The Long Story
A Trip to Framingham
Business began to boom with the sale of The Traveler Shoe in Boston (the first store was located at 307 Washington St.) and The Waldorf Shoe in New York. These shoes were also sold to 'jobbers' wholesale at $1.85 and retailed in stores for only $2.50. They were a terrific success prompting a move to Springfield, MA where another factory was rented along with more retail stores.
Plagued by a lack of space in the Springfield factory, Mr. Long was quick to act when an opportunity arose. One day, as the story is often started, Mr. Long was riding a train through Framingham. Upon noticing a 'To Let' sign, he disembarked at the next stop, walked back to Framingham, and that day, signed a five year lease bringing his business and his growing family to Framingham, MA in 1902.
The history of a company often starts well before the official formation date just as a person's personality is formed by the events of many years. And so we start in 1889 when, at the age of 24, Richard H. Long took over the family shoe manufacturing business, John Long & Son, which had relocated from Weymouth to Braintree, MA during his father's lifetime.
There were many changes happening in the shoe and textile industries at this time. With the introduction of the electric sewing machine, the need for affordable electricity grew. R.H. Long, working closely with John Scollard and Thomas Watson, presented an application for the formation of a public power plant for the benefit of the people of Braintree. Construction was started and by October 1892 the Braintree Electric Light Company began operations saving the residents of Braintree millions of dollars.
In 1895, in order to expand business R.H. Long advertised throughout New England that "he would establish a business in any small town where the business men would provide a portion of the capital". Three businessmen from Belchertown, MA agreed to an investment of $10,000 each with Mr. Long furnishing the same amount and the R.H. Long Shoe Manufacturing Company was formed.
The Long Story
Building a Business and Fighting a War
In 1902 the lease of a factory in Framingham, MA answered the need for more space to continue the successful production of the Waldorf shoe. A rented home on Newton Place only two miles away allowed Mr. Long to easily commute to work. In just six minutes, by horse and buggy, this allowed him to eat dinner together with his family promptly at 6 pm every evening.
1905 was another year of change as the Long family welcomed their fifth child Charles Francis (more about him later) and the decision to purchase the 325 acres Nevins estate. This new estate provided for a grand family home called Longford in memory of their roots in Ireland. Longford was the pivot on which many happy family memories revolved. From exploring Mt. Waite aboard 'Nancy Hanks', the Shetland pony, to croquet competitions after supper. The home hosted generations of memorable family events.
The Nevins estate, located between Farm Pond and Reservoir No.2, also had the advantage of bordering the railroad and was undoubtedly ideal for the new five story modern factory building built on Fountain Street. Inside the factory, a well equipped lunchroom provided excellent meals at reasonable cost to workers. The factory also had a competent nurse on staff at all times in a stocked first-aid room should any emergency arise. Called a "temple of industry" at its formal dedication on January 12, 1910, the 103 year old reinforced concrete building still stands today.
The conditions that his employees lived and worked in were of great concern to Mr. Long. When he discovered that the local boarding rates had doubled with the influx of his workers, he took over the rental of the Kendall Hotel and provided a clean and safe environment at the usual rate of $5/week.
The issue of affordable electricity prompted Mr. Long to discuss the possibilities of Framingham establishing a public plant similar to what Braintree had accomplished. A committee was formed and, after investigation, it was recommended that the town proceed. Unfortunately, while the plan was publicly supported by all, private opposition caused the project to be defeated when it came up for vote.
It was during this time of growth that Mr. Long decided to take on the monopoly held by the United Shoe Machinery Company. United Shoe was for a time the only provider of certain stitching and welting machines needed in the shoe industry. Their contracts required that they be paid a royalty on every shoe made in a factory regardless of whether it was stitched on one of their machines or not. This effectively cut out any and all competition as no one could afford to pay both companies. As their control over the industry grew, so did the cost of doing business with them. Charges of up to 500% more than comparable products and the requirement of re-signing their 17-year lease whenever a machine needed repairs resulted in a strangulation hold on the business.
In 1906, Mr. Long appeared before members of the Massachusetts Senate to explain the reason why United Shoe's monopoly with its predatory conditions was so dangerous to the economy. When, what was often referred in the papers as the 'anti shoe-machinery act', was later referred to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, it was decided that although United Shoe's patents gave them the right to make certain conditions, they did not have the right to control the use of the articles made under those patents in what amounted to a perpetual lease and that the state itself had the authority to determine regulations. Governor Curtis Guild Jr. signed the bill in June of 1907 ending 'handcuff clauses' and paving the way for the Clayton Anti-Trust Act in 1914. This difficult, although ultimately successful experience can probably be considered the starting point of Mr. Long's interest in state politics.
Efforts by United Shoe to intimidate and destroy by inciting strikes, financial and personal attacks, and lawsuits caused great concern and expense but ultimately failed. In preparation for his complete separation with United Shoe, Mr. Long had invested funds with the Duplessis Machinery Company and developed an independent line of rapid stitcher. With the formation of the Framingham Shoe Company he was able to start using his own line of machines. With plenty of orders coming in and plenty of machines to make them with, the future seemed bright. But it was 1914 and events were about to happen that would change the course of the business and the lives of everyone in the world.