View Slideshow

1843 George Henry Bass is born in Wilton, Maine, the fourth of six children, to Seth and Nancy Russell Bass.

1861 At age 18, G.H., as he is known, apprentices at the Wilton Tannery, a two-year term at $50 per year.

1863 He moves to Woburn, Mass., for six months to apprentice at the John Cummings leather factory.

1865 Seth Bass purchases the Wilton Tannery, and has G.H. run it.

1876 After a brief partnership, G.H. buys out one of his largest customers, shoemaker Foster, Packard & Co., and renames it G.H. Bass & Co. His first payroll shows eight employees producing three-dozen pairs a day. Bass travels via horse and cart to show farmers his samples and uses their feedback to improve the boots. Bass’ motto: “To make the best possible shoe for the purpose for which it will be used.”

1887 Bass moves his factory from Wilton to the banks of Wilson Stream in Farmington, Maine, and installs water-powered machinery.

1892 After farmers ask for an all-season boot, Bass introduces the National Plow Shoe, a two-buckle boot with an overlapping front and 5-inch shaft.

1900 John R. Bass, the second-oldest of G.H.’s four children, joins his father in the business. He is paid $9 a week.1906 Inspired by river drivers, trappers and loggers, the company creates its first moccasin, the “Bass Moccasin Cruiser,” with a flexible, waterproof moccasin bottom paired with a lace-up shaft.

1908 Willard S. Bass, G.H.’s eldest son, joins the company.

1910 The company patents the Rangeley moccasin, which pairs a light, flexible moccasin with a protective sole. The company begins developing product for outdoor enthusiasts — hikers, skiers, mountaineers, river guides — along with working men.

1918 The U.S. Air Force adopts a Bass boot as its official aviation shoe.

1925 G.H. Bass dies at age 82. Son Willard becomes president and son John, treasurer. The company factory is producing 800 to 900 pairs of shoes each day.

1927 Charles Lindbergh wears Bass boots on his historic flight from New York to Paris.

1928 Admiral Richard Byrd explores the South Pole in Bass boots.

1936 Esquire magazine founder Arnold Gingrich notices society gents in Palm Beach wearing slip-on shoes they purchased as souvenirs during salmon fishing trips to Norway. Gingrich commissions Bass to create the “Weejun” (a play on “Norwegian”) and signs on Manhattan department store Rogers Peet to carry them.

1940 Bass introduces the “Buc,” a laced version of the Weejun.

1942 Bass introduces the women’s Weejun, the Norjun.

1948 The U.S. Olympic team wears Bass footwear.

1951 The Weejun makes up 60 percent of Bass’ moccasin sales.

1956 Willard Bass dies; his nephews, George Henry Bass 2nd and Robert N. “Bunny” Bass, take over running the company with their father, John.

1962-69 Weejuns become immensely popular with college students, musicians and actors. Factories can’t keep up with demand and retailer deliveries are on an allocation system.

1968 Bass purchases Burgess Shoe Stores, which are renamed Bass Factory Outlet Stores.

1969 Bunny Bass, an avid skier, becomes company president and continues to build the company’s après-ski, boots and equipment businesses.

1977 Bass opens a stitching factory in Rumford, Maine.

1978 G.H. Bass II and Bunny Bass retire; the family sells G.H. Bass & Co. to Chesebrough-Ponds for $27 million.

1983 Michael Jackson wears a red varsity jacket, white socks and Weejuns in the opening of the “Thriller” video, sending demand for the classic penny loafers soaring again.

1982-1986 The company buys retailer The Shoe Box; California brands Fun Striders and Bare Traps; Eclisse Shoe Corp., and Foamhaven Co. Ltd. It also increases the number of retail stores, closes several New England factories, moves some production offshore and launches mail-order.

1986 Plagued by changing tastes, excess inventory and costs associated with production shifts, Bass posts a $28.5 million net loss.

1987 Phillips-Van Heusen purchases G.H. Bass & Co. for $79 million.

1989 Bass introduces the canvas Compass shoe. It becomes the fastest-selling shoe in company history, moving more than a million pairs by the end of 1990.

1997 Bass launches e-commerce.

1998 Owner Phillips-Van Heusen shutters the historic Wilson Stream factory, laying off 350 people.

2003 Brown Shoe Co. licenses the Bass name, and produces its footwear until 2006.

2013 G-III Apparel Group purchases G.H. Bass & Co. from PVH for roughly $50 million.

2016 G.H. Bass marks its 140th anniversary and plans to launch Hard Service, and expand the Weejun brand to include outerwear and bags.

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus