Henry Lee was born in Vermont on December, 9, 1849. As a young man he went to find a job in Ohio and in his thirties he was already an owner of a successful company called Galions central oil company that was selling kerosene. However, as Henry Lee turned 40 oil business bored him and he sold his company to one of the Rockefellers. Lee went to Kansas where he established his new company called Lee Mercantile Co. and started to sell everything that earned profit food, dry goods, school supplies and overalls. In 1909 Henry Lee bought a monopoly right for food supplies and settled down to a quiet life.
However his worldwide fame he owes to his overalls shop opened in 1889. That year he also created a new model of customized jeans that was called Lee. Soon the company came up in the world stepping on the toes of Levis brand. The rivalry escalated when Henry Lee opened his own garment factory. 1911 the company presented a jump suit with shoulder-straps an irreplaceable piece of clothes for farmers, railmen and factory workers. 1913 the first close jump suit called Lee Overall appeared and immediately became popular throughout the United States. By 1915 Lees company became so successful that it opened the second factory for military uniform clothing, and in 1917 when America entered the World War Lees clothes became official uniform of rifle brigades. In 1919 the third factory was opened this time for sewing army uniform, overalls for workers and dolls clothes. One of the dolls called Buddie Lee was used as a trademark an innovative advertising project for those times! Buddies was wearing a Lee Overalls and was associated with a typical customer of the company a 17-20 year old young man, a charming adventurer. The doll was beaten with bats, thrown out from a plane, thrown into water but the jeans stayed like new ones.
In 1921 Lee presented the first uniform coat called Loco Jacket and meant for rail workers. And three years after legendary Lee Rider jeans appeared. They were made from the most solid denim and represented genuine cowboy jeans. Another revolution happened in 1926 the first custom tailored jeans with a zipper were manufactured by Lee and called 101Z Lee. A zipper decorated a jeans jacket as well; this model was known as 91 and remained popular until 1980s.
Henry Lee died in 1928. About 2000 employees were working on his factories and the capital of the company was more than 13 million dollars. However, Henry Lees death didnt harm the success of his creation. Even in the years of Great Depression the company released new innovative models of customized denim. In 1931 the company presented the first classical custom jeans jacket 101J model. It was meant for cowboys and had a button fastener, fitted cut, wide belt and cuffs, two side and two breast buttoned pockets. The pocket openings were situated at an angle, so that the cowboy could put the opposite hand in his pocket even while riding a horse. The jacket could be worn under a long raincoat.
In 1933 fabulous Storm Rider jacket appeared. That was actually a winter variant of 101J model with a velvet collar and a coldproof lining. It became unprecedentedly popular in the United States and was worn by Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and John F. Kennedy.
In 1937 the economical crisis was finally over and six factories of the company manufactured the clothes which sales volume exceeded 6,5 million dollars. Two years later the company became the leader among uniform wear manufacturers in the USA. In 1943 Lees company got a new name H. D. Lee Co. and a well-known trademark stitching on the back pockets of jeans lying S- appeared in 1944.
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