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Sorel catalogue, 1998.
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- Kaufman Footwear
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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, Québec, 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.)