Thomas E. Wilson

Last updated
Thomas E. Wilson
Thomas E. Wilson.jpg
Picture of Thomas E. Wilson
Born(1868-07-22)July 22, 1868
DiedAugust 4, 1958(1958-08-04) (aged 90)
Known for Wilson Sporting Goods, Wilson and Company

Thomas E. Wilson (July 11, 1868 – August 4, 1958) was a Canadian-born American businessman. In 1926, he created one of the most recognizable sports brand names in the world, known as Wilson Sporting Goods. He served as President and Chairman of the Board of Wilson & Co for 35 years. [1]


Early life

Thomas Edward Wilson was born on a farm near London, Middlesex County, Ontario, Canada, on July 22, 1868 to Scottish parents, Moses and Mary Ann Wilson (née Higgins). He went to the United States as a young man working as a railroad car checker in the bustling stockyards of Chicago, Illinois.


Wilson spent 25 years working his way up the ranks of Morris & Co, becoming Vice-President of the packing house in 1906, and president in 1913 following the death of its founder, Edwin Morris. In 1916, bankers succeeded in luring Wilson away from Morris & Company, in order to run a failing New York-based meat packer Sulzberger & Sons. Originally founded by Ferdinand Sulzberger 1853 as Schwartzchild & Sulzberger, it was often called S&S for short. [2]

Wilson renamed the firm eponymously as Wilson & Co., Inc. on July 27, 1916, and moved its headquarters to Chicago's Union Stock Yards. It soon joined Armour and Swift at the top of the U.S. meat industry.

From 1916 until the 1950s Thomas Wilson built the company rapidly into one of 50 largest industrial corporations in the United States. [3] Wilson was an important influence on the branding of processed meat foods, having developed many of today's popular value added beef and pork products. Wilson & Company was responsible for introducing numerous well-known brands, such as Wilson Certified Hams, Wilson's Continental Deli and Wilson's Corn King. [4] He was an important figure in both the American Meat Institute and in the sporting goods industry. He was a leader of the national 4H program and breeder of shorthorn cattle.

In a real estate transaction in the 1920s, Wilson & Co. bought the Ashland Manufacturing Company, including its inventory of sporting goods products. The contents were offered to Spalding, among others. There was insufficient interest by buyers, so Wilson & Co. decided to enter the business on its own. The subsidiary was called Wilson Sporting Goods, and was eventually spun off into an independent company, which continues to do business in 2022. [5]

After Wilson's death, in the 1960s Wilson & Co. taken private by conglomerate LTV Corporation., LTV later the sporting goods division to WESRAY, with successive buyers PEPSI and AMER GROUP.

Civic awards

In 1946 Wilson received the United States Government's Medal for Merit from President Harry Truman for his services to the U.S. economy during World War II. [6]


Wilson died at age 90 in Illinois on August 4, 1958. [7] His body was buried at Lake Forest Cemetery, in Lake County, Illinois. [8]

Personal life

He married Elizabeth L. Foss on November 1, 1899. The couple had two children, a son and a daughter.

An archive of Wilson's personal papers exists at the Special Collections Research Center of the University of Chicago Library. [9]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Supermarket</span> Large format of grocery store

A supermarket is a self-service shop offering a wide variety of food, beverages and household products, organized into sections. This kind of store is larger and has a wider selection than earlier grocery stores, but is smaller and more limited in the range of merchandise than a hypermarket or big-box market. In everyday U.S. usage, however, "grocery store" is often used to mean "supermarket".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hormel Foods</span> American food processing company

Hormel Foods Corporation is an American food processing company founded in 1891 in Austin, Minnesota, by George A. Hormel as George A. Hormel & Company. The company originally focused on the packaging and selling of ham, sausage and other pork, chicken, beef and lamb products to consumers, adding Spam in 1937. By the 1980s, Hormel began offering a wider range of packaged and refrigerated foods. The company changed its name to Hormel Foods Corporation in 1993, and uses the Hormel brand on many of its products; the company's other brands include Planters, Columbus Craft Meats, Dinty Moore, Jennie-O, and Skippy. The company's products are available in 80 countries.

Rand McNally is an American technology and publishing company that provides mapping, software and hardware for consumer electronics, commercial transportation and education markets. The company is headquartered in Chicago, with a distribution center in Richmond, Kentucky.

Thomas Wilson, Tom Wilson or Tommy Wilson may refer to:

Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) was a large American conglomerate which existed from 1961 to 2000. At its peak, it was involved in aerospace, airlines, electronics, steel manufacturing, sporting goods, meat packing, car rentals, and pharmaceuticals, among other businesses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Levi Leiter</span>

Levi Ziegler Leiter was an American businessman based in Chicago. He co-founded what became the Marshall Field & Company retail empire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sara Lee Corporation</span> American defunct consumer good company

The Sara Lee Corporation was an American consumer-goods company based in Downers Grove, Illinois. It had operations in more than 40 countries and sold its products in over 180 countries. Its international operations were headquartered in Utrecht, The Netherlands. While no longer operated independently, as of 2020, Sara Lee still exists as a current brand name under the auspices of holding company Kohlberg & Company, making frozen cakes, etc. at its present facility in Illinois, United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wilson Sporting Goods</span> American sports equipment manufacture

The Wilson Sporting Goods Company is an American sports equipment manufacturer based in Chicago, Illinois. The company has been a subsidiary of Finnish multinational company Amer Sports since 1989, and is, in turn, now under the Chinese company Anta Sports since 2019. Wilson makes equipment for many sports, among them baseball, badminton, American football, basketball, fastpitch softball, golf, racquetball, soccer, squash, tennis, pickleball and volleyball.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Armour and Company</span> Former American company

Armour & Company was an American company and was one of the five leading firms in the meat packing industry. It was founded in Chicago, in 1867, by the Armour brothers led by Philip Danforth Armour. By 1880, the company had become Chicago's most important business and had helped make Chicago and its Union Stock Yards the center of America's meatpacking industry. During the same period, its facility in Omaha, Nebraska, boomed, making the city's meatpacking industry the largest in the nation by 1959. In connection with its meatpacking operations, the company also ventured into pharmaceuticals and soap manufacturing, introducing Dial soap in 1948.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles E. Billings</span> American mechanical engineer, inventor, superintendent, and businessman, 1834-1920

Charles Ethan Billings (1834–1920) was an American mechanical engineer, inventor, superintendent, and businessman. He held various U.S. patents on hand tools, either assigned or licensed to the firm that he and Christopher M. Spencer cofounded, the Billings & Spencer Company. His name as patent holder is stamped on countless forged hand tools, many of which survive. Billings was an expert in drop forging and was an influential leader in the American system of manufacturing and its successor systems of mass production for firearms, sewing machines, hand tools, bicycles, and other goods. He served as president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1895 and 1896. The Billings & Spencer Company was both a machine tool builder and a manufacturer of hand tools made with its machine tools.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henkel North American Consumer Goods</span> American company

Henkel Corporation, doing business as Henkel North American Consumer Goods, and formerly The Dial Corporation, is an American company based in Stamford, Connecticut. It is a manufacturer of personal care and household cleaning products, and is a subsidiary of the German company Henkel AG & Co. KGaA.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sports Authority</span> Former American sporting goods retailer

Sports Authority, Inc. was an American sports retailer. At its peak, Sports Authority operated 463 stores in 45 States and Puerto Rico. The company's website was on the GSI Commerce platform and supported the retail stores as well as other multi-channel programs. A joint venture with ÆON Co., Ltd., operates "Sports Authority" stores in Japan under a licensing agreement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">David T. Abercrombie</span> Founder of Abercrombie & Fitch (1867-1931)

David Thomas Abercrombie was the founder of the American lifestyle brand Abercrombie & Fitch. A topographer and expert in the outdoors, Abercrombie opened the company as New York's outfitter for the elite and later partnered up with co-founder Ezra Fitch – both men managed the Company through great years of success.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amer Sports</span> Finnish sporting good company

Amer Sports Oy is a Finnish sporting goods corporation overseeing brands Atomic, Arc'teryx, Armada, Enve Composites, Peak Performance, Salomon, and Wilson Sporting Goods. It is a limited liability company of Chinese retail conglomerate Anta Sports.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">L. R. Kershaw</span>

Leroy Kershaw (1880–1969) was an American attorney, banker, businessman, cattleman and political candidate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sexton Foods</span> Former wholesale grocer

John Sexton & Company, also known as Sexton Quality Foods, was a broad line national wholesale grocer that serviced the restaurant, hotel and institutional trade from regional warehouses and truck fleets located in major metropolitan areas of the United States. Sexton Quality Foods eventually became US Foodservice in 1997. The company was established in Chicago in 1883 by John Sexton.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ralph Austin Bard</span> American financier and government official (1884–1975)

Ralph Austin Bard was a Chicago financier who served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 1941–1944, and as Under Secretary, 1944–1945. He is noted for a memorandum he wrote to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson in 1945 urging that Japan be given a warning before the use of the atomic bomb on a strategic city. He was "the only person known to have formally dissented from the use of the atomic bomb without advance warning."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Cable Company</span>

The Cable Company was an American manufacturer and distributor of pianos and reed organs that operated independently from 1880 to 1936.

John V. Farwell & Co. was a department store in Chicago, Illinois, United States. The store's history traces back to 1836, when the Wadsworth brothers came to Chicago to sell goods. E. S. Wadsworth eventually formed a partnership with Thomas Dyer and John Putnam Chapin as Wadsworth, Dyer & Chapin. Following a series of ownership changes, the company fell under the executive control of John Villiers Farwell, for whom the company was renamed. A profitable clothing store, Philip Wadsworth & Co., was later spun off from the company. John V. Farwell & Co. was the most successful store in the city until the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. The store continued to operate after the fire, but faced stiff competition from former partners Marshall Field and Levi Leiter. It was purchased by Carson, Pirie & Co. in 1926.

Elisha Strong Wadsworth was a merchant from New Hartford, Connecticut. He co-founded the Wadsworth, Dyer & Chapin company in Chicago, Illinois with his brother Julius and Thomas Dyer. The operation was one of the first successful firms in Chicago, trading in dry goods, grain, and packaged meat. Wadsworth was also the president of the Chicago and Aurora Railroad, later serving on the board of directors of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad when the two lines were merged. Wadsworth also served as a director of a predecessor to the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. Wadsworth is the namesake of Wadsworth, Illinois.


  1. 10,000 Famous Freemasons from K to Z Part Two by William R. Denslow - Kessinger Publishing, LLC (September 20, 2004) ISBN   1-4179-7579-2
  2. Men, Meat and Miracles, Bertram Fowler, Julian Messner Inc. 1952
  3. Wilson & Co
  4. Meat Industry News Service, April 22, 2000
  5. International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 24. St. James Press, 1999
  6. "Guide to the Thomas e. Wilson Family Collection circa 1850-2005".
  7. "Thomas E. Wilson Dies. Meatpacker, 90". New York Times . August 5, 1958. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
  8. "Thomas Edward Wilson (1868-1958) - Find a Grave". Find a Grave .
  9. Guide to the Thomas E. Wilson Family collection 1850-2005, University of Chicago Library website (2019).