About William Lewis Douglas, Governor
William Lewis Douglas (August 22, 1845 – September 17, 1924) was a U.S. businessman and politician. He served as the 42nd Governor of Massachusetts from 1905 until 1906. He also founded and oversaw the growth of the W. L. Douglas Shoe Company, a highly successful Brockton, Massachusetts business, and the first nationwide chain of shoe stores.
William Lewis Douglas was born on August 22, 1845 in Plymouth, Massachusetts, to William and Mary (Vaughan) Douglas. His father died when he was five. He received only intermittent schooling, and began working for his uncle in his shoemaking business. He eventually became an apprentice, working for his uncle until a decline in business in 1859 forced him to take factory work. The advent of the American Civil War revived the demand for boots, and Douglas briefly returned to the shoemaking business before enlisting in the Union Army. He served for one year, was wounded, and received his discharge in 1865.
After the war Douglas went west to the Colorado Territory. There he again took up shoemaking, but he also spent time working as a partner in a shoe store in Golden. In 1868 he sold his share in the store and returned to Massachusetts. There he worked for eight years as a factory supervisor in Brockton.
W. L. Douglas Shoe Company
In 1876 Douglas borrowed $875 dollars in order to open his own shoe factory. One critical decision he made in establishing the business was that he would sell the shoes he manufactured through his own line of retail outlets, rather than shipping them to other retailers or intermediaries. His business grew rapidly: every few years the factory's output doubled, and by 1892 he was making 3,600 shoes per day. The retail side of the business also grew: the first store opened in 1894, and by 1900 there were 55 stores nationwide.
In 1884 Douglas was elected as a Democrat to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, serving two terms. He then served one term in the state senate in 1887. He served as mayor of Brockton in 1890, and was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 1905, defeating the incumbent Republican John L. Bates. He served a single term, after which he returned to his business. Douglas died in 1924.