Snell's Orthotics-Prosthetics was established in 1911 as Snell's Limbs and Braces, Inc., by the current owner's grandfather, R.W. (Pop) Snell.
Jim (J.D.) Snell, the middle of Pop's three sons, came to Shreveport in 1939. Jim Snell stood 6'8", and according to a colorful retrospective written by Charlie Davis, the man who served as his company's office manager for 49 years, "Big Jim" arrived in Shreveport with $300 in his pocket.
Despite the difficult times of the Great Depression, when many patients could not afford to pay for prostheses and orthoses and no government funding was available, the Snell business managed to survive. In 1948 Snell developed a process for making leg braces from aluminum that was heat treated after shaping, with steel bushings at the knee and ankle joints. The idea was so revolutionary that it took years before the industry was convinced that aluminum could be effectively used to create lightweight leg braces.
The polio epidemic of 1951 and 1952 required 24-7 service from employees to meet the tremendously increased need for braces.