INVENTION OF THE ALUMINUM LAST - In 1905, Hood discovered another way to improve its footwear manufacturing. At the time, it was common practice for American shoe factories to use carefully handcrafted wooden foot forms called “lasts” to shape shoes. Lasts were repeatedly heated at high temperatures during vulcanization; over time, the warped lasts caused inconsistent shoe sizing.
Frederic Hood decided to use a more durable material – aluminum – for the lasts. It was more expensive, but the benefits more than offset the cost. Wooden lasts required several hours to vulcanize each pair of shoes; with aluminum lasts, the heat-conducting metal vulcanized the shoes faster, helping Hood save fuel. The aluminum lasts were also more durable, providing more consistent shoe shapes and producing more evenly vulcanized goods.
In time, the aluminum last became universally adopted – not only in the factories of Hood Rubber Co. but throughout the footwear manufacturing industry worldwide.
The discovery of a process to recycle scrap rubber and the invention of the aluminum last marked the beginning of a long legacy of innovation for Hood. For more than 30 years, its creativity and innovation in products and manufacturing processes kept it strides ahead of its competitors, allowing it to weather fierce market volatility.