Jump to content

George F. Johnson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George F. Johnson
BornOctober 14, 1857
DiedNovember 28, 1948(1948-11-28) (aged 91)
Years active1881–1948
Known forCo-owner of Endicott Johnson Corporation

George Francis Johnson (1857–1948) was an American businessman.


Early life[edit]

George Francis Johnson was born in Milford, Massachusetts, on October 14, 1857, to Francis A. Johnson and Sarah Jane (Aldrich) Johnson. His siblings were Oscar E., C. Fred Johnson, Harry L., and Charlotte. In 1881, after 10 years of experience in the shoe and boot-making factories in his home state, he was hired as the supervisor of a work crew in a section of a shoe factory in Binghamton, New York. Nine years later he became superintendent of that company's new plant, which was located in the community of Lestershire, New York, and said to be the largest factory of its kind in the entire world.

An Endicott-Johnson store in George F. Johnson's hometown of Milford, Massachusetts, can be seen during a U.S. Bicentennial Celebration on May 16, 1976

Endicott-Johnson Co. and The Square Deal[edit]

In 1899, Johnson became co-owner of the business with Henry B. Endicott, which was renamed the Endicott-Johnson Co. Under his presidency, the company grew to eight factories in Broome County, New York, employing about 10,000. Endicott-Johnson was the first company in the shoe industry to introduce the 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek, and comprehensive medical care. This 40-hour work week was a unit-production based wage rather than an hourly based wage. Despite paying some of the highest wages in the industry, Endicott-Johnson was consistently profitable.

Although Johnson oversaw many different factories throughout the Susquehanna Valley of Broome County, he attracted many immigrant workers to the area by offering to build homes. Although the name Johnson was given to the city in NY where George F. arrived, the city of Endicott better reflects his intimate vision for a prosperous community. This is because Johnson himself developed nearly all of the residential neighborhoods in Endicott, selling houses to the workers at a cost to himself of $1000 each.

Until he died in 1948, Johnson saw to it that Endicott-Johnson employees received a range of benefits that were not typically offered by most employers at the time. The company also created parks (containing swimming pools and carousels that anyone could ride for free), medical facilities, restaurants, libraries, and recreational facilities—all designed to provide high quality goods and services to the employees for free or at a low cost.

The Square Deal Towns of Endicott & Johnson City have set the precedent of eager industrial labor habits for Broome County. The humming EJ factories and neighborhoods were the origins of International Business Machines. Endicott and Johnson City were where George F. Johnson revolutionized the pay system and improved relationships between capital and labor.

Here is a quote from George F.: "To know in the morning that your compensation is fixed; to know that you must do the same thing all day long, to know that whether you do a little more or a little less, whether you are more or less interested and more or less efficient, your pay is automatically fixed-creates the most deadly monotony that I can believe possible". Here he describes what was then called the piece worker system, whereas Professor Melvyn Dubovsky calls Johnson's ethic "welfare capitalism".

The community of Lestershire was renamed Johnson City, New York, in 1916 in honor of Johnson, and Endicott-Johnson workers built two arches over the area's main road in the early ’20s, one at the entrance to Johnson City and the other in Endicott, New York, stating that they were the gateways to the "Square Deal Towns". Endicott-Johnson would become the largest manufacturer of footwear in the United States, employing 24,000 workers at its peak.

Working Week[edit]

During World War I, the Endicott-Johnson shoe factories made every pair of military boots, which equipped U.S. soldiers. On October 16, 1916, George F. Johnson announced the mandate of a 40-hour work week, which became the American Standard. This rule took effect for EJ-factory workers on November 1, 1916. His view of the 40-hour week was based on a wage-system of individual-unit-contributions from his workers, and saw the hourly-wage-system as a form of mental slavery.


Recreation Park Binghamton, New York: eighteen acres, purchased by George F. Johnson were given to the City of Binghamton in October 1921 according to http://westsidebinghamton.org/recpark.html quote "to be expended as soon as possible for improvements." The only condition of this gift of property was "that it shall remain forever a public park, and that it shall be properly improved and maintained by the city as such. If at any time this property shall be used for any other purpose, it shall revert to the giver, his heirs or assigns."

"Between 1919 and 1934, George F. Johnson (1857–1948), shoe manufacturer and great benefactor, donated six beautiful carousels to (Broome County's) local parks. Johnson's commitment to recreation was always more than just good business. He felt carousels contributed to a happy life and would help youngsters grow into strong and useful citizens. Because of his own poor childhood, "George F." believed carousels should be enjoyed by everyone and insisted that the municipalities never charge money for a magic ride."[1]

Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City, New York: "… George F. Johnson offered to donate the cost of a grand, new building if it could be named for his mother, Sarah Jane. …"[2]

George F. Johnson Elementary School, built in 2000, was named after him. It is part of the Union-Endicott Central School District.[3] It is the second Union-Endicott elementary school to be named after him.[citation needed] The first was located in West Endicott. Johnson died on November 28, 1948, in Endicott, New York.[4]

Further reading[edit]

  • William Inglis, George Johnson and His Industrial Democracy (Copyright 1935 by Huntington Press, Inc.) – a glorified version of the company's history sponsored by the company.
  • Partner's All, subtitled A pictorial narrative of an Industrial Democracy (Copyright 1938 by Huntington Corporation) – a glorified version of the company's history sponsored by the company and characterized on the frontispiece as A souvenir gift to the E.J. Workers from George F. Johnson.
  • Gerald Zahavi, Workers, Managers, and Welfare Capitalism: The Shoemakers and Tanners of Endicott Johnson, 1890–1950. (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1988).
  • The following document – "Report of Meeting of Edge Trimmers—is an HTML copy of a typescript found in box 19, George F. Johnson Papers, George Arents Research Library for Special Collections, Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y. It is a transcription of conversations that took place during a meeting held between George F. Johnson and a group of the firm's edge trimmers who had begun to organize. The meeting was held on September 1, 1927. http://www.albany.edu/history/history316/ej_trimmers.html.
  • The Legacy Of George F. Johnson And The Square Deal. NPR (transcript), December 1, 2010. [1]. Retrieved December 2, 2010.


  1. ^ GBVC Carousel Guide.pdf (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on September 24, 2015, retrieved February 25, 2014
  2. ^ "History & Architecture – Sarah Jane Church". Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  3. ^ "George F. Johnson Elementary Home". Retrieved February 25, 2014.
  4. ^ Produced by Joe Richman and Samara Freemark of Radio Diaries, and Jon Miller, with help from Ben Shapiro. Edited by Deborah George. (December 1, 2010). "The Legacy Of George F. Johnson and the Square Deal". Radio Diaries. NPR. Retrieved February 25, 2014.