On December 17, 1957, Wheeling’s J. L. Stifel and Sons closed its doors. The company had been founded by German immigrant Johann Ludwig Stifel in 1835, making it one of West Virginia’s longest-surviving businesses, operated by four generations of the family.
For most of its history, Stifel and Sons produced indigo-dyed prints and drills for clothing manufacturers. The company’s trademark boot was found on products throughout the world. At its peak, the North Wheeling plant produced three-and-a-half million yards of cloth per month. It also was the first company to introduce the process of Sanforizing, which is used to prevent shrinkage in textiles.
During World War II, Stifel and Sons earned the coveted Army-Navy “E” Award for producing fatigue and battle dress uniforms for the armed forces. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Edward E. Stifel, the grandson of Johann Ludwig, spearheaded the movement to build the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport, which opened in 1946.
By the mid-1950s, foreign competition and a recession had driven J. L. Stifel and Sons into the red. As a last ditch effort, the company merged with Indian Head Mills but closed soon afterward.