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Thomas Edward Wilson | Inducted by 1920

Canadian-born American businessman who created the third largest meat packing business in the U.S. and in 1926, he created one of the most recognizable sports brand names in the world, known as Wilson Sporting Goods.

1868-1958 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936)

Impact & Accomplishments

Born in London, Ontario, Thomas E. Wilson moved to Chicago after high school, to work as a railroad car checker in the bustling stockyards of Chicago. In 1890, he took a position with Morris and Company, working his way up through the ranks, and eventually succeeding Edward Morris as president in 1913.

Bankers convinced him to take over a failing New York meatpacking company, Saltzberger & Sons, in 1916. Wilson relocated the company to Chicago, renamed it Wilson & Company, and transformed it into the third largest meat packing company in the nation, behind only Armour and Swift. Simultaneously, he headed Ashland Manufacturing Company, which used animal by-products to create tennis racket strings. He renamed this company Thomas E. Wilson Company and aggressively increased its sports lines. Today, that company is Wilson Sporting Goods.

Wilson was an important influence on the branding of processed meats, having developed many of today’s popular value added beef and pork products. He was the first president of the Institute of American Meat Packers, a director of the International Live Stock Exposition, and president of the Oklahoma City Stock Yards Company.

Thomas Wilson bred many outstanding Shorthorn cattle and Clydesdale horses on his Edellyn Farm, near Lake Forest, Illinois.

Did You Know?

By the mid-1930s, the Wilson & Company employed about 3,900 men and 1,000 women at its plant on Chicago's South Side. At the end of World War II, Wilson's annual sales neared $440 million

The Wilson® NFL® Official Game Ball is the essential pigskin for perfect passes and punts. Featuring pebbled Wilson® leather and a classic “Duke” pattern for increased grip and durability, this ball has been the official game ball of the NFL® since 1941.

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