Milestone: Highlights from Wolverine’s 130 Years

Over the last 130 years, Wolverine has gone from leather tanner to bootmaker to global lifestyle brand manager. Here are the key highlights.

1883
The Hirth-Krause Co. is founded by German-born Gustav Adolf Krause, a third-generation shoemaker and tanner.

1903
Krause and his sons build a shoe factory in Rockford, Mich., that makes 300 pairs of shoes daily.

1908
The Krauses build the Wolverine tannery and begin supplying their shoe factory with tough, durable horsehide.

1919
Company begins national advertising and its work shoes quickly become a household name.

1921
The Hirth-Krause Co. changes its name to Wolverine Shoe & Tanning Corp.
Its sales force grows to 29.

1958
The casual shoe brand Hush Puppies is born, taking its name from the treats Southerners used to quiet barking dogs.

1959
Company ventures outside the U.S., as Hush Puppies signs its first international licensee, Greb Shoes Ltd. of Canada. Expansion into other countries quickly follows.

1965
Wolverine goes public on the New York Stock Exchange with the ticker WLV. Soon after, the firm changes its name to Wolverine World Wide Inc.

1981
Blake Krueger begins serving as outside legal counsel to Wolverine World Wide.

1991
Wolverine brand introduces DuraShocks, the first true comfort system for workboots, creating lighter, longer-lasting products.

1994
Company acquires the Caterpillar license.

1995
Hush Puppies is voted Fashion Accessory of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. The firm’s media budget doubles to accommodate its first TV ad campaign.
The Wolverine brand adopts in-your-face slogans to boost the tough-guy image of workboots, such as “Work like hell. Feel like heaven.”

1996
Krueger joins the firm as EVP, general counsel and secretary.
Global distribution reaches 60 countries.

1997
Wolverine acquires specialty outdoor brand Merrell from Vermont-based Sports Holding Corp., for $17 million in cash. The brand’s sales reach $25 million.

1998
Firm buys the global license for footwear from Harley-Davidson Motor Co.

2001
Wolverine’s brands are sold in 140 countries and generate $701 million in annual sales.
Company purchases the European Caterpillar and Merrell businesses, creating its first owned wholesale businesses on the continent.

2003
Wolverine purchases Sebago, the handsewn dress casual and performance marine shoe label.

2004
Krueger is named president of the Heritage Brands Group.
Firm wins Footwear News’ Company of the Year award as annual revenue reaches $991.9 million.

2005
Group sales top $1 billion for the first time.
Company acquires the global license to design and market Patagonia Footwear.

2009
Wolverine acquires Colorado-based footwear brand Chaco and U.K.-based Cushe for undisclosed amounts.

2011
Cat Footwear scores a partnership with Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe to produce a signature series of workboots.

2012
Wolverine acquires the Performance & Lifestyle Group from Collective Brands Inc., adding Sperry Top-Sider, Saucony, Stride Rite and Keds to the existing brand family for $1.24 billion.
Firm is again named Company of the Year by Footwear News.
Keds inks high-profile partnership with Grammy-winning, multiplatinum singer-songwriter and style icon Taylor Swift.