– PEOPLE WORTH REMEMBERING –
Who hasn’t heard of Dr. Scholl and the company’s various products for your feet? But how much do you know about the real Dr. Scholl? Tidbits invites you to put your feet up and learn more.
• Dr. William Mathias Scholl spent his early life in the late 19th century on an Indiana dairy farm. His father supported their family of 13 children with the farm as well as a carriage-making business.
• Scholl’s grandfather, a shoemaker, had immigrated to America from Germany and taught the young William about foot care as well as his craft of cobbling. William loved shoemaking more than he loved farming, so at age 16, he left the family farm to work as an apprentice in a Chicago shoemaker’s shop. Scholl learned about constructing footwear, but became more interested in the foot pain and ailments of the shop’s customers, and how to treat them.
• During the day, Scholl made shoes, but at night he began studying medicine at Chicago’s Loyola University, aiming for his M.D. At age 22, in the midst of his studies, Scholl invented and patented an arch support. Two years later, in 1906, he founded the Dr. Scholl’s Company, touting the premise that “when your feet hurt, you hurt all over.” He purchased a building for manufacturing, and by 1918, he had more than 300 employees — leather cutters, press operators, machinists, and the shipping department. His brother, Frank, helped with the company’s expansion, including overseas.
• Although busy directing his company, Dr. Scholl continued practicing medicine in Chicago until 1946, when he was 64. He had created more than 1,000 foot care products, marketed globally. It was time to use his fortune to benefit others.
• In 1947, he established the Dr. Scholl Foundation, dedicated to providing funding to worthy nonprofit organizations in the areas of social services, hospitals and healthcare, civic, cultural, and environmental concerns. Having never married, upon his death in 1968, Dr. Scholl left the bulk of his estate to the Foundation. Since 1980, the Foundation has contributed over $312 million to various entities.
• The sons of Dr. Scholl’s brother Frank had been active in the company for many years, and continued the legacy. Dr. Scholl’s nephew, also named William, had been educated at Cambridge University, where he majored in languages. During World War II, the younger Scholl had served as an intelligence officer, interrogating German and Japanese POW’s. After the war, he returned to the family business, where he designed a very familiar item.
• In the 1960s, the company introduced “Dr. Scholl’s Original Exercise Sandal,” a wooden sandal with a contoured foot-bed to support the foot’s arch. During his travels in Germany in the late 1950s, the younger William had purchased a simple wood sandal, shaped it to fit the foot, and added a colorful leather strap across the toes. It was marketed with the slogan, “Looking good and doing you good.” Although designed with the intention of being good for the feet, the sandal was soon a fashion statement, and within four years of its debut, sales had topped one million pairs. It was quickly adopted by the “hippy culture” and was especially popular when worn with a miniskirt. The good news is that this fashion is still available, still considered trendy, and still exercises the muscles.