Bean Bros. Sporting Goods

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Bean Bros. Sporting Goods

Postby mikesglove » September 9th, 2014, 7:15 pm

One of five brothers, Leon Leonwood Bean was an outdoorsman by the age of 8 and also had a keen business sense. in 1895 while still in his teens, he went to work in his older brother Otho's dry goods store as a clerk. The store was in Auburn ME. and was called "Bean Bros." The brothers also had stores in Yarmouth, Freeport and Saco. Leon worked in the Auburn and Freeport stores. The photo below shows L.L. on the left with Otho in the middle and Guy on the right
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Leon developed a waterproof hunting boot around 1911 in the basement of his brothers Freeport store. He began marketing the L.L. Bean Maine Hunting Boot in 1912 and rented space in the second floor and later the third floor of a building in Freeport as a factory. Leon mailed flyers advertising his boots to every hunting license holder in Maine. It was a pretty smart strategy and his boots were a big hit and with their lifetime guarantee, Leon saw immediate success. He eventually expanded his brochure into hunting, fishing and camping equipment catalog mailings and in the 1920's added clothing and sporting goods to his product line. The factory was used from 1912 till about 1990. it was pretty amazing. Even in this 1930's photo one can see the various additions added on to the back of the building to expand operations. There were inside and outside stairs and many jury-rigged modifications made to the second and third floors. The first floor contained a post office which was convenient for a mail order business. There were various chutes built directing packages from the second floor shipping room directly into the post office below. it also didn't hurt that the Postmaster was L.L. Bean's brother Guy.

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There are only a few baseball gloves that have surfaced so far that carry the "Bean Bros" logo, possibly because of the early regional nature of the business. I would assume most of the existing gloves are still in the New England area. The first photo is from the Museum display at the newly built Freeport L.L. Bean Flagship store. The glove appears to be a 1920's tunnel loop model
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This photo is a glove from Brett's collection. Cool outseams between the fingers.
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The next glove made it about a mile from the Main St. Freeport store were it stayed for the next 90+ years. its a cool 1" web model with a great patch.
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Babe Ruth was an avid outdoorsman and was a big fan of the L.L. Bean store as his autographed picture attests.
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The person below is holding a "Bean Bros." bat purported to be used by Ruth in an exhibition game circa 1922. It was on "Antiques Roadshow" a while back
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Below is a pristine "Bean Bros." bat from that period.
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The letter below is from Ted Williams in 1960. He was another big fan of the L.L. Bean store and offered to buy the business as part of his sporting goods enterprise.
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mikesglove
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Re: Bean Bros. Sporting Goods

Postby vintagebrett » September 10th, 2014, 7:34 am

Thanks for the great write up Mike. It's interesting that you posted pictures of the stores as they progressed thru time. If you travel to Freeport now, it's not really a store anymore, it's a sprawling complex. The Bean Bros glove was always on my want list as my family traveled to the store at least once a year growing up (and we still continue to this day). My mom used to tell me stories of stopping there at 2am as a little kid when they were traveling to Acadia national park - the store was and continues to be open 24 hours. And those boots you mentioned are really great!
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Re: Bean Bros. Sporting Goods

Postby mikesglove » September 10th, 2014, 1:12 pm

I think the store began opening 24 hours a day back in the 1950's to accommodate outdoorsmans and hunters who wanted to pick up supplies for an early start. Below is a photo of the main St. store after extensive additions and remodeling in the 1960's.

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The photos below show a couple of the new L.L.Bean buildings. It is so sprawling that it is now called a "campus".
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