When it comes to the Stetson brand, think shoes, not hats

When it comes to the Stetson brand, think shoes, not hats

Since we are digging deeper into the Stetson story, this is a good time to address the ten-gallon hat in the room. 

Everyone's first association with the Stetson name is with the John B. Stetson hat brand, that icon of the American West and American popular culture. 

John Batterson Stetson opened his hat factory in Philadelphia in 1865. He was an eighth-generation Stetson family member descended from Cornet Robert Stetson through his son Robert Stetson Jr., a younger brother of the Joseph Stetson that originated our Stetson line.

That makes him a seventh cousin of the deacon Josiah T. Stetson, up in Maine. John B. had a genius for brand marketing and popular culture that drove his company's spectacular success over a century and a half of American history.

Far less known but still well remembered in its home region of southeast Massachusetts was another Stetson consumer brand, the E. H. Stetson Shoe Company. 

From the Biographical Review of Deacon Josiah T. Stetson, published in 1897, we learn the following about his second-born son (third child).

Ezra Stetson went to South Weymouth, Mass., to work in the shoe business, first with L. Heald, and later with H. B. Reed & Co. Faithfully attending to his duties, he soon became superintendent of Reed's large factory, which position he held until he engaged in business for himself as senior partner of the firm of E. H. Stetson & Co., shoe manufacturers. 

The town of Weymouth was the center of the Massachusetts shoe-making industry that was just becoming mechanized in the mid-nineteenth century. It was also nearby to Pembroke, Mass., where Ezra's family had come from before settling in Maine. 

Herbert Stetson was visiting with his wife and daughter at the home of Ezra Stetson in South Weymouth on April 1924, when he suddenly took ill and died. 

Ezra Stetson was a lesser-light manufacturer than his distant cousin John B. Stetson, but his career had a similar trajectory. I'll look into it more deeply if it seems worthwhile. For now, enjoy this photo slideshow of Stetson Shoe Co. history.