History of S.B. Foot Tanning Company

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The S.B. Foot Tanning Company was founded in 1872 by Silas B. Foot and George Sterling near Red Wing, Minnesota. In 1859, Foot and Sterling formed a partnership and opened the Foot-Sterling Shoe Factory, producing shoes, boots, and shoe pacs – a form of moccasin that uses deer fur with the hair intact to protect feet from harsh Minnesota winters.

S.B. Foot Tannery, Red Wing, 1940’s. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN
S.B. Foot Tannery, Red Wing, 1940’s. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN

 

Shoemaking created a constant demand for leather and furs, but hides weren’t always readily available. In order to have a reliable leather source, Foot and Sterling established a local tannery in 1872 called the Trout Brook Tannery. It became a wholesale leather company, supplying leather to different businesses around the United States.

Foot became the sole owner of the tannery in 1897, renaming the business S.B. Foot & Company. The tannery soon became a family affair when his son Edwin Hawley Foot started working at the tannery in 1898 and began overseeing the daily operations. As the company began to expand, the factory was in need of a large renovation or new location. Edwin convinced his father to build a new factory and in 1908, the new factory was built on Bench Street, the current location of S.B. Foot Tanning Company. Later that year, Silas passed away and Edwin became the president and owner of the company.

Silas B. Foot portrait revoir 1954. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN
Silas B. Foot portrait revoir 1954. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN

 

Due to S.B. Foot & Company’s emphasis on high quality leather, the tannery began supplying leather to local shoemaker, Charles Beckman (more info about Mr. Beckman here), in 1905. Beckman had just founded the Red Wing Shoe Company in an effort to make high quality work boots for hardworking individuals.

Sides piled high, bussing department, 1959. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN
Bussing department, 1959. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN

 

Sides on cart, finishing department 1929. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN
Finishing department 1929. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN

 

1917 delivery truck carrying packages of finished leather. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN
Delivering packages of finished leather, 1917. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN

 

S.B. Foot & Company reorganized during the winter of 1932-1933 and during that time, changed the company name to S.B. Foot Tanning Company. And in 1957, 100 years after Silas B. Foot arrived in Minnesota, Edwin passed away and the business was handed down to Silas B. Foot II. He presided over the business until 1972 when it was passed to his brother, Edwin Hawley II and finally to Silas B. Foot III.

S.B. Foot Office Door, 1954. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN
S.B. Foot Office Door, 1954. Photo courtesy of Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., Red Wing, MN

 

Though Red Wing Shoe Co. began purchasing leather from S.B. Foot back in 1905, in 1986 it merged two hometown multi-generational family businesses by acquiring the S.B. Foot Tanning Company. The tannery remains operational, uses updated versions of techniques that were originally developed by Silas and E.H. Foot, and still supplies 100% of the leather that is used to make the footwear that made Red Wing a household name.

This film features Red Wing Shoes subsidiary S.B. Foot Tanning Company, located in Red Wing, MN.

Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading about this company so many people talk good about this brand I decided to buy a pair for myself

    By Travis Kendall

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