Thomas E. Wilson

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Thomas E. Wilson
Picture of Thomas E. Wilson
Picture of Thomas E. Wilson
Born (1868-07-22)July 22, 1868
London, Ontario, Canada
Died August 4, 1958(1958-08-04) (aged 90)
Illinois, USA
Nationality USA
Known for Wilson Sporting Goods, Wilson and Company

Thomas E. Wilson (July 11, 1868 – August 4, 1958) was the founder of Wilson Sporting Goods and the Wilson and Company meatpacking company.[1]

In 1917, he was hired to take over the management of a failing meat packing company in Chicago, which was subsequently named after him, making Wilson & Company the 3rd largest meat packing company in the country. In 1926, he created one of the most recognizable brand names in the world, known as Wilson Sporting Goods. He served as President and Chairman of the Board of Wilson & Co for 35 years.

Early life[edit]

Wilson was born on a farm near London, Ontario, Canada, on July 22, 1868 to Moses and Mary Ann (Higgins) Wilson. He went to the United States as a young man, working as a railroad car checker in the bustling stockyards of Chicago. He married Elizabeth L. Foss on November 1, 1899 and had two children: Helen (Williams) and Edward Foss.


He spent over 25 years working his way up the ranks of Morris & Co, becoming Vice President of the packing house in 1906, and president in 1913 following the death of its founder, Edwin Morris. In 1916, bankers succeeded in luring Wilson away from Morris & Company, in order to run a failing New York-based meat packing company called Sulzberger & Sons (S&S) (Ferdinand Sulzberger, founded in 1853 as Schwartzchild & Sulzberger).[2] The company's name was changed to Wilson & Co., Inc. on July 27, 1916, and its headquarters moved to Chicago's Union Stock Yards. It soon joined Armour and Swift at the top of the American meat industry.

In a real estate transaction in the 1920s, Wilson & Co. acquired the Ashland Manufacturing Company which included an inventory of sporting goods products. The contents were offered to Spalding, among others, but finding insufficient interest Wilson decided to enter the business on its own. The company is now Wilson Sporting Goods.[3] It is owned by the Amer Group of Helsinki, Finland.

From 1916 until the 1950s Thomas Wilson built the company rapidly into one of 50 largest industrial corporations in America.[4] Wilson was an important influence on the branding of processed meat products, having developed many of today's popular value added beef and pork products. Wilson & Company was responsible for introducing numerous well-known brands, such as Wilson Certified Hams, Wilson's Continental Deli and Wilson's Corn King.[5] He was an important figure in both the American Meat Institute and in the sporting goods industry. He was a leader of the national 4H program and breeder of shorthorn cattle.

He died in 1958.[6]

In the 1960s Wilson & Co. was acquired (taken private) by LTV Corporation, and later the sporting goods division was sold successively to WESRAY, PEPSI and AMER GROUP.