History of an American Work Boot Innovator
Peter Weinbrenner moves from Germany to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and sets up a small cobblers business where he starts repairing shoes and boots.
At a quite early stage Peters son Albert starts as an apprentice cobbler in his father’s business.
Albert Weinbrenner is only 27 when he teams up with his new business partner Joseph Pfeifer. They open a shop on 140 West Water Street, Milwaukee from where they start selling shoes and boots. Their new shop is called "Weinbrenner and Pfeifer". They specialize in various types of work boots.
In 1900 both partners purchase the Knoll Shoe Company in order to enter shoe manufacturing. The Company was bought for the mere sum of $1,500 and soon renamed into "Albert H. Weinbrenner Company".
About 60 pairs are produced each day. Their products gain a good reputation among local workers.
Weinbrenner products enter nationwide distribution. At a daily output of 2,500 shoes the company is forced to move to larger manufacturing facilities.
[The Red Wing Shoe Company is established in Minnesota.]
When the new 158,000 square feet factory is completed it also features a self-sustaining power plant in the basement which in return lowers the production costs.
Even architectural magazines write about the exterior and interior design features of the new building.
Employees go on strike for shorter hours and better working conditions.
Although production continues at the same pace (8,000 pairs per day) Weinbrenner reduces daily work hours for all employees from 10 to 9 hours while foremen receive extra promotions.
When the first sales catalog is printed Weinbrenners line now includes women’s and children’s dress shoes. 20.000 pairs of shoes are produced daily and the manufacturing plant has more than 80 cutting machines.
With the introduction of the "Job-fitted" design various dedicated work boot styles begin to appear. Weinbrenner now manufactures boots for miners, oil riggers, linemen and steelworkers. During the First World War Weinbrenner supplies a great number of military boots to the Armed Forces all based on the "Job-fitted" design.
The Thorogood brand, first introduced in 1918, has grown into the company's premiere collection - including both safety and non-safety styles designed for all varieties of occupational and safety requirements - delivering comfort, fit, safety and performance in every pair of work boots made.
A pair of work boots costs around 7-8 Dollars at a shoe store and around 4 Dollars in wholesale.
A new manufacturing plant is opened in Marshfield, Wisconsin and it is still operated today.
A new manufacturing plant is opened in Merrill, Wisconsin. Today it is the current headquarter of Weinbrenner.
Another factory opens in Antigo, Wisconsin.
During the Second World War Weinbrenners entire production is dedicated to the Armed Forces. Even today the company manufactures a great number of military service boots.
The Neo-Cord sole is introduced which is designed to provide protection from harmful substances like sulfuric and lactic acids.
Weinbrenner celebrates 50 years of successful business.
Albert Weinbrenner said in an interview from 1942: "The biggest thrill of my life was the end of that first year of business when I counted up a profit of $11,000. Never in all my years have I felt richer."
It was a military design that finally led to the introduction of a safety toe work boot. During World War II military designs included everything from heavy combat boots to dress shoes.
The manufacturing plants are organized by International Boot and Shoe Workers Union.
The union proves to be a strong partner in the company's future success. To this day, the working relationship between corporate and manufacturing is strong and squarely focused on "making great work boots!" Weinbrenner's workers are currently represented by locals #688 and #717 of the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, AFL-CIO, CLC.
Weinbrenner are granted a new patent for toe and metatarsal protection: US Patent #2,392,867.
At the age of 84 Albert Weinbrenner, founder of Weinbrenner Shoe Company dies peacefully.
Weinbrenner introduce a new style of roofer boot with a lace-to-toe construction. This boot (Style #633-1) is widely considered to be highly advanced design and it is still produced today.
The WorkOne brand is introduced. It features a new line of specialized safety work boots which are sold directly to companies.
The Wood & Stream brand is introduced. It features hunting and hiking boots.
New metatarsal protection technology patent rewarded to Weinbrenner: US Patent #2,833,058.
A new plastic shoe heel technology patent is granted to Weinbrenner: US Patent #2,917,841.
The Hike & Camp is introduced. This model becomes the official Boy Scout Boot and features a wedge sole with no heel and sturdy moccasin toe. Until today it's Weinbrenner's best-selling boot style.
Today the special oil-tanned leather, the superb construction and the great amount of comfort highlight the whole line of this boot style which are now sold under the American Heritage label. Style # 814-4201, the original 1964 design is still available.
100 years of quality craftsmanship and innovation are celebrated.
A new line of fire fighting boots is introduced under the HellFire brand.
A new PU outsole is introduced to address the special needs for people who work on concrete surfaces many hours a day and for people who require a boot that is suitable for climbing.
This special sole is entirely made in USA.
A new firefighting outsole is developed in corporation with Vibram®. It has an aggressive lug design and it is very heat resisting. Even miners highly value the lug design for their demanding work above and below ground.
The sole is manufactured in the USA.
AeroMetTM metatarsal guard patent rewarded to Weinbrenner: US Patent #6,631,569.
In partnership with the United States Postal service the new SoftStreetsTM outsole is brought to the market. This outsole combines safety, flexibility and light weight under various work conditions.
This sole is certified by the United States Postal Service and made in USA.
I-MetTM metatarsal guard patent granted to Weinbrenner: US Patent #7,305,776.
Thorogood MaxWearTM Wedge outsole is introduced. It is designed after the famous Vibram Christy wedge sole but is about 20-30% longer lasting. It also features a dual density construction for increased durability and comfort.
Thorogood MaxWearTM Wedge outsole provides slip resisting characteristics paired with incredible flexibility - ideal for many demanding tasks on the jobsite. This sole is made in USA.
Along with the Thorogood MaxWear™ sole Weinbrenner introduces a wedge-inspired sole that features a block heel and a slightly more aggressive lug pattern while retaining the overall look of the classic cream coloured wedge sole.
Again, this sole is manufactured in the USA.
Over 125 different styles of work boots and shoes are manufactured at two large factories in Wisconsin. That makes Weinbrenner the largest "Made in USA"-footwear manufacturer. Currently the Merrill operation serves as the company’s headquarter.
Unlike many other companies Weinbrenner remains dedicated to keeping the majority of its shoe production in the United States.
Weinbrenner has also introduced a successful Quality Management System according to the internationally accepted and highly acclaimed ISO 9001 certification.