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Joe founded Reebok in 1958 with his late brother Jeff, following their family heritage back to 1895. Joe's Grandfather, also Joseph W Foster, pioneered the spiked running shoe and famously made shoes for the Worlds best athletes of the early 20th century, with World records and Olympics Gold Medals.
Wearing (pumps) made by J W Foster & Sons Ltd, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell won Olympic Gold Medals in the 1928 Paris Olympics and were immortalised in the film ‘Chariots of Fire’.
With Reebok they followed in his footsteps, with Olympic, Commonwealth and European medals and World record breaking performances, represented now by the range of Reebok Classics.
Joseph William Foster (Joe) was born in 1881 and trained as a cobbler. At the age of 14 in 1895 he made his first pair of spiked running shoes (pumps). By the age of 19 with growing demand for his skill he established his business at 59 Deane Road Bolton. He names the Deane Road property ‘Olympic Works’.
By 1906 Joe was married to Maria Howarth and had two sons, John William (Billy) and James William (Jim). Earlier, in 1904 Joe’s spikes were worn by Alf Shrubb when breaking 3 world records at Ibrox Park, Glasgow.
With two sons to grow into the business ‘Foster’s’ expands ‘Globally’, providing shoes for many Olympic Teams. In the 1924 Paris Olympic Games, Gold medals, won by Harold Abraham and Eric Liddell in ‘Foster’s Pumps, were followed by Lord Burghley in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games, to provide the characters, immortalised in the film ‘Chariots of Fire’.
Joe dies in 1933, 18 months before Joe (Jim’s son) is born in 1935 on his birthday, 18th May, now we have a second Joseph William The ‘Foster’ company is continued by sons Billy and Jim, headed by Maria. After 6 years Maria gives the company to the Sons, who are advised to establish the ‘Limited’ company.
Jeffrey William Foster (Jeff), Jim’s first son, joins ‘Fosters’ in 1948 and Joe joins later in 1952. But, in 1953 National Service takes first Joe and six months later Jeff away for 2 years. Their return to ‘Fosters’ ended in November 1958 and the Reebok story begins.
It’s November 1958 and 33/35 Bolton Street, Bury, six miles from Bolton is the choice for Jeff and Joe to found their own Sports Shoe company. After 18 months and with advice from their Accountant J A Crawshaw, just across the road, in Bolton Street Bury, Joe is told he needs to ‘register’ the company name.
Now it’s 1960, the company has to change it’s name and REEBOK is born. We move on to 1976 as J W Foster & Sons (Athletic Shoes) Ltd ceases trading and is absorbed into Reebok.
Joe has nearly completed his REEBOK story from the day he and Jeff set out on their journey, experiencing many adventures and travelling the world to create a Global market. His book will be published soon. Just waiting for the final chapter.
The J W Foster Tradition continues in 2016 as J W Foster (Heritage) Ltd, with loan items held in the Reebok Archive in Boston.