Canadian Fashion Connection – Kaufman Rubber Company

The Kaufman Rubber Company plant in Kitchener, Ontario. Designed by Albert Kahn. The building was historically designated in 1996 and recently converted to luxury condos

In 1907 Jacob Ratz Kaufman founded the Kaufman Rubber Company in Berlin, Ontario (the name of the town  changed from Berlin to Kitchener in 1916.) The plant opened in 1908 with 350 employees and began producing rubber boots, galoshes, and sports shoes  for the domestic and international markets.

Here is a complete winter 1912/13 catalogue.

A.R. Kaufman became president of the company after his father, Jacob, died in 1920. During the 1920s and 30s, the product line was expanded to include rubber clothing for fishermen, miners, and the police. In 1953 the company began to manufacture slippers using a newly invented material – foam rubber – under the brand name ‘Foamtread’.

In 1954 Kaufman began making vinyl overshoes under the brand name ‘Showertogs.’ That same year Kaufman began manufacturing rubber soled leather workboots which by 1959 had grown into a line of winter sport boots under the brand name ‘Sorel.’ The new lines were successful and created enough capital for Kaufman rubber to expand, buying out competitor companies L.H. Packard & Co. of Montreal in 1961, and Prospect Shoes Ltd. of Sherbrooke, Québec, in 1966, among others.

In 1964 A.R. Kaufman retired, and the company was handed over to his son William H. Kaufman. The name of the company was changed from the Kaufman Rubber Co. to Kaufman Footwear Ltd. to reflect its wider range of products.

Like everywhere else in North America, the shoe industry was on the decline after 1967. Over the next thirty years Kaufman Footwear Ltd. went through various reorganizations to manage the shrinking market and maintain profitability. The company incorporated in 1973, and in 1979 Kaufman Footwear became a division of William H. Kaufman Inc. In 1997 Tom Kaufman, the son of William H. Kaufman, was named president but the company could no longer compete with cheap imports and in 2000 Kaufman Footwear declared bankruptcy.

Inside the Kaufmann sewing room, 1969