“More heady than love, ladies or liquor is the sporting-goods catalog of L. L. Bean, outfitter extraordinary to men who live so they may hunt and fish,” read Life magazine’s encomium to the entrepreneurial outdoorsman in October of 1941. From modest beginnings in 1911, sales at Leon Leonwood Bean’s Freeport mail order business had surpassed the $1 million mark by 1937. Life showcased a number of innovative items from the Bean catalog, beginning with the famous Maine Hunting Shoe, created when Bean had a seamstress sew elk hide leggings onto a pair of old rubbers to keep his feet warm and dry while duck hunting.
In 1941 the boots, still with elk hide uppers, cost from $3.15 for the 6 1/2″ high version to $9 for the 18″. Other practical and stylish items included a fly fishing jacket with a special pocket for keeping your Luckys dry (above); a cold-proof ducking hunting outfit with a moleskin coat; zippered lambskin Canoe Shoes; a deer hunting outfit in red and black checkered wool; a double-visored bird shooting cap; an oilskin coat with a sheepskin collar and cuffs; and an array of 21 different knives for “every sportsman’s whim”. Mr. Bean himself tested the decoys.
Jared Paul Stern is the editor of DRIVEN.