Collection SCA173 - Kaufman Family collection.

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Kaufman Family collection.

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Kaufman Footwear was founded as Kaufman Rubber Co. in Berlin, Ontario (now Kitchener) in 1907 by Jacob Ratz Kaufman. The plant opened in 1908 with 350 employees and produced rubber footwear for both domestic and foreign markets. After Jacob Kaufman's death in 1920, his son, A.R. Kaufman, became president of the company until 1964, when he retired to become Chairman of the Board. During this time the company's product line expanded to include rubber clothing for industry, such as fishermen, miners and policemen.

The company eventually began to manufacture footwear not necessarily made from rubber, the most popular being "Foamtread" slippers, which were introduced in 1953. In 1954 Kaufman became "a pioneer in the slush-molding of waterproof footwear from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) under the name Showertogs." ("Wm. H. Kaufman, Inc", leaflet.), and also began manufacturing leather workboots. The Sorel line of winter sport/work boots, introduced in 1959, became its most successful product line.

In 1964 the Kaufman Rubber Co. changed its name to Kaufman Footwear Ltd., then to Kaufman Footwear Inc. in 1973 when William H. Kaufman became Chairman of the Board in his father A.R. Kaufman's place. In 1961 Kaufman purchased L.H. Packard & Co. of Montreal, and in 1966 purchased Prospect Shoes Ltd. of Sherbrooke, Qu├ębec, only two of several companies in Canada and the United States owned and operated by Kaufman. After A.R. Kaufman's death in 1979 Kaufman Footwear became Kaufman Footwear, division of William H. Kaufman Inc. Irvin Weber became president of the footwear division in 1986, followed by John Loucks in 1991. In 1997 Tom Kaufman, son of William H. Kaufman, was named president. In 2000 Kaufman Footwear declared bankruptcy.

The Kaufman Rubber Co. plant at the corner of Victoria and King. St. in Kitchener, Ont. was designated in 1996 by the Kitchener LACAC as architecturally and historically significant. The industrial complex was designed by Albert Kahn, "foremost industrial architect" of the early 20th century. (Industrial Artifacts Project, "A history of the Kaufmans and their rubber company," 2001.)

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Biographical history

Alvin ("A.R.") Kaufman was an industrialist and philanthropist. He was born to Jacob Kaufman and Mary Eidt Ratz in Berlin (Kitchener), Ontario on February 11, 1885. He was raised alongside his three siblings; Emma Ratz Kaufman, Milton Ratz Kaufman, and Edna Louise Kaufman.

In 1907, Alvin Ratz and his father Jacob Kaufman formed the Kaufman Rubber Company Limited, which continued as the Kaufman Footwear division of William H. Kaufman Incorporated until 2000 when the company declared bankruptcy.

Following the example set by his parents, Jacob and Mary Kaufman, Alvin Ratz supported, both personally and financially, many community organizations in the Kitchener area as well as endeavours to which he was philosophically committed, such as birth control.

He was Chairman of the Kitchener Planning Board for 36 years, served on the Kitchener Parks Board for more than 40 years, was a member of the Kitchener Hospital Board, was president of the YMCA for 13 years, was a member of the founding Board of Governors of the University of Waterloo, and served in various capacities for Zion Church in Kitchener.

Alvin Ratz Kaufman founded the Parents' Information Bureau in 1935 to distribute birth control information. One of the field-workers he hired, Dorothea Palmer, was arrested in 1936 in Ottawa under the obscenity provisions of the Criminal Code. She was acquitted in a landmark verdict that declared her work to be 'for the public good." In 1976, Alvin Ratz was honoured by the Planned Parenthood Federation of Ontario for his work in birth control and family planning.

Alvin Ratz married Jane Helen "Jean" Hutton on August 12, 1911 and together they had four children; Helen Mary Kaufman, William Hutton Kaufman, Edward Kaufman (deceased in infancy) and Sally Jean. Kaufman was remarried in 1972, following Jean's death, to C. Elspath "Beth" Hall, who died shortly after their nuptials. He was married for a third time to Ruth Samson.

Alvin Ratz died on February 1, 1979 and was buried in Woodland Cemetery.

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Biographical history

William "Bill" Hutton Kaufman was a third-generation businessman, philanthropist and community volunteer in Kitchener, Ontario. He was born on March 19, 1920 to Alvin ("A.R.") Kaufman and Jane Helen "Jean" Hutton in Kitchener, Ontario. He received his education in Kitchener and at the University of Toronto. He served as an RCAF flying instructor during WWII, and after the war ran Kaufman Furniture in Collingwood, Ontario. He succeeded his father as president of Kaufman Rubber Co. Ltd. (later renamed Kaufman Footwear) in 1964, after having worked in the company since 1952. In 1973 he again succeeded his father, this time as Chairman of the Board. In 1979 several companies were amalgamated to form William H. Kaufman Inc. William H. Kaufman stepped down as president in 1986 but remained as Board Chairman.

William H. Kaufman followed the example of his father and grandfather in his service to the community. In 1955 he became a member of the Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital Commission and in 1974 became the Chairman on the Waterloo Region District Health Council, serving for 35 years until 1990. The YMCA also benefited from his participation for more than 35 years: in 1954 he became a board member, served as president from 1978 to 1981, helped fund the A.R. Kaufman YMCA in 1982 and was named Honourary President in 1983. In 1996 he activated The William H. Kaufman Charitable Foundation to fund innovative projects worldwide in the areas of education, health, environment, and others.

William H. Kaufman's philanthropic and volunteer work earned him many awards, among them the Canada National Health and Welfare Volunteer Award (1986), National YMCA Council Fellowship of Honour (1983), Canadian Red Cross Society Distinguished Service Award (1987).

William H. Kaufman married Sarah Kathleen Kaufman on November 22, 1947. Together they had four children: David, Sally, Tom, and Elizabeth. They divorced in 1965. He was married for a second time on May 12, 1968 to Margaret "Peg" Isabelle Forbes.

William H. Kaufman died on October 8, 2005 and was buried at Woodland Cemetery.

Custodial history

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Consists of fonds related to the personal and professional lives of A.R. Kaufman and W.H. Kaufman, and the family-run business Kaufman Footwear.

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