History of the J. L. Hudson Company and the Hudson‑Webber Foundation

In 1881, Joseph L. Hudson, who had emigrated from England as a child, opened a small men’s and boys’ store in Detroit called the J. L. Hudson Company, which grew to be the city’s largest department store.

While growing his business, Hudson developed a strong commitment to Detroit’s charities, civic boards and committees.

Although he never married, Hudson’s sister, Mary, and her husband, Joseph T. Webber, had four sons, whom Hudson trained as merchants, preparing them for future management responsibilities, and instilling in them a strong sense of social responsibility.

Upon Hudson’s death in 1912, the Webber brothers inherited the majority of the company’s stock and the company’s destiny.

J.L. Hudson
J.L. Hudson
Richard H. Webber
Richard H. Webber

Richard H. Webber became President, James B. and Joseph L. Webber became the Merchandise Directors, and Oscar Webber became the General Manager.

Under the Webber brothers’ management, the company continued to expand while pioneering new merchandising approaches. During their lifetimes, they developed the company into one of America’s most important department store chains, including several of the world’s largest shopping centers.

The Webber brothers exhibited great civic commitment and leadership in the tradition of their uncle, giving generously of their talent and financial resources for the betterment of Detroit.

Foundation Origins

The Hudson-Webber Foundation is rooted in Richard H. Webber’s visionary philanthropy. Webber created three foundations to perpetuate the family’s civic and social contributions to the Metro Detroit community while managing the growth of the family business.

In 1939, Eloise and Richard Webber provided substantial gifts to establish the Eloise and Richard Webber Foundation. Their daughters – Jean Webber Sutphin and Mary Webber Parker – and Richard’s sister, Louise Webber O’Brien, also provided important contributions.

In 1943, the Hudson-Webber Foundation was founded with major gifts provided by the J.L. Hudson Company and Richard, Joseph and Oscar Webber. Significant contributions were also provided by Company employees and other members of the family.

In 1960, the Richard H. and Eloise Jenks Webber Charitable Fund Inc. was established.

On January 1, 1984, the three foundations merged to become the Hudson-Webber Foundation to enable better planning, administration, and more effectively communicate with the community, while also reducing expenses. The foundation stands as proud testimony to its creators and continues to fulfill their plan for the family’s civic and social contributions to the Detroit community.