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Hannibal Shoe Factories

The 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.

In 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 and equipment.

    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 Chamberís efforts.

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 Hannibal.

Development of the Shoe Factories

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 Bird Street.

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 on hand.

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 royalties.

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 sale personally.

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. W. Whaley.

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