Brown Shoe Company Factory

Brown Shoe Company Factory Litchfield Illinois
Brown Shoe Company Factory Litchfield Illinois

Litchfield has for many years been the stronghold of men’s footwear in Brown Shoe Company. In 1916 first arrangements were made between progressive citizens of the community and officials of the company regarding the possibility of locating a Brown Plant in Litchfield. The community agreed to raise some $70,000 and a person-to-person canvass was made of the community.

Among Litchfield’s leaders, A. R. Stansifer, R. L. Hurt, and J. C. Strehle were three of the very active local men to whom much credit and praise are still due for securing the Brown Shoe Company for Litchfield. Mr. Hurt was chairman of the drive in the raising of funds for the bonus, Mr. Strehle was secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. Stansifer was the one selected to go to the heads of the Big Four Railroad in Cincinnati to secure the lease on the present site of the Brown Shoe Factory. Other Litchfield men playing an important part were Eli Miller, F. R. Milnor, M. M. Morrison, David Davis, and Harry C. Gorin.

A large clock was erected in the library park across from the First National Bank and each time another $1,000 of the bonus required was raised, the clock hand was moved up. A systematic canvass of all business houses and citizens was made by different wards for this bonus. Many business houses gave as high as $1,000. The American Radiator Company started the list off with their donation of $2,500. When the bonus was raised, the fire bell and church bells rang, and people celebrated in the streets.

The new factory was opened the week of March 31, 1917. A reception to the public was held on the evening of April 13, 1917, with a band concert by the Moose Band in the downtown district. Proceedings were interrupted at 7:00 by the first sounding of the new factory whistle, at which time the entire assemblage moved to the factory area where the band was established on the roof garden for another concert. During the evening additional music was supplied by the Crescendo Orchestra and the Factory Booster Quartet. To prove to the world that Litchfield was a live town, the entire business district was kept lighted for the duration of the evening. More than 7,000 visitors trooped through the factory to marvel at the magnitude of the community’s accomplishment.

The first payroll was dated 11/25/1916. The cutting and fitting departments were started in what is now known as the Carroll Building, corner of Ryder and Madison Streets.

A one-story addition was made to the factory in 1922 and the remaining three floors added to this new addition a year or two later.

By June 30, 1917, there were 323 employees working at the factory producing 5,500 pairs of shoes per week. Seven of these employees are still with the Brown Shoe Plant at Litchfield. They are: Herman Gronewald, Matilda Keene, Fidelis Heise, Ethel Pruitt, Robert Smith, Leo King, and Ada Simpson. At the present time there is an average of 450 employees making 15,000 pairs of shoes per week with an average weekly payroll of $24,000.

In 1939 the factory started making a line of top grade men’s dress shoes. At the present writing the factory produces 3,000 pairs of shoes daily sold under the nationally advertised name of “Roblee.” Shoes are shipped to towns and cities in every state of the union, also to many foreign countries.

Former Superintendents in order of service are: Wm. Kincade, Mr. Skillings, J. A. McDonald, Luke Sawmiller, and Raymond Higgins. Mr. Higgins started at the factory as an operator when it opened, and is now a General Superintendent.

The present supervisory staff includes: Supt. E. B. Meyers; Ass't Supt. E. N. Woods; Office Manager, Miss LeVella Ritchie; Engineer Estel Sights; Foremen Alfred Hinz, Harley Logsdon, G. L. Richardson, John Welsh, Melvin Evans, Fred L. Dively, Francis Cawthon, Elmer Frey.

Taken from: Litchfield Centennial Book 1853-1953

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Jeff Dunn

Vice President

Historical Society of

Montgomery County

Advisory Board

Illinois State

Historical Society