Across the factory floor in Plant 2, a staccato hammering is heard before it is seen. Approaching the cacophony one finds the curved leather-clad back of an archaic contraption that looks a little bit like an armored medieval warhorse. This is the Puritan Stitch machine, so named for its original builder, Puritan Manufacturing of Boston, Massachusetts. This place of origin is proudly displayed on the only bit of adornment on the entire machine, an engraved brass plaque that also shows the date of its patent: January 31st, 1893. During normal operation, this plaque is hidden away behind the fitted leather cover that reduces the sound of the machine and protects its operator from sharp edges and moving parts.
It’s just as well that the mechanics of the Puritan Stitch machine are hidden away; the machine itself is not much to behold. Its heavy metal frame is a dull gray and its necessary lubrication leaves an oily film that collects dust. But observing it running in the hands of a skilled operator is where its beauty lies. She feeds a set of leather panels under its heavy sewing head and three massive needles fuse them together with a triple stitch. This signature triple row of stitches is what holds the front and back sections of a boot together and what makes a Red Wing boot so hard wearing and long lasting. It’s been done this way since the early 1900s with this very same machine. And until a better machine comes along, it will continue to be done this way, we think, for a long, long time.
Listen to those who work with these machines as they explain how they work, and why we keep using them in this video.