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History of Business'

The Brown Shoe Company, one of the most important manufacturing interests not only of St. Louis but also in connection with the shoe trade of the country, had its origin in November, 1878, being organized by George Warren Brown, who associated with him A. L. Bryan and J. B. Desnoyers. The business was organized under the name of Bryan-Brown & Company in November, 1878. Mr. Brown had already become thoroughly familiar with the shoe trade, serving as shipping clerk with Hamilton-Brown & Company, of which his brother was a partner, and afterward representing that company as a traveling salesman upon the road. The business was capitalized for twelve thousand dollars, of which about one-third was invested in shoe machinery, lasts, patterns and other equipment. The first employes of the company were five expert shoe workers from Rochester, New York, and in order to persuade these men to remove to St. Louis it was necessary to furnish railroad fare. Soon thereafter real "Rochester finish" fine shoes were being made for the first time in St. Louis. The growth of the business was remarkable from the beginning. Within less than a year the factory was removed from its first location at 104 South Eighth street to larger quarters in the Cupples building at Eighth and Walnut streets, where the company occupied the top floor of the building but not long afterward secured the next floor below, while still later a third floor was required to meet the demands of this growing concern, and the owner of the building, Samuel Cupples, erected an additional story for the use of the firm of Bryan-Brown & Company. The success of this company constituted the influence that caused the second successful concern to establish shoe manufacturing in St. Louis and from time to time other shoe manufacturing enterprises have been added until in the present year (1920) shoe manufacturing is not only the largest industry of the city but "St. Louis make shoes" are known and sold throughout the entire United States and are being sent in ever increasing volume to all parts of the world. Thus this pioneer company in a more pronounced way than any other had to do with creating the great shoe industry of which St. Louis is now so Justly proud. In 1878 the St. Louis shoe market consisted of a number pf wholesale shoe houses selling eastern made goods. In the decade preceding several small shoe manufacturing ventures had been established but for want of capital or business management, or perhaps of both, most of them had passed out of existence and in 1878 St. Louis contained three or four small factories using the shoe making machinery of that day. All of these, however, within a few years had gone the way of their predecessors. In 1880 the business established by Mr. Brown was incorporated as a stock company, thus making it possible for employes to befcome interested in the earnings of the business. Theirs was the first St. Louis shoe concern to incorporate, which plan of organization proved so popular as to become practically universal within a short time. The company also adopted the open shop plan of operation, which it has adhered to since. Soon after this the company's warerooms and offices were moved to the southwest corner of Seventh and St. Charles streets, there occupying a new seven-story building.
In 1885 A. L. Bryan, then vice president of the company, retired on account of ill health and soon thereafter the name was changed to Brown-Desnoyers Shoe Company. In 1886 the growth of the business again demanded larger quarters 'and another removal was then made to 805 Washington avenue. By 1890 the business had grown to such an extent that it was again necessary to secure larger accommodations and the company leased the southwest corner of Eleventh and Washington avenue, occupying one-third of the block now utilized by the Rice-Stix Dry Goods Company. For several years the upper floors were utilized for manufacturing purposes and the lower floors for warehouse and offices. Later, however, the entire building was required for warehouse and offices, at which time The President plant at the southeast corner o£ Eighteenth and Washington streets was built and the upper half occupied by The Capital factory, making high grade shoes for women. The lower half was given over to The President factory, making high grade shoes for men. A little later the Homestake plant at Twelfth and Russell avenue was built and this was followed by the Blue Ribbon plant at Jefferson and Mullanphy, while others were added as the business of the company increased.
In 1893 J. B. Desnoyers, then vice president, retired from the company, which was reorganized under the name of The Brown Shoe Company. The business thereafter grew with rapid strides and during the last year of the occupancy of the building at Eleventh and Washington avenue the trade amounted to more than eight million dollars. In 1905 it became apparent that the requirements of the company's growing trade made it necessary to provide a new building. Accordingly during that year negotiations were consummated for erecting the White House block on Washington avenue, Seventeenth and St. Charles streets and Robbins Lane. Two-thirds of this block was taken over as the original White House building of the Brown Shoe Company, providing more than three and one-half acres of floor space. On the 1st of January, 1907, the company opened to their customers and friends the White House, the occasion being made a memorable one. The large lobby of the first floor was beautifully decorated with palms and cut flowers, many of which were contributed by competitors and other wholesale houses of St. Louis. A reception was held and refreshments served, and the guests of that occasion numbered many foremost citizens, while addresses were made by Ex-Governor D. R. Francis, E. C. Simmons, Colonel George W. Parker, Rev. Dr. Napthali Luccock, Hon. C V. Anderson and A. B. Groves, the architect. The guests were then shown over the building and thus was dedicated to commerce the White House building of St. Louis, used for -the sales headquarters, general and executive offices of the company and for the assembling and distributing of shoes produced in all the factories of the company. This building was then the largest and finest occupied by any shoe house for the same purpose in America. It is strictly fireproof and contains labor-saving equipments which produce both economies and rapid execution, these being unique features of the White House alone. The architectural beauties of this building both within and without, with the ivory white tile exterior, make it the most complete and impressive shQe building in the world.
The company was reorganized January 2, 1913, under the laws of the state of New York, as the Brown Shoe Company, Incorporated, with a capital stock of ten million dollars, represented by preferred stock of four million and common stock of six million. Mr. Brown was president of the first incorporated organization in 1880 and so continued until May 18, 1915, a period of thirty-five years. He then resigned the position and was elected chairman of the board of directors, in which position he continues to the present time and is also a member of the executive committee. The present officers And directors of the company are as follows: G. W. Brown, chairman of the board; John A. Bush, president; E. R. McCarthy, vice president; G. A. Bull, vice president; T. P. Moody, vice president; P. O'Brien, vice president; H. L. Tomes, vice president; William Krail, secretary; H. S. Hutchins, treasurer; Joseph H. Roblee; Walter B. Sachs; G. E. Southwick; E. F. Shaw; T. F. James; G. M. Shanklin; A. G. McGaghey; and W. E Tarlton.
The Brown Shoe Company, Incorporated, occupied in 1920 the entire block, the east third having been taken over in 1918, and the White House headquarters is one of the show places of St. Louis and a wholesome inspiration to every traveling salesman of the company, as well as to buyers, visitors and employes. This building contains five and four-tenths acres of floor space, which provides room not only to handle the company's requirements for offices, salesrooms, shipping rooms and stock floors for ready-to-wear shoes but here also are now located all the buyers' offices, printing and advertising departments. The Central Shoe Company branch occupies the modern new fireproof building, opposite the White House, at Seventeenth and Washington avenue. Seven large plants of the company are located in St. Louis and six are located in the St. Louis shoe zone in Missouri and Illinois, the buildings affording approximately thirty acres of floor space, while the company's shipments for 1920 are expected to reach forty million dollars. About eight thousand employes are now on the pay roll. Two hundred and fifty salesmen sell the company's goods all over the United States and in many foreign countries, including China, India and other sections of the far east. The highest principles have ever been maintained in the conduct of the business and it has always been the policy of the house to manifest an interest in the individual employes and reward their fidelity, capability and loyalty by promotion as opportunity has offered. Thus almost all who are now directors of the company and heads of departments have worked up from humble positions in the company's employ.
(Source: Centennial History of Missouri, One Hundred Years in the Union, 1820-1921, Vol. V, Published 1921)


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