Leon Leonwood Bean

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Leon Leonwood Bean
Leon Leonwood Bean.jpg
BornOctober 13, 1872
Greenwood, Maine
DiedFebruary 5, 1967(1967-02-05) (aged 94)
Pompano Beach, Florida
OccupationCEO, inventor and author
RelativesLinda Bean (granddaughter)

Leon Leonwood Bean (October 13, 1872 – February 5, 1967)[1] was an American inventor, author, outdoor enthusiast, and founder of the company L.L.Bean.


Leon Bean as a child and his mother, Sarah

Bean was born in the town of Greenwood, Maine[2] on October 13, 1872 to Benjamin Warren Bean and Sarah (Swett) Bean,[3] one of six sons. According to a grandson of Leon L. Bean, the latter's middle name may have been originally "Linwood" and accidentally changed to "Leonwood".[4] In fact, in the Freeport Town Clerk's Report for the 1898–1899 period, a "Leon Linwood Bean" married a "Bertha Davis Porter" on September 28, 1898.[5]

Bean showed an early interest in business, earning his first money when he was nine years old. He learned that he could either attend the local fair or sell steel traps to his father, so he decided to sell the traps.[3] When Bean was 13 years old, he killed and sold his first deer. Bean's schooling outside of public school included only one semester at Hebron Academy and a course in business at Kents Hill School.

Bean's parents died four days apart when Bean was 12 years old. He subsequently moved to South Paris, Maine to stay with family.[6]

Foundation of L.L.Bean[edit]

The farmhouse where Leon L. Bean purportedly was born[7]

Bean was an avid hunter and fisherman. In his outdoor activities, his boots would become soaked with water, so he set out to resolve this inconvenience and developed plans for a waterproof boot. The boot was a combination of lightweight leather for the upper part and rubber on the bottom.[3] He brought the plans to a cobbler and the first boots were made. Bean felt the boot produced to be of good quality, and obtained a list of non-resident Maine hunting license holders and prepared a descriptive mail order circular. He promised 100% money back for anyone who was unhappy with the boots. Because of this, Bean had to refund 90% of the costs of the first 100 sets of boots made, when the rubber on the bottom developed cracks.[3] He seemed not to mind returning the money, and the popularity of the boots was clear. In 1911, he took out a loan in the amount of US$400 and set off to Boston, where he offered the United States Rubber Company the remainder of his US$400 to produce a better quality boot for him. With the better quality boots available, Bean set up a boot shop in his brother's basement in Freeport, Maine. His skills and trials as an entrepreneur, along with his promise to return 100% money back on all items, were detailed by many local and national newspapers of the time. By 1917, he had sold enough of his boots to buy a dedicated building for his shop on the main street of Freeport. In 1918, Bean realised the importance of patenting his invention. As the patent was granted, he moved on to inventing and improving more outdoor equipment and expanding his store to what L.L.Bean is today.[3]

As an author[edit]

Bean published a book in 1942, called Hunting, Fishing and Camping and an autobiography, in 1960, called My Story: the Autobiography of a Down-East Merchant."[8][9]

Death and legacy[edit]

Bean died in Pompano Beach, Florida, on February 5, 1967, at the age of 94. He was buried in Freeport's Webster Road Cemetery.[10] At the time of his death, the annual sales of his company were in the hundreds of millions. Company policy of giving 100% money back on returned products applied until February 9, 2018.[6][11]

Maine Medical Center has named one of its wings in his honor.[12] In addition, his portrait hangs in a ground-floor corridor at the hospital.


  1. ^ "Find a Grave". Retrieved September 4, 2014.
  2. ^ "Biography of Little Little Bean". SwiftPapers. p. 1. Retrieved June 26, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Little Little Bean Biography". BookRags. p. 1. Retrieved June 26, 2008.
  4. ^ "One L of a name: L.L. Bean's initials get scrutiny". Chicago Daily Herald. Associated Press. July 8, 2012. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
  5. ^ Town of Freeport, Town Records for 1898–1899, Town Clerk's Report, p. 88.
  6. ^ a b "The biography of Little Little Bean". Answers.com. p. 1. Retrieved June 26, 2008.
  7. ^ "Looking back at L.L. Bean from Greenwood, "a town that no longer exists"". Oxford Hills Sun Journal. Oxford Hills. July 8, 2012. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
  8. ^ Carmichael, Evan. "Famous Entrepreneurs, Baxter Gene Nichols". evancarmichael.com. p. 1. Retrieved June 26, 2008.
  9. ^ "Biography of "Leon Leonwood Bean"". BookRags.com. p. 1. Retrieved June 26, 2008.
  10. ^ Rogak, Lisa (2004), Stones and Bones of New England: A guide to unusual, historic, and otherwise notable cemeteries, Globe Pequat ISBN 0-7627-3000-5
  11. ^ "L. L. Bean return policy". L. L. Bean. p. 1. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  12. ^ "Internal map of Maine Medical Center" (PDF). (60.3 KB)

External links[edit]