The History of Stall & Dean
Tragedy on the Factory Floor
In early May, 1903, Charles Dean's father, William, suffered a minor stroke, known at the time as an "apoplectic shock." On May 18, 1903, a second stroke killed William instantly as he walked the Brockton factory floor. He was 76 years old.
Innovate to Compete
Stall & Dean was entering a market where its competitors, Spalding, Reach, and Wright & Ditson, had been manufacturing athletic equipment for decades and earned a loyal following. In order to become more than a uniform maker, the new company had to introduce new equipment innovations to attract customers. The first such innovation was made possible through the licensing of patent rights to a unusual baseball bat design by Absalom Burrows. The hickory bat, trademarked as the "Biffer" (big hitter), had an eight-section rattan and ash handle that reduce vibration. The Biffer garnered national attention for Stall & Dean when major league players, including the American League batting champion Ty Cobb, made it their bat of choice. In 1901, Charles Dean patented a baseball mitt with a specially designed pocket to help retain the ball. In 1906, Walter Stall patented "pocket-forming orifice" improvements to the cushioned glove that became the blueprint for Stall & Dean's popular professional baseball glove line.
"Base Ball Bat" patent
Jan 29, 1895
Stall & Dean baseball goods advertisement, 1903
Stall & Dean's Chicago Factory, c. 1905
Avid athletes in their youth, Stall & Dean recognized the potential of the growing popularity of sport across the United States. Following their acquisition of the Brockton factory, the men set in motion a plan to expand Stall & Dean's product line and distribution market.
In an adjacent factory on Foundry Street, Irish immigrant Daniel (D.J.) Golden had been designing and producing athletic shoes for Golden & Corcoran since 1897. In 1900, Stall & Dean reached a partnership agreement with D.J. and his brother John to form "The Golden Sporting Shoe Company", one of the first American shoe companies solely dedicated to the production of athletic shoes. The two companies conducted their businesses separately, but Golden shoes would be marketed by Stall & Dean salesmen and distributed along with Stall & Dean's line of athletic goods until the early 1930's.
In December 1902, Stall & Dean opened a 12,000 square foot branch factory in Chicago, Illinois, "for supplying the Western trade." His strength in production management, Charles Dean moved to Chicago to oversee the new facility.
Charles Dean's father and brother William, remained in Brockton to manage Stall & Dean's expanded production facility. By 1902, the company occupied four buildings on Foundry Street, the original Dame, Stoddard, & Kendall factory (Harding knitting factory), the Golden Sporting Shoe facility, a distribution warehouse, and a new sporting goods production plant.
Meanwhile, the company's launch was well-timed to capitalize on the growing demand for football equipment. Despite mounting injuries and deaths on turn-of-the-century football fields, participation in football at the high school and college level was rapidly expanding. School administrators pressured athletic associations to improve player safety through rule changes and safety equipment. Stall & Dean patented and introduced a variety of padded football union suits and trousers that were considered superior to those of their competitors'. As more players and equipment managers sought out their catalogs to order uniforms and Golden shoes, Stall & Dean introduced them to their new football helmet line, which became popular alternatives to helmet manufactured by industry leaders A.G. Spalding & Bros. and Wright & Ditson.
Charles H. Dean, c.1905
Stall & Dean football helmets, 1905 Fall & Winter catalog
Stall & Dean union suits ad, 1905 Fall & Winter catalog
W.T. Stall patent illustrations, 1904
Boston Daily Globe, May 18, 1903
Golden Sporting Shoe Notice, Stall & Dean 1904 Spring & Summer Catalog
December 22, 2016
In 1905, Stall & Dean introduced a new line of black leather baseball gloves and mitts bearing a racially derogatory name. For the majority of the twentieth century this word has been universally viewed as an extremely offensive, racial slur; however, there are several examples of turn-of-the-century commercial products with a non-pejorative or neutral use of the word.
The fact that Stall & Dean used the word to describe their top product line suggests that its use, while racially insensitive, may have been without malice. Perhaps, due to recognition of the offensive nature of the word, the line was discontinued in 1911.
Back cover, Stall & Dean 1909 Spring & Summer catalog
October 2, 1906