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L.L.Bean | 100 Years and Counting

Explore the L.L.Bean story in our interactive timeline below. Scroll left to right to learn more about each decade, or up and down to jump to the next one.

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An outdoorsman first and a businessman second, L.L. Bean designed the Maine Hunting Shoe® simply because he wanted a better boot. Before he knew it, L.L. had a thriving mail-order operation catering to those who shared his love of nature.

1911
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Leon Leonwood Bean invents the Maine Hunting Shoe.
1912
Fenway Park opens
1912
The Titanic sinks
1912
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L.L.Bean launches with a four-page mailer to out-of-state sportsmen. The first mailer for the novel hunting shoe earns one hundred orders.
1913
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US Postal Service adds parcel post delivery. L.L. is first to send a package from Freeport.
1917
US enters World War I
1917
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L.L.Bean branches into apparel. Always a problem solver, L.L. offers the Maine Safety Hunting Coat to make the hunter more visible to other hunters.
1919
The start of prohibition in the US
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Not content to merely sell a few pairs of boots from his shop to local farmers and woodsmen, L.L. dreamed bigger.

1920
First-ever radio broadcast airs
1921
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Admiral Donald MacMillan outfits Arctic expedition with L.L.Bean Boots.
1923
First section of Appalachian Trail opens in New York
1923
“Talkies” hit the silver screen when short films featuring synchronized sound delight audiences in New York City
1924
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The original Field Coat — then called the Maine Duck Hunting Coat — launches in the catalog.
1924
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L.L.Bean employs 25 people at $25 each per week.
1925
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That’s a ringer! L.L. offers horseshoe set as a great way to relax (one of his favorite pastimes).
1927
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Quirky L.L.Bean catalog judged best in the country by Postage, an advertising trade journal.
1927
Babe Ruth, a big L.L.Bean fan, hits sixty dingers
1928
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Ernest Hemingway recommends L.L.Bean Boots to hunting partner.
1928
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New camping “accessories” are offered for the first time, including flashlights, playing cards, pocket watches and the Bean Sleeping Bag.
1929
Stock market crashes
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As competitors went belly-up during the depression, L.L.Bean continued to grow. Middle-class families who could afford vacations took to the wilderness, and L.L.Bean supplied the gear for their adventures.

1933
FDR gives America a New Deal
1933
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Eleanor Roosevelt makes surprise visit to Freeport store. The First Lady proved a tough sell on that first visit, but L.L. wouldn’t let her leave empty handed.
1934
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Birthday of future L.L.Bean president Leon Gorman.
1935
Social Security enacted
1936
Maine rolls out “Vacationland” campaign
1938
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Business Man Shirt debuts at $1.95, to be worn “going and coming from hunting grounds.”
1939
The International Game Fish Association was formally launched in a meeting held at the American Museum of Natural History
Late 1930s
Half of Americans are earning paid time off, providing sufficient time to travel out of town
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World War II brought America together and L.L.Bean to Washington, as the company started outfitting servicemen with boots and outerwear. Back in Maine, L.L. continued to build a blossoming business that was steadily winning America over.

1941
The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on December 7
1941
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Duck decoys with swivel heads make their way into the L.L.Bean catalog.
1942
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L.L. goes to Washington, advises Pentagon on cold-weather apparel and other gear in support of the war effort.
1943
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L.L.Bean begins accepting War Savings Stamps as payment, and a full catalog page encourages customers to buy war bonds.
1944
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The Ice Carrier — the original Boat and Tote Bag — launches.
1944
Doris Day has a hit with “Sentimental Journey”
1945
Combat ends for Allied troops in the European Campaign in June
1948
33 1/3 rpm records introduced
1949
VW Beetle debuts
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As orders continued to pour into the L.L.Bean offices and new products were regularly being introduced, the catalog grew both in size and circulation.

Early 1950s
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Customer service is the priority, even in the quietest ways: a father vacationing in Maine asks a store employee to “play Santa” to his sleeping children.
1950
The comic strip Peanuts is published for the first time in seven US newspapers
1951
Diners Club issues first true credit card
1951
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24/7/365: Freeport store institutes 24-hour-a-day, open-door policy. L.L.Bean removes locks from the front door.
1952
13-year-old Jimmy Boyd’s record I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is released, selling three million records
1955
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L.L.Bean’s quirky, personable catalog continues to delight readers and increase sales.
1956
Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel debuts
1957
Soviets launch Sputnik
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Enter Leon Gorman — L.L.’s grandson — a naturally savvy marketer who revamped the catalog and modernized the entire operation, while staying true to the principles on which the company was founded. By 1967, sales had doubled.

1960
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Baseball star Ted Williams sends L.L. Bean a letter offering to buy the company. L.L. declines the offer.
1963
JFK assassinated; store closes
1965
First US combat troops arrive in Vietnam
1967
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L.L. passes away on February 5 at age 94. The company receives 50,000 condolence letters and the store closes in his memory.
1969
Neil Armstrong lands on the moon
1969
Three days of music brought together 32 musical acts and over 500,000 spectators in Woodstock, NY
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As the ’60s came to a close, a new breed of outdoor enthusiasts emerged — the backpackers. These young explorers looked to nature for peace and tranquility, and to L.L.Bean for clothing and gear.

1970
Four students killed by National Guard at Kent State University
1970
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L.L.Bean’s new unconditional guarantee opens daylight between the retailer from Maine and its competition in the outdoors catalog business.
1973
First handheld calculator
1974
Nixon resigns over Watergate scandal
1975
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The Coty Award, fashion’s Oscar, goes to L.L.Bean. The Allagash Hat is among the stylish items cited.
1975
US pulls out of Vietnam
1976
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Times are a-changin’: L.L.Bean gets its own zip code (04033), and the company purchases its first mainframe computer.
1976
America celebrates its bicentennial
1977
Backpacking explodes as a national trend
1979
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Alan J. Dreher gets caught in a storm on April 13. After being struck by lightning, the doctors inform him that his rubber-soled boots saved his life.
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L.L.Bean’s focus had always been on practical apparel, but demand was shifting to casualwear. Rather than choosing between the two, L.L.Bean embraced both, honoring tradition while acknowledging the future.

Early 1980s
As women take jobs with higher pay but longer hours, they increasingly turn to catalog shopping
1980
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L.L.Bean starts offering dog beds.
1981
MTV launches
1981
IBM introduces Personal Computer
1982
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The L.L.Bean Book Pack debuts, breaking new ground in a space where high-quality, long-lasting book packs sized for children are hard to find.
1983
Ronald Reagan commemorates the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a federal holiday
1984
Freeport native, Joan Benoit Samuelson wins the gold in the 1984 women’s Olympic marathon event
1984
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Maine’s delegates to the Republican National Convention are dressed by L.L.Bean, right down to the salmon belt buckle.
1984
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Couple weds in L.L.Bean Boots.
1984
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Shotguns go on sale at retail store.
1985
Toll-free dialing begins
1986
The Space Shuttle Challenger tragically explodes shortly after liftoff
1987
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L.L.Bean turns 75 and the company celebrates.
1987
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New “sunrise over Katahdin” logo unveiled.
1988
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First non-Freeport store, the L.L.Bean Factory Outlet, opens in North Conway, NH.
1989
The Berlin Wall falls after nearly 40 years
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The emergence of online shopping made venturing into the digital age a snap for a company that just decades earlier pioneered 24-hour retailing and the convenience of ordering products from home.

1990
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L.L.Bean sponsors and outfits the Everest Peace Climb team from the US, China and Russia, successfully putting a record 20 climbers on the summit.
1991
US attacks Iraqi forces in Kuwait
1991
Nirvana ushers in the Grunge movement
1992
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L.L.Bean Boots, cousin of the Maine Hunting Shoe, first appear.
1992
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The hunting boots of James TenEyck are finally retired after 45 years of service on the soles of his father and his grandfather.
1993
After nearly 30 years of work, the 2,500-mile Pacific Crest Trail finished
1993
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L.L.Bean offers first kids’ clothing.
1994
Joshua Tree Monument made a part of the National Park Service
1996
Twister is the first commercial film on DVD
1998
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Michael Scott of Powell, Ohio, and his L.L.Bean Field Coat make their way to the Nagano Olympics in Japan.
1999
Napster begins “sharing” downloadable music
1999
National park visits hit a record 287 million
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With a flourishing business both online and off, L.L. might have been dazzled by the size and complexity of modern retail — but pleased to find his hard-won personal standards still guiding the company.

2000
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The L.L.Bean Web site is a hit! By 2000, revenue from llbean.com amounted to 15 percent of total company sales.
2001
First iPod debuts
2001
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The World Trade Center and Pentagon are attacked on September 11. L.L.Bean donates boots, blankets, jackets and more to people working on recovery efforts.
2001
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Subaru rolls out the L.L.Bean Limited Edition Outback (L.L.Bean Forester rolls out in 2005).
2002
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L.L.Bean donates its first $1 million to support the Island Explorer bus system in Acadia National Park.
2004
Facebook is born
2006
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L.L.Bean commits to building all new structures according to the US Green Building Council’s LEED standards.
2009
Barack Obama elected President
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A century after L.L.Bean’s founding, the Maine Hunting Shoe remains a fixture in the catalog — vastly improved and yet fundamentally unchanged, much like the company itself.

2010
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L.L.Bean Signature line introduced.
2011
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L.L.Bean announces free shipping.
2011
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Bloomberg BusinessWeek ranks L.L.Bean #1 in customer service.
2011
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While writing the obituary for his faithful Bean Backpack, Steven Gadecki of Culver City, California, realizes that, “L.L.Bean doesn’t make gear, they make memories.”
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L.L.Bean Timeline: The First 100 Years.

Uncover the details behind the first century of L.L.Bean with our interactive timeline, which traces the footsteps of our founder Leon Leonwood Bean and his iconic Maine Hunting Shoes as they traverse hunting trips, depression, war and moments in American history. Learn how one man's love of the outdoors and his invention of a better boot turned into an international company, and read stories from our customers about how L.L.Bean has helped them enjoy the outdoors.