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George Warren Brown, a traveling salesman for shoe firm Hamilton-Brown & Company, had a lot of time to think on the road. In the 1870s Hamilton-Brown & Company sold shoes produced on the East Coast—then considered the country’s shoe capital—and shipped them to the Midwest. What was puzzling was that no one made shoes in the Midwest, even though most of the supplies for them were shipped to the East Coast from the West. As Valerie Battle Kienzle writes in her book Ready to Wear: A History of the Footwear and Garment Industries in St. Louis, “St. Louis’ central location provided ready access to such supplies.” Brown had an idea.

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