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The Cool and Captivating History of Johnston & Murphy Shoes

Johnston & Murphy is one of the oldest American footwear companies still in operation. They are a subsidiary of Genesco Inc. and headquartered near Nashville, Tennessee. Johnston & Murphy designs, sources, markets, and distributes high-quality footwear, apparel, and luggage goods from their headquarters as well as through retail locations all over North America. Johnston & Murphy products are currently sold in over 1,600 retail stores (Suits Unlimited - Albuquerque, NM) and more than 50 countries worldwide. The company is one of the largest American-owned footwear manufacturers, with an annual turnover of $300 million.

Retail Operations and Wholesale are the two operating sectors of the Johnston & Murphy Group. The Retail Operations division sells Johnston & Murphy branded products to customers in the United States and 92 other countries via the website, as well as direct mail catalogs and 168 company-owned retail shops in malls and airports, including factory stores in outlet malls.

Additionally, Johnston & Murphy has grown their Wholesale division to be one of America's most popular brands. Currently, they distribute footwear products across 2100 department stores and independent specialty shops in 15 foreign countries.


Johnston & Murphy's company was founded when William J. Dudley, a European immigrant and skilled shoemaker who had been educated in the classic tradition of English shoemaking, opened his own shop in 1850 in Newark, NJ.

The William J. Dudley Shoe Company was known for producing high-quality, long-lasting work shoes. During its first 25 years, rapid growth meant the company had to relocate five times, each time to a larger facility. The Factory was initially located in a three-story building on Market Street, near Lawrence Street, near Pennsylvania Station. Charles Goodyear, the creator of the Goodyear company, was a frequent guest of Dudley's, according to the late historian William Starr Myers, conversing late into the night with Dudley.

James Johnston, a Newark businessman, became Dudley's partner in 1880. Johnston's goal was to broaden the company's product offerings and revenue streams. The company developed a line of higher-fashion footwear based on the dependability of its work shoes, which immediately became popular. When founder William Dudley died in 1881, Johnston took over the company and renamed it The James Johnston Company. In 1879, W.H. Dudley was succeeded by James Johnston, according to a manufacturing journal published in 1887.

The success of Johnston's local shoe company piqued the interest of William A. Murphy, another notable Newark businessman from a prominent family, in 1882. The company was renamed Johnston & Murphy once the two formed a partnership. By 1887, Johnston & Murphy had built a seven-story factory with 250 employees and steam-powered machinery to produce nearly 2,000 pairs of shoes and slippers every week. In 1892, the corporation moved into a newly constructed factory on Lincoln Street, between Mercer and Court Streets, in the Springfield Belmont section of Newark. In 1925, the company upgraded the facility to nearly double its original size.