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Leather Companies, Home Computers, and Private Subways
In issue, Boomboxes, Arc Lights, and Santa Claus, I brought up the Norelco company. The name Norelco fascinated me because it is a portmanteau I would have never expected, North American Philips [electrical] Company.
As a name, Norelco is a stretch even once you know the source, but it works and is a lot less of a mouthful. This got me thinking about other corporate portmanteaus, my favorite is one that is near and dear to me.
The Connecticut Leather Company
The Connecticut Leather Company was founded in 1932 by Maurice Greenberg. The company originally supplied leather and supplies for shoe repair shops. In their first three decades, the company would grow and diversify. Eventually. manufacturing equipment to clean shoes and hats as well shoe shine stands. Things were looking swell.
Then in the fifties, Maurice Greenberg’s son, Leonard Greenberg, led an effort to have the company start selling leathercraft kits. In 1954 a leathercraft kit for making moccasins aimed at children won an award at a toy show. After that, the company would jump leather-clad feed first into the toy industry.
So successful were they in toys that in 1961 the leather part of the company was sold and the company changed its name to one we are more familiar with today, Coleco.
It’s another one of those classic examples of a leather company done good, but it’s not the only one you might have heard of.
Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company
In 1919, Texans Norton Hinckley and Dave L. Tandy founded the Hinckley-Tandy Leather Company. This company was very similar to Connecticut Leather in that they were focused primarily on supplies for shoe repair.
In 1955 they were acquired by the American Hide and Leather Company of Boston. Then they made a purchase in 1963 that would change history.
President and Chairman of the Board, Charlies Tandy had become enamored of the electronics industry and saw massive potential. He would lead the effort to acquire a struggling decades-old electronic company, Radio Shack.
Under Tandy, within two years Radio Shack was turning a profit. As the seventies dawned, Radio Shack and Tandy were poised to join the personal computer revolution.
In 1977, Tandy along with Commodore and Apple introduced completely pre-assembled microcomputers.
Up until that time, when you wanted a computer, you would need to assemble it from a kit. This changed everything and by 1981, Tandy computers made up the largest portion of the company’s sales. So dominant were they that pre-1983 they controlled upwards of 60% of the home computer market in the USA.
Like Coleco, Tandy had transitioned from leather to high-tech electronics seemingly effortlessly.
In addition to changing the face of computing, Tandy also had something no other company in the United States had, their own privately owned subway.
Leonard’s M&O Subway
In Ft. Worth, Texas in 1963, Leonard’s Department Store built a subway connecting its store to large offsite parking lots. This subway line was known as the Leonard’s M&O Subway, and it consisted of five stations, one in the store and four at the parking lots.
The line would eventually roll 15 streetcars they purchased from DC Transit in Washinton. D.C. All of these were classic-looking cars manufactured by the St. Louis Car Company in the thirties and forties.
In 1967, Tandy purchased the department store, its parking lots, and its subway. They would demolish the store and build the Tandy Center in 1974. The subway survived the demolition. Renamed the Tandy Center Subway, it would continue to run as the United States’ only private subway line until August 30, 2020.
The system is long closed, but many of the cars managed to survive and can be found on display across the United States.
I don’t know about you but I like living in a world where a company that started off selling leather to fix shoes could eventually own its own private subway.