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John B. Stetson
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    (May 5, 1830-February 18, 1906)
    Born in Orange, New Jersey
    Founded the John B. Stetson Company in Philadelphia (1865)
    Created the iconic cowboy hat
    Was producing two million hats a year at the turn of the century
    He went West to strike it rich in the Pike’s Peak gold rush but came up empty handed.
    He borrowed $60 from his sister to start his company.
    He initially designed hats to appeal to the locals in Philly, turning to the Western cowboy hat only after those initial efforts failed.
    Thanks to his time out West, he knew the practical needs of his customers and created a waterproof, durable hat with a wide brim to provide shade from the sun.
    The hat’s crown could also serve as an emergency bucket to haul water.
    To reduce employee turnover at his factory, he provided wages above the industry standard, free medical care, low-interest loans to help workers buy houses, and a stock sharing plan.
    He endowed the first law school in Florida.
    He co-founded the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission (1878), a homeless shelter and soup kitchen that continues to provide services in Philadelphia.

Credit: C. Fishel

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