Maine: An Encyclopedia
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Bean, L. L.

Photo: Sculpture of L.L. Bean in Freeport, 2001

Sculpture of L.L. Bean in Freeport, 2001

Leon Leonwood Bean (1872-1967) was born and raised in Greenwood in rural Maine. Orphaned at an early age, he worked at odd jobs, including a stint on a farm in Hebron, and did as much hunting and fishing that he could.

It was not until he was 39 years old in 1911 that his business sense began to germinate. He claimed that he had invented a new light weight, dry, warm boot he called the “Maine Hunting Shoe.” Bean, working in his brothers dry goods store in Freeport, sent a brochure to holders of Maine hunting licenses promoting the footwear.

Luckily for the purchasers he had guaranteed satisfaction, since most of them sprung a leak. Luckily for Bean, his immediate refund of payment and decision to improve the design established a reputation for excellence that propelled his retail sales to new heights.

By 1917 the business outgrew his brothers store and by 1925, with added products and 25 employees, he was grossing $130,000 per year. For a view of Bean’s store in 1936, see this amateur film clip from the archives of Northeast Historic Film. During World War II Bean served as a consultant to the U.S. Army and Navy and received military contracts for boots and other products.

Photo: L.L. Bean Store in Freeport (2001)

L.L. Bean Store in Freeport (2001)

The current Freeport store was opened in 1951 and remains open around the clock, 365 days per year. The L. L. Bean company is over a $1 billion dollar a year international mail order business with over 16,000 products. More than 3.5 million people visit the store each year and over 4.5 million place orders from all over the world.

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Additional resources

“Bean Sticks To His Backyard,” Economist Magazine. August 4, 1990.

Bean, L. L. (Leon Leonwood), 1872-1966. Hunting, Fishing, and Camping. Bedford, MA Applewood Books; Saybrook, CT. Distributed by Globe Pequot Press, [1993]

Bean, L. L. (Leon Leonwood), 1872-1966. My Story: The Autobiography of a Down-East Merchant. Freeport, Me. L.L. Bean. c1960.

Carson, Thomas, ed. Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. Detroit, MI. Gale Group. c1999.

Montgomery, M.R. In Search of L.L. Bean. Boston. Little, Brown. 1984.

Witherell, James L. L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company: The Complete Story. Gardiner, Me. Tilbury House. c2011.

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This entry was last modified: October 30, 2016 08:39 PM

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