Bluff City Shoe Plant was built in 1911 by several local citizens, among
whom were W. J. A. Meyer, Walter
Logan, and Scott Meyer. The Chamber of Commerce gave a tract of ground 105
ft. by 384 ft. in Out Lot 52. The company constructed a building 50 ft. by
110 ft. The Company agreed to expend $100,000 in payrolls in a three year
period. This contract was fulfilled. Later in 1922, an addition was built to
the regular building. The Chamber of Commerce gave $15,000 cash and the land
for this addi≠tion. The company agreed to spend $3,500,000 in payrolls in a
seven year period. In 1925 the Bluff City Shoe Plant was sold to the
International Shoe Company, and the International Shoe Company completed the
payroll contract with the Chamber of Commerce.
the year 1920 the Hannibal Chamber of Commerce entered into a contract with
the Hannibal Rubber Company to provide this company with free land on which
to construct a rubber tire plant. The value of the land given was set up as
$25,000, and was given on the condition that the rubber company would spend
$600,000 in payrolls in a seven year period. Before the completion of this
seven year period the Hannibal Rubber Com≠pany took bankruptcy. The
Chamberís next step was to interest someone else in the vacant property
The International Shoe Company Rubber Plant came to Hannibal as a result of
the Chamber of Commerce negotiating with the International Shoe Company for
the purchase of a building and equipment of the defunct and bankrupt
Hannibal Rubber Company. In this case the International Shoe Company agreed
to pay $50,000 as their share for the property, the Chamber of Commerce to
raise any additional funds necessary to secure the property. When final
negotiations were completed, the Chamber secured the price of $50,000 from
the Referee in Bankruptcy and hence the citizens of Hannibal were not
required to raise any funds for this new industry secured through the
The Roberts, Johnson
& Rand Shoe Factory employed nearly 5,000 workers in its heyday. The
factory also known as the Star Shoe Company later became International Shoe
and finally closed in the 1960's. The factory was located at 701 Collier in
Development of the
Shoe manufacturing was
second only to the lumbering business. Shoe production had a meager start,
but developed rapidly in the late 1890's and early 1900's.
The first shoe manufacturers in Hannibal were independent cobblers, who were
influential in starting the shoe factories. Among the shoe makers from 1872
to 1900 was Joseph Bassen who came to Hannibal from Germany in 1866 at age
14, and learned the art in the shop of his brothers John and Fred at 204
Other cobblers were: George W. Mueller, Peter Essig at 202 Third; August E.
Indorf on Market Street; William Gerleman on Broadway near Maple; Fred
Waller, on Market Street; and Fred Mangels, on Market Street. Cobblers were
skilled craftsmen, who repaired shoes and numerous other things such as
violins. Custom made shoes were not uniform in size they conformed to the
shape of the individual foot.
In the 1890's factory-made shoes from the East were introduced. This
revolutionized the shoe industry since previously all shoes were made to
order. With mass producton, a supply of shoes of uniform sizes could be kept
Henry Herrig, a cobbler of ability, specialized in baby moccasins in a shop
upstairs on Main between Broadway and Center. Lacking capital he sold the
business to Beverly Hixson and E. P. Bowman who incorporated as the Hixson
Shoe Company in November, 1894. Hixson was president; J. W. Whaley,
secretary and treasurer, and the board consisted of E. P. Bowman, R. L.
Hixson, J. T. Nelson, W. F. Bird, and J. F. Williamson.
They moved the shop to 403 North Bird and continued making baby moccasins.
Gradually they started making soft sole shoes, then shifted to children's
McKays, then to women's McKays. McKays had hard soles sewed onto the uppers
by a new invention of a man named Gordon McKay.
McKay's machine radically changed shoe making. Up to that time, hard soles
could be attached only by hand sewing and the use of wood pegs. McKay's
invention made him wealthy. He received a royalty of four cents each on
10,000,000 pair annually. He also had other inventions for which he received
The Hixson Shoe Company prospered, producing more shoes than the local
market could absorb so that salesmen were employed to travel to other areas.
In 1898, a Hixson salesman tried to sell shoes to Roberts, Johnson and Rand
of St. Louis, a company which contracted for large orders. Oscar Johnson
proved to be a hard buyer, declining the offer, and the salesman reported
back to Mr. Hixson. Hixson e accepted the challenge and decided to make the
He prepared new samples, with open cross sections to show construction and
quality, and estimated his costs with a sharp pencil. When thoroughly
prepared, Hixson went to St. Louis, met with Mr. Johnson, and convinced him
of the value of the Star Brand, a six-inch high woman's shoe of unusual
quality which he was producing. Impressed by the new shoe, and also by
Hixson, Johnson's purchase established a long lasting friendship and
business association between the two. Before the end of 1898 Johnson wrote
to Hixson wanting more Star Brand shoes.
Hixson answered that his company did not have capital and equipment to
produce more shoes. Roberts, Johnson, and Rand put additional capital into
the Hixson Company and from this the new Star Shoe Company was organized. It
was incorporated January 20, 1899, and the board consisted of Jackson
Johnson, Oscar Johnson, John C. Roberts, E. E. Rand, F. L. e Dubach, J. H.
McVeigh, S. M. Carter, Robert Robinson, C. Albertson, A. R. Levering, and J.
The enlarged company started production in the Hixson Shoe Company Building
on Bird. In a short time a new factory was required. The Star Shoe Company
was in existence at the close of the 1890's and blossomed with the beginning
of the twentieth century.
Articles from the
Hannibal Courier-Post: Reprinted with permission from The Hannibal
Courier-Post and Morris Digital Works