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IndustryNet Blog

How This Small Illinois Manufacturer Made 2.5 Million Gloves in 48 Hours for WWI Troops

Posted by IndustryNet on Tuesday, May 21, 2019

With Memorial Day around the corner, it seems fitting to look back on some of the inspiring stories of the small manufacturers that have exhibited extraordinary commitment and fortitude in times of war, providing much-needed supplies and support to U.S. soldiers throughout the years. 

We found one of these stories in our February 1929 edition of Manufacturers’ News.

In this hardcover issue, Peter A. Waller, then-President of Boss Manufacturing shared his thoughts on the challenges and opportunities faced by small manufacturers in a speech to the Illinois Manufacturers Cost Association titled “What is the Future of the Small Manufacturer?” This was published ten years after the end of World War One, but the significance of the conflict weighed heavily on his speech.


Established in 1893, Boss Manufacturing started out in Kewanee, Illinois as a supplier of work gloves to local farmers, and quickly grew, distributing its protective gloves all over the world. Known for the sturdiness of their gloves, they became a key supplier in the war effort.

Waller writes:

“In the winter of 1918 General Goethals called us down to Washington on a Sunday. He wanted gloves and he had learned that we could furnish large quantities on short notice. It was in January and very cold. Soldiers were being encamped on the various parts of the country and there was a shortage of clothing and supplies of that nature…The Quartermaster’s Department called us on the telephone from Washington and gave us an order for 2,500,000 pairs of gloves to be shipped by express and asked, ‘How soon may we expect delivery?’ We answered, ‘Just as quickly as you can furnish us with express cars,” which they promised at once, and we completed the order and had it on its way within 48 hours.”

That’s right. In 1918, this one small glove manufacturer in Kewanee, Illinois produced 2.5 million pairs of gloves for U.S. soldiers in 48 hours.

Boss Manufacturing went on to provide another 2.5 million pairs shortly thereafter and secured its reputation as a trusted supplier to the war effort. The company innovated and adapted to changing needs, designing different types of gloves for all types of situations.

“We designed and furnished fireproof gloves for the gunners in the Navy; gas-proof gloves for the Chemical Warfare Service; barbed wire entanglement gloves and special one-fingered mittens for laying of mines in the North Sea.”100000301Boss_manufacturing_factory

So, how many gloves did Boss end up making during the war? Writes Waller: “One day’s output during the war amounted to 300,000 pairs of gloves. If they were laid end to end they would make a continuous chain of 142 miles in one day and in one year would go around the earth at the equator nearly twice.”

And since then? Boss Manufacturing continued to thrive and is today a major manufacturer of gloves, boots, and protective wear. Their success today likely owes some of their success to the wisdom imparted by their early leaders.

In the 1929 article, Peter Waller goes on to provide some sound advice to the small manufacturers in the room, pointing out the opportunities afforded to the small businesses:

“In the smaller business unit, I believe the executive sees every phase of the business more intimately than is possible in the larger unit, and, therefore he becomes more quickly sensible of changing public sentiment towards goods and markets than in the larger units…Trade will always be won by those who can best serve the people and it can be easily lost by those who disregard the signs of the times and fail to adapt themselves to the new and changing conditions. The advertising value of quality goods and personal interest and close attention to the business will make of the small manufacturer of today the large manufacturer in the future."

Boss Manufacturing has certainly lived by these words and has indeed become that large manufacturer of the future Peter Waller referred to. Having published their inspiring story and words of wisdom 89 years ago, we are pleased to see them alive and thriving today, and are proud to promote them on IndustryNet. You can see their listing here.

A version of this article was originally posted on November 15th, 2018

Related Companies: Boss Mfg. Co.
Related Searches: BootsGlovesRainwear
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