoe manufacturing concern. George Warren Brown moved to St. Louis from New York in 1873 to work in his older brother's wholesale shoe business. While working as a traveling salesman, Brown came to see great potential in the St. Louis area for shoe manufacturing. At that time, shoes were primarily manufactured on the East Coast. Skilled workers in New England factories made shoes that were then shipped to jobbers at points west. Brown believed that shoes could be made more cheaply in St. Louis than in the established East Coast factories. After working for four years in his brother's wholesale business, Brown had accumulated enough capital to test his idea. With two other investors, Alvin L. Bryan and Jerome Desnoyers, Brown founded Bryan, Brown and Company to make women's shoes. Brown paid five skilled shoemakers from Rochester, New York, to come to St. Louis and start the factory. The company grew rapidly. In its first year, 1878, the company had sales of $110,000. In 1881, the company incorporated as the Bryan Brown Shoe Company. In 1893, Desnoyers retired, and the name was changed to The Brown Shoe Company. In 1885, when Bryan sold his interest, the name was changed to Brown-Desnoyers Shoe Company. Brown shoes were sold all over the Midwest at prices lower than those of the older New England shoe firms. By 1900, the company was growing at a rate of $1 million a year, and St. Louis was becoming known as a major shoe manufacturing center.
Also in 1900, Brown Shoe contributed $10,000 to the St. Louis World's Fair, a gala event that put a spotlight on the Missouri town. The company put up a model shoe plant at the fair, and this exhibit won Brown a grand prize. Another exhibitor at the fair was the cartoonist R. Fenton Outcault, creator of the popular comic strips The Yellow Kid and Buster Brown. A young Brown executive, John A. Bush, made a lasting contribution to his company by buying the rights to the Buster Brown character in 1904. The little blond boy and his dog Tige became the emblem of the Brown Shoe Company children's line. In addition to printing the Buster logo on its shoe boxes, the company hired 20 little people to dress as Buster Brown and tour the country. Buster and Tige played in theaters, shoe stores, and department stores across the country to much popular acclaim.
While some youngsters were applauding the Buster Brown little people, others were at work in Brown Shoe factories under deplorable conditions for extremely low pay. Because the cost of plant equipment and materials was relatively fixed, Brown Shoe had to make its profits by keeping its labor costs as low as possible. As manufacturing became more mechanized, shoe factory jobs became less skilled. Increasingly, shoe manufacturing jobs were filled by women and children, who could be paid less than men. For example, a 1911 survey of St. Louis shoe workers found more than half to be between the ages of 14 and 19. Some 84 percent of the women and close to 70 percent of the men were under age 24. An average wage for a girl under 16 was less than $10 per week. More shoe manufacturers had followed George Warren Brown's example and set up shoe factories in St. Louis, making the industry extremely competitive. Under these conditions, the wage paid to shoe workers spiraled down.
By 1902, Brown Shoe was operating five factories in St. Louis. In 1907, the company started its first "out of town" plant, in nearby Moberly, Missouri. Several St. Louis shoe companies began manufacturing in surrounding rural towns because of the cheaper labor available in those areas.
In response to the poor working conditions at Brown and in other St. Louis-area shoe factories, workers formed unions. The first was the moderate Boot and Shoe Workers Union; the second was the more radical United Shoe Workers of America, associated with the International Workers of the World. Bitter strikes led to increasing militancy among St. Louis shoe workers. George Warren Brown responded by becoming a local leader of the Citizens Industrial Association, a nationwide anti-union propaganda organization that maintained blacklists against union sympathizers. The best way to fight the unions, however, proved to be to leave St. Louis.
The small towns around St. Louis offered many advantages to the Brown Shoe Company. It was standard at that time for a town that wanted a shoe factory to offer to build one for a company and exempt the company from paying taxes. In return, the company would agree to pay out a certain amount of money in wages over a five- or ten-year period. After the stipulated amount of wages had been paid, the company had no more obligation to the town. There were always more towns willing to subsidize a new shoe factory. While Brown's management remained headquartered in St. Louis, the company opened factories in many rural towns in Missouri and Illinois. Each town's economy became dependent on the shoe factory, and pro-company sentiments within the factory towns created a hostile climate for union organizers. The distance between the factories also made union organization more difficult than it had been in the condensed St. Louis shoe district.
Regardless of worker discontent, the Brown Shoe Company grew. In 1907, the company moved its headquarters to a stately building in downtown St. Louis. In 1913, Brown was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. With the entrance of the United States into World War I in 1917, Brown Shoe won profitable army contracts.
The company stumbled in 1920, however, when a sudden change in women's fashions caught Brown by surprise. Hemlines went up, and Brown was left with an overstock of sturdy high-topped shoes that did not go with the new look at all. John Bush, who had bought the Buster Brown logo rights and then worked his way up to president in 1915, when George Warren Brown became chairman of the board, had to go to Boston before he found a bank that would give the company credit. After this crisis, however, Brown Shoe boomed until the stock market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression set in.
Labor Strife Reaches Peak During Great Depression
During the Depression, Brown Shoe struggled to keep its costs down, which meant that workers' wages suffered. A National Labor Relations Board investigation at Brown's Salem, Illinois, plant found that workers were sometimes drawing checks for as low as $2.50 and $3.00 for a 60-hour week. Workers protested worsening conditions in Brown's factories, but the company's management grew more abusive. President Franklin D. Roosevelt drafted the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933 to force industries to standardize wages and prices and thus alleviate the workers' downward wage spiral. Two years later, the Wagner Act guaranteed all U.S. workers the right to organize into unions and to strike. Brown's management, however, remained adamantly anti-union. When workers at the Vincennes, Indiana, factory struck for recognition of their union in 1933, Brown closed the plant. William Kaut, the company's general manager in St. Louis, declared that "The intention of the Brown Shoe Company is to do as much for their help as any shoe industry in the United States ... and when Brown Shoe Company does its part and even more and if the help are then not satisfied, there is only one thing left to do and that is to close the mill." What the Brown Shoe Company was doing for its help, however, reportedly included physical intimidation of union organizers, spying on and infiltrating workers' organizations, and hiring a notorious strike-breaking agency, in addition to its policy of closing down "troublesome" plants.
Eventually, Brown attracted national attention when a union representative in Sullivan, Illinois, narrowly escaped being tarred and feathered in September 1935, and the Illinois Federation of Labor forced a grand-jury investigation. No indictments resulted, but the Regional Labor Board in St. Louis later issued a complaint, citing Brown for unfair labor practices and for using officers and agents of the company to intimidate employees. The hearing that followed revealed that John A. Bush had hired the A.A. Ahner detective agency in 1934. Bush testified that he did not know that Ahner was a strike-breaking agency, but Ahner was in fact known as such in St. Louis. In 1929, he had been implicated in an attempted bombing connected with anti-union work. Although Ahner himself claimed he was not hired to break unions, a report in the Nation on January 29, 1936 noted that termination of Ahner's connection with the shoe company coincided with the dissolution of most of the locals of the Boot and Shoe Workers' Union in Brown plants.
It was not only physical threats and the economic threat of plant shut-downs that led many union locals to disband. The Labor Board hearings revealed that Brown had kept a paid spy in its Sullivan factory. The spy turned out to be the former head of the union local. After urging workers into an ill-timed strike, he then incited his union's members to burn the union charter and disband. He was later overheard telephoning Brown headquarters to report his success. Attacked from within and without, most of the Boot and Shoe Workers Union locals at Brown plants folded, because workers were desperate to hang on to their jobs. Brown sometimes closed its plants temporarily, later to rehire only workers who had had no union involvement.
The National Labor Relations Board cited Brown in 1936 for violating