Henry David Lee established the H.D. Lee Mercantile Company a wholesale grocery distributor in Salina, Kansas in 1889. His timing was perfect-meeting a major need in a region of the country where the population was growing exponentially.
– In 1895, Lee recognized the need to handle shipments of perishable goods and established Kansas & Cold Storage Company. The mercantile business also paved the way for the H.D. Lee Flour Mills, which made profitable use of the large amounts of grain received in trade.
– In 1912, unhappy with the quality and inconsistent delivery of workwear from suppliers, Lee decided his company could do better and opened a factory to sew overalls and jackets.
– In 1913, Lee introduced the Union-All work jumpsuit which quickly made Lee a household name and spurred the opening of manufacturing plants across the country.
– In 1920, the Buddy Lee doll was introduced to promote Lee overalls. Over the next 40 years, he became prominent in the promotions of each new product introduced by Lee
– Through the ’20s, Lee introduced many new innovations- from a stronger, more durable denim fabric for workwear to cowboy pants for working and rodeo cowboys. Most notably, Lee introduced the zipper fly in cowboy pants and zip-front overalls and coveralls. Throughout the ’30s and 40s Lee continued to build on their brand, becoming the nation’s #1 manufacturer of work clothes.
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