Henry David Lee established the H.D. Lee Mercantile Company a wholesale grocery distributor in Salina, Kansas in 1889.  His timing was perfect— meeting a major need in a region of the country where the population was growing exponentially.

  • In 1895, Lee recognized the need to handle larger shipments of perishable goods and established Kansas Ice & Cold Storage Company.  The mercantile business also paved the way for the H.D. Lee Flour Mills, which made profitable use of the large amounts of grain received in trade
  • In 1912, unhappy with the quality and inconsistent delivery of workwear from suppliers, Lee decided his company could do better and opened a factory to sew overalls and jackets
  • In 1913, Lee introduced the Union-All work jumpsuit which quickly made Lee a household name, and spurred the opening of manufacturing plants across the country
  • In 1920, the Buddy Lee doll was introduced to promote Lee overalls.  Over the next 40 years, he became prominent in the promotions of each new product introduced by Lee
  • Through the ’20s, Lee introduced many new innovations—from a stronger, more durable denim fabric for workwear to cowboy pants for working and rodeo cowboys.   Most notably, Lee introduced the zipper fly in cowboy pants and zip-front overalls and coveralls. Throughout the ’30s and ’40s Lee continued to build on their brand, becoming the nation’s #1 manufacturer of work clothes
  • The decade of the ’50s was a time of intense expansion for Lee as the company ventured into casual wear. Lee expanded its presence throughout the ’60s, spreading to 51 countries and was purchased by VF Corporation in 1969
  • The company continued to expand its fashion lines throughout the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, and launched Lee National Denim Day® in 1996
  • Today’s Lee is all about bringing more fits, styles, finishes, features and choices than ever before to the market

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