When Charles Beckman finished the first pair of Red Wing shoes, he stepped back and took a long hard look at them. It was September 1, 1905 and Charles had come a long way. As a German immigrant, he had always strongly believed in the American dream. He had just managed to perfect and produce the image that had been stuck in his mind for years; a workingman’s boot that was not only sturdy, but also comfortable to wear. Charles decided to sell this new and improved boot for the humble price of one dollar and seventy-five cents. The Red Wing Shoes Company had become a fact. Only two years later, the company produced over 100 pairs of shoes per day. Charles Beckman’s dream has since grown steadily into a company that delivers high quality boots to people all over the world.
It was Beckman’s perseverance and determination that helped him thrive in an exciting but simultaneously rough and rugged new era. With the rise of industrial activities in and around the town of Red Wing, Beckman recognized a growing need in his community for durable, high quality work boots. As the owner of a shoe store he wanted to provide his customers with shoes that fit them perfectly. But his dependence on his suppliers meant he didn’t always have men’s shoes in the right sizes. So he started toying around with the idea of producing his own footwear.
In ‘Heart and Sole’, the book that celebrates Red Wing Shoe Company’s 80-year anniversary, a resident recalls visiting Mr. Beckman’s shoe store. “I remember Mr. Beckman so well. We children used to just love him; we loved to go down and buy shoes, because he’d take all kinds of time to fit us right. We bought shoes every fall that we wore to school. When my father wanted to buy shoes, Mr. Beckman said, ‘Well, I don’t always have men’s shoes in the right size. There really should be somebody here to make shoes.’ So I think that started the idea.”
Mr. Beckman’s fancy turned to fact in February 1905, when he and 14 other local business investors founded the Red Wing Shoe Company. The characteristic spirit of Beckman lives on in the company today. A ‘hands-on’ mentality and a dedication to always aim for the highest possible result are what have shaped the company since its inception.
The conditions that gave rise to the Red Wing Shoe Company are the same that encouraged the development of manufacturing throughout the community. Red Wing Shoes Company developed alongside the emergence of the new frontier. Farming, ranching, logging, mining, blacksmithing, railroading and construction were the primary occupations of the era. Red Wing managed to capitalize on these industries by producing quality work shoes for hardworking people. The company became a huge success and Red Wing shoes expanded, soon becoming synonymous with high-quality boots that found their way onto the feet of people from all walks of American life.
A lot of things in the company have developed and improved over the years, but the basic philosophy of Charles Beckman remains the same. As the founding father of the company, Charles Beckman’s craftsmanship, determination and unfailing belief in his own vision remain a great inspiration for everyone working at Red Wing Shoes Company. His dedication to finding a better way of doing things and sticking to it is why shoemaking at Red Wing Shoe Company continues to follow relatively similar constructions as the old handmade traditions. This approach has resulted in the incomparable quality and character of the shoes.
Mr. Beckman’s legacy still plays a determining role in the vision of the company and is the driving force behind what Red Wing Shoes Company does best: making great shoes.