Kaufman Footwear, formerly the Kaufman Rubber Company, was a shoe manufacturing company in Kitchener, Ontario, that produced well-known brands such as Sorel winter boots, Kingtread work boots, Foamtread slippers, and Black Diamond industrial footwear. The company had sales warehouses across Canada.
The Kaufman Rubber Company was founded by Jacob Kaufman in 1907. Around that time, the Canadian Consolidated Rubber Company of Montreal purchased most of the smaller rubber companies in Canada, including the two in Berlin (now Kitchener): the Berlin Rubber Manufacturing Company and Merchants Rubber Company. Jacob had been involved with both of these companies, and his son Alvin Ratz (A.R.) Kaufman, who had worked at Merchants Rubber, persuaded him to organize another rubber company.
The Kaufman plant opened in 1908 with 350 employees. It was constructed on about 4 acres of land at King and Victoria Streets and produced rubber footwear for both domestic and foreign markets. After Jacob Kaufman’s death in 1920, A.R. Kaufman became president of the company until he retired in 1964. During this time, the company’s product line expanded to include heavy rubber clothing for industries such as fishing, mining, firefighting, and meat packing. During the two World Wars it produced special footwear and gas masks for the Canadian forces.
By the 1950s, the Canadian rubber footwear industry was feeling the impact of competing imported products, and so Kaufman Rubber began manufacturing footwear made from synthetic materials. The most popular of these were Foamtread slippers, introduced in 1953. In 1954, the company pioneered the slush-moulding of waterproof footwear from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) under the name Showertogs. It also entered the leather work boot market with its Kingtreads name, and eventually offered a hiking and hunting boot known as Badlanders as well. The Sorel line of winter sport and work boots, introduced in 1959, became Kaufman Rubber’s most successful product line.
In 1964, the company changed its name to Kaufman Footwear Limited, perhaps to reflect its diversity of products as the company was not entirely a rubber manufacturer any more. That year, A.R. Kaufman’s son William H. Kaufman became company president.
After A.R. Kaufman’s death in 1979 Kaufman Footwear became Kaufman Footwear, division of William H. Kaufman Inc. In 1997 Tom Kaufman, son of William H. Kaufman, was named president. In 2000 Kaufman Footwear declared bankruptcy.
The Kaufman Rubber Company plant at the corner of Victoria and King Streets in Kitchener was designated in 1996 by the Kitchener Local Architectural Conservancy Advisory Committee (LACAC, now Heritage Kitchener) as architecturally and historically significant. The industrial complex was designed by Albert Kahn, an important industrial architect of the early 20th century. The building has been converted into condominiums.
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