Monthly Archives: August 2012Monthly Archives: August 2012

1920s Salesmen: Shoe Dogs

The 1920s were full of prosperity, urbanization, and financial growth for America and much of the world. As the country thrived, the Red Wing Shoe Company launched a new sales technique: sending salesmen out on their own across the country. These salesmen, known endearingly as “Shoe Dogs”, traveled throughout the United States selling boots directly to independent retailers.

Shoe Dogs eagerly grabbed a case of boots and hit the road. Like most sales jobs, there was no guarantee at success and the men had to be resilient and rely on instinct. Through their efforts, sales and production figures more than doubled from 1920 to 1929. Read More →

Factory Open House of 1954

The booming economy of the 1950s increased sales at Red Wing Shoe Company to a point where the original shoe factory was no longer able to keep up with changing technology and growing demand. In 1953, a one-story addition was added to the plant, allowing new machines to be brought in and the shoemaking process to be improved.

With the new addition, the cutting and fitting rooms were enlarged and the layout of the factory became more functional. Prior to the remodel, the line shaft system was used, which required all machines to be operating at the same time. Whenever a machine broke down, all other machines on that line also had to stop and wait for the machine to be repaired. When the line shaft system was eliminated, workers were able to take the time to fix a broken machine safely, without affecting the other workers. Read More →

Goodyear Welt

One mark of great shoe craftsmanship is the Goodyear welt, a method of finishing shoes patented in 1896 by Christian Dancel for the Goodyear Shoe Machinery Company. Dancel trained as a mechanical engineer in Germany, and shortly after moving to New York City in the early 1860s had patented a sewing machine strong enough for shoe leather. Charles Goodyear Jr. (who is regularly and often mistakenly credited with inventing the Goodyear Welt) purchased the rights to Dancel’s machine and subsequently hired him as superintendent of his company’s factory. While at the Goodyear Shoe Machinery Company, Dancel also invented a machine for stitching the outsoles of shoes and later added guides for stitching welts to the same machine. Ultimately, he kept improving upon and combining the shoe stitching machines he had invented, and this is what came to be known as the Goodyear welting system. Even today, well over 100 years later, it’s still the sturdiest and most reliable way to finish a shoe or boot.

Read More →