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.
After the factory addition was complete, Red Wing Shoes invited community members to tour the newly renovated factory. The open house took place on April 28, 1954 and invited Red Wing residents to “come on in Wednesday night and see…how [the factory makes] 2,400 pairs of shoes every work day of the year.”
Workers were stationed at machines around the factory to show visitors each step of the shoemaking process. Visitors were able to see how a Red Wing boot was made, from cutting the leather to shipping the boots out. Over 3,100 people were escorted through the factory on that night, with 160 gallons of coffee and 4,000 donuts being served. And it’s still possible to see firsthand how Red Wing makes its boots — the public is welcome to tour Plant II every Monday.