Shortly after arriving in the States from Germany in the late 1800s, the Red Wing Shoe Company’s founder, Charles Beckman, started working at a leather tannery in Red Wing, Minnesota. Situated right on the banks of the Mississippi River, Red Wing had been an industrial area since its founding in 1857, and Beckman recognized a need for sturdy boots by the town’s hardworking residents. After working at a local tannery, Beckman decided to open his own shoe store. He later came to the realization that the boots he was selling didn’t live up to his own standards or the needs of his customers. He decided that in order to find a more comfortable and durable boot, he’d have to make his own.
In July of 1905, Beckman and fourteen local investors opened a shoe factory in Red Wing, Minnesota. The original factory employed fifty people, and the first batch of boots ever produced was delivered to the C. Beckman & Co. store on September 12, 1905. The store purchased 12 pairs of men’s boots at $1.75 per pair for a grand total of $15. By 1906, the factory output 110 pairs of shoes per 10 hour workday. Business grew steadily, and the Red Wing Shoe Company’s headquarters expanded for the first time in 1909. By 1986, the factory was able to complete the 1906 output every seven minutes.
Although Charles Beckman died in 1912, the business continued to thrive, and over 100 years later the Red Wing Shoe Company still manufactures boots and uses leathers tanned in Red Wing, Minnesota.