Leon Leonwood Bean : biography
Leon Leonwood Bean (October 13, 1872 – February 5, 1967) was an American inventor, author, outdoor enthusiast, and founder of the company L.L.Bean.
Foundation of L.L.Bean
Bean was an avid hunter and fisherman. In his outdoor activities he noticed that his boots would become soaked with water. Bean set out to resolve this inconvenience, and developed plans for a waterproof boot. The boot was a combination of lightweight leather for the upper part of the boot and rubber on the bottom He brought the plans to a cobbler, and the first boots were made. Bean felt the boot produced to be of good quality, and obtained a list of non-resident Maine hunting license holders and prepared a descriptive mail order circular. He promised 100% money back for anyone who was unhappy with the boots. Because of this, Bean had to refund 90% of the costs of the first 100 sets of boots made, when the rubber on the bottom developed cracks Bean seemed not to mind returning the money, and the popularity of the boots was clear. In 1911, Bean took out a loan in the amount of $400 and set off to Boston. In Boston, he offered the United States Rubber Company the remainder of his $400 to produce a better quality of boot for him. With the better quality boots available, Bean set up a boot shop in his brother's basement in Freeport, Maine. His skills and trials as an entrepreneur, along with his promise to return 100% money back on all items, were detailed by many local and national newspapers of the time. By 1917, he had sold enough of his boots to buy a dedicated building for his shop on the main street of Freeport. In 1918, Bean realised the importance of patenting his invention. As the patent was granted, he moved on to inventing and improving more outdoor equipment and expanding his store to what L.L.Bean is today.
Bean was born in the town of Greenwood, Maine on October 13, 1872 to Benjamin Warren Bean and Sarah (Swett) Bean. According to a grandson of Leon L. Bean, the latter's middle name may have been originally "Linwood" and accidentally changed to "Leonwood". In fact, in the Freeport Town Clerk's Report for the 1898-1899 period, a "Leon Linwood Bean" married a "Bertha Davis Porter" on September 28, 1898. Town of Freeport, Town Records for 1898-1899, Town Clerk's Report, p. 88.
He had five brothers. Bean's interest in business was shown early, with his first money earned when he was nine years old. He was told he could attend the local fair or sell steel traps to his father, and Bean decided to sell the traps. When Bean was 12 years of age, his parents died only four days apart from each other. He moved to South Paris, Maine to stay with family. When Bean was 13 years old, he killed and sold his first deer. His education was limited. Bean's schooling outside of public school include only one semester at Hebron Academy, and a course in business at Kents Hill School. Bean paid for the limited amount of schooling he completed by himself.
Death and legacy
Bean died in Pompano Beach, Florida, on February 5, 1967, at the age of 94. He was buried in Freeport's Webster Road Cemetery.Rogak, Lisa (2004), Stones and Bones of New England: A guide to unusual, historic, and otherwise notable cemeteries, Globe Pequat ISBN 0-7627-3000-5 At the time of his death, the annual sales of his company were in the hundreds of millions. Company policy of giving 100% money back on returned products still applies today.
Maine Medical Center has named one of its wings in his honor. In addition, his portrait hangs in a ground-floor corridor at the hospital.
As an author
Bean published a book in 1942, called Hunting, Fishing and Camping and an autobiography, in 1960, called My Story: the Autobiography of a Down-East Merchant."
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