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Guide to the La Crosse Footwear, Inc. Records, 1897-1997 MSS 078

Guide to the La Crosse Footwear, Inc. Records, 1897-1997

MSS 078

Summary Information

Abstract
Originating in La Crosse, Wisconsin, as the La Crosse Rubber Mills Company, Inc., the enterprise began in 1897 manufacturing rubber horseshoes and then rubber-coated fabrics and raincoats until 1906 when the switch to rubber footwear was made. Renamed LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. in 1986, the company designs, manufactures, and markets premium quality rubber, leather and vinyl footwear for sporting, recreational and occupational markets. Operations were consolidated and manufacturing was relocated from La Crosse, Wis., to Portland, Oregon, in 2001. Records include newspaper articles, catalogs (1909-1996) of shoes and boots produced by the company, financial records (1897-1956), patents and trademarks, photographic images and shoe samples.
Collection Title
LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. Records
Date of Materials
1897-1997
Creator
LaCrosse (Firm).
Call Number
MSS 078
Amount
27.3 cubic feet
Physical Description
26 archives boxes, 1 large flat box, 65 volumes
Language of Materials
English
Repository
La Crosse Public Library Archives

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. Records, MSS 078, La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, WI

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Historical Note

LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. has been providing performance footwear and apparel to keep people warm, dry, and comfortable since 1897.

Originally called the La Crosse Rubber Mills, the first product manufactured was rubber horseshoes. Led by La Crosse entrepreneurs Albert Hirshheimer, Michael Funk, George Zeisler and other citizens, they began manufacturing rubber horseshoes and rainwear on the first day of operation. Twenty-five employees worked on 160 sewing machines operated by steam and running at a daily rate of up to 3500 stitches.

The horseshoes soon gave way to rubber-coated fabrics and raincoats, which the company manufactured until 1906, when it switched to rubber footwear. In 1908, the Rubber Mills made the first buckle overshoe, and by 1912, 1200 pairs of rubber footwear were manufactured daily.

In 1916, the company had one of the largest work forces in the city, but inadequate public transportation and roads made it difficult for employees to come to the plant. Their solution was to start its own bus line and transport the workers themselves.

In the 1940s some of the world's most modern equipment, including the famed conveyor system was installed in the factory. In 1963, Ankle-Fit boots were created, an innovative, ankle-gripping design that keeps the tall, heavy-duty, rubber boot from pulling loose in mud and prevents rubbing and chafing.

Another innovation occurred in 1981 when the La Crosse Rubber Mills introduced double insulation in the Iceman ™ pac boot. This innovation in cold weather footwear allowed the company to offer pac boots with superior warmth. Double insulation included a removable felt liner and insulation in the rubber shell consisting of foam and a wool-felt midsole. By the end of the decade, the first interchangeable liner "system" approach to insulation, allowing customers to customize or replace their boot insulation as conditions changed, was introduced.

The following year, shareholders agreed to sell the company to Frank J. Uhler Jr. and George W. Schneider. Schneider was married to Virginia Funk, granddaughter of founder Michael Funk. The purchase was made after it appeared that a New York shoe company planned to purchase the business and move operations elsewhere. As a result, the new owners and the United Rubber Workers Local 14 agreed to a profit-sharing program that was credited with helping the company survive foreign competition.

In order to aid marketing efforts, in 1986 the name of the company was changed to LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. At that time, the company manufactured rubber and vinyl protective footwear for dress, industrial and sporting use. Employment in La Crosse totaled 609, with another 90 employed in New Hampshire at its Claremont plant. Annual sales totaled about $35 million and it was the third-largest manufacturing employer in the city, trailing only Trane Co. and G. Heileman Brewing Co.

That same year, LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. received the Industry-Labor Appreciation Award sponsored by local labor unions, the Great La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce and the city of La Crosse. But labor problems were apparent in the 1990s.

By 1989, the company also operated plants not only in La Crosse and Claremont, New Hampshire, but Hillsboro and Clintonville, Wis. Military contracts were important to the success of the operation in 1988-1990.

In 1994, LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. acquired the Danner Shoe Manufacturing Co., founded in 1932 and a leader in high quality leather boots, to form a major force in the footwear industry. Patrick Gantert became president and CEO of the company. Footwear went public with a $17.6 million stock offering. LaCrosse introduced triple insulation with the Ice King ™. Triple insulation took the technology from double insulation and added Thinsulate ™ to the boot shell. The Ice King ™ provided superior warmth not available before.

Red Ball, Inc., a competing company, was purchased by LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. in 1996 for $5 million. Later that year, a Footwear purchased Rainfair, an outerwear manufacturer, for $10.5 million to complement the footwear products. The following year LaCrosse Footwear, Inc., acquired Lake of the Woods brand.

Precision Fit Technology ™ was introduced and patented in 2000. PFT ™ boots combined the warmth of a pac boot with the precise fit of a leather lace up. In April 2000, Footwear closed its Clintonville plant and shifted production to La Crosse and Mexico. In 1999, the company reported a loss of $2.64 million after three consecutive mild winters erode sales. By the end of 2000, Gantert resigned as CEO and the company posted a $461,000 second-quarter loss. Operations ceased at the La Crosse plant in March 2001 and about 139 jobs were eliminated with the shutdown.

In 2001, LaCrosse Footwear, Inc. moved its headquarters from La Crosse to Portland, Oregon, to join forces with its sister company Danner, Inc. Fewer than 10 jobs actually shifted to Portland which included sales, marketing and product development functions.

The following year, the company was recognized by Sporting Goods Business magazine as one of the top 50 most valuable and well known brands in the United States.

Introduced in 2003 was the innovative Alpha product line of rubber-clad neoprene rubber boots, the fit and performance of which re-defined rubber hunting boots.

Today, LaCrosse Footwear, Inc., based in Portland, Oregon, designs, manufactures, and markets premium quality rubber, leather and vinyl footwear for sporting, recreational and occupational markets.

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Scope and Contents

This collection was categorized into eight series: history (n.d.-1995), catalogs (1909-1996), financial materials (1897-1956), subsidiary financial materials (1919-1924), patents/trademarks (1856-1976), personnel & property (n.d., 1922-1995), photographic images (n.d.-1997), shoe samples (n.d.).

The history series includes some annual reports, an historical booklet about the manufacture of rubber footwear (1925), newspaper clippings (1910-1997), and some memorabilia, including a reproduction of the 1922 Winter Carnival patch.

Catalogs are La Crosse Rubber Mills/LaCrosse Footwear product catalogs from 1909-1996 and show different styles and colors over time. A few sales brochures are also included here (1945, 1993).

Financial materials are the most Volumeuminous and include general, private, and account ledgers. Journals include cash books, accounts payable, payroll, and trial balance. Some miscellaneous journals include collection register (people who owe the company money), liability insurance account and bus transportation account (both in the same bound Volumeume), and "shoe findings" which we believe was some kind of research and development log book. There are also two Volumeumes of subsidiary financial materials which are a trial balance and cash book.

Patents/trademarks are very interesting and graphical in nature. Many are patents/trademarks of the La Crosse Rubber Mills, but some are patent copies from shoe related parts (e.g. rubber soles) and the like. These range in date from 1856-1976.

Personnel & property includes some general files dealing with personnel issues (i.e. memos about changes in worker assignments), a production log (1928) that seems to be organized by worker, and a retiree list (1995). Property materials include building specifications (1927), history, and insurance appraisals.

The photographic images include oversize ads/artwork of the plant buildings, a building layout (circa 1920s?), a newspaper from 1928 and reproduction historical photographs on form core (for display). Three large color building drawings were too large to house with the collection and were separated out into the oversize picture file. These can be found under the heading Industries-La Crosse Rubber Mills/LaCrosse Footwear.

There is a collection of glass plate negatives (undated) which include the building and shoe products. The other photographs include undated, but historical images categorized by ads/artwork (drawings), aerial views, busses, buildings, personnel and production. In the "other" category are three machine sewn photo albums in canvas depicting production of the rubber footwear.

Some other formats include VHS tape and audio tape coverage of the centennial celebration, 1995-1997, and some commercial video 1960, 1995-1996.

Lastly, shoe samples that were saved include mainly women's overshoes and one pair of men's overshoes. These are not dated but the rubber is becoming brittle.

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Arrangement

Arranged in eight series:

Series 1: History

Series 2: Catalogs

Series 3: Financial Materials

Series 4: Subsidiary Financial Materials

Series 5: Patents and Trademarks

Series 6: Personnel and Property

Series 7: Photographs

Series 8: Shoe Samples

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

La Crosse Public Library Archives 2004-2006

800 Main St.
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 54601
(608) 789-7136
archives@lacrosselibrary.org

Access to Materials

Materials in this collection are available for patron use.

Acquisitions Information

(Accession no. 2002.006) Donated by LaCrosse Footwear via Lorrayne French, March 2002.

Processing Information

Processed by Anita Taylor Doering, 2004, with help from Margaret Donndelinger, 2006.

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Related Materials

Related Materials

(Annual reports)
 Private industry--LaCrosse Footwear
(Clipping file)
 La Crosse--Industries--LaCrosse Footwear
(Ephemera file)
 LaCrosse--Industries--LaCrosse Footwear
(Picture file)
 La Crosse--Industries--La Crosse Rubber Mills/LaCrosse Footwear
(338.76 W556 1945)
 What's Behind this Trademark? La Crosse Rubber Mills Company
(678.2 M319)
 The Manufacture of Rubber Footwear: An Illustrated Story of Rubber from its Growth to the Finished Product

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • La Crosse Rubber Mills Co. (La Crosse, Wis.).
  • LaCrosse (Firm).

Subject(s)

  • Business enterprises--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Business records--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Footwear--Design and construction--Wisconsin--La Crosse
  • Manufacturing processes--Rubber footwear--Wisconsin--La Crosse

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Collection Inventory

 (Series 1) History 

Box Folder

Annual reports, 1994-1995 

1 1

Booklet "Manufacture of Rubber Footwear", 1925 

1 2

Newspaper clippings, 1910-1997 

1 3

Memorabilia 

Box Folder

Catalogs for manufacturing machines, 1937 

1 4

Plaques 

1 5

Poem "It's Ninety Years Ago" by Loretta Seekamp, 1987 

1 6

Reproductions of Winter Carnival patch 

1 7

Miscellaneous 

1 8

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 (Series 2) Catalogs 

Box

 1909-1952 

2

 1953-1980 

3
Box Folder

 1982-1996 

4 1-14

Danner, 1994-1996 

4 15

Red Ball, 1995-1996 

4 16

Sales brochures, 1945, 1993 

5 1

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 (Series 3) Financial Materials, 1897-1956 

 (Subseries 3.1) Ledgers 

General ledgers 

Volume

 1897-1889 

Scope and Contents

Includes capital, profit & loss, cash, real estate, expenses, fixtures, rubber and accounts (corporate & individual)

1
Box

Transfer ledger (loose bundle), 1940-1942 

Scope and Contents

Includes categories such as machinery depreciation (no accounts)

25
Volume

Transfer ledger no.2, 1945-1956 

3

Private ledgers 

Volume

"A" (spine mislabeled), 1903-1908 

4

"B", 1908-1911 

5

"C", 1912-1917 

6

"C", 1918-1923 

7

"D", 1926-1935 

8

"E", 1935-1940 

9

"F", 1941-1945 

10

Account ledgers 

Volume

"Current ledger no. 3", A-G, 1900-1914 

11

"Current ledger", H-N, 1900-1914 

12

"Current ledger no. 2", O-Z, 1900-1914 

13

"Current ledger no. 1", A-G, 1909-1913 

14

"Current ledger no. 2", H-N, 1909-1913 

15

"Current ledger no. 3", O-Z, 1909-1913 

16

 (Subseries 3.2) Journals 

Cash books 

Volume

"Journal B", 1899-1910 

17

"D", 1906-1908 

18

"E", 1909-1910 

19

"F", 1910-1912 

20

"G", 1912-1913 

21

"H", 1913-1914 

22

"No. 1", A-K, 1914-1916 

23

"No. 2", L-Z, 1914-1916 

24

"No. 2", A-K, 1916-1918 

25

"No. 2", L-Z, 1916-1918 

26

"No. 3", ledgers 3-4-5-7, 1918-1920 

27

"No. 4", ledgers 1-2-6, 1918-1920 

28

"No. 4", ledgers 1-2-3, 1920-1922 

29

"No. 5", ledgers 4-5-8-7, 1920-1922 

30

"No. 6", ledgers 1-2-3-4-5-6-8-7, 1922-1924 

31

"No. 7", 1922-1924 

32

"No. 8", ledgers 1-2-3-4-5-6-8-7, 1924-1926 

33

"No. 9", ledger 9, 1924-1926 

34

"No. 10", ledgers 1-2-3-4-5-8-7, 1926-1928 

35

"No. 11", ledger 9, 1926-1928 

36

Ledgers 1-2-3-4-5-8-7, 1928-1929 

37

Ledger 9, 1928-1929 

38

"No. 13", ledgers 1-7, 1929-1931 

39

"No. 14", ledgers 10-11, 1929-1932 

40

"No. 15", 1931-1933 

41

"No. 16", ledgers 10-11, 1932-1934 

42

"No. 17", ledgers 1-2-3-4-5-6-8-9-7 

43

"No. 18", ledgers 1-9 

44

"No. 18", ledgers 10-11 

45

"No. 19", ledgers 1-9 

46

"No. 19", ledgers 10-11 

47

Accounts payable 

Box

 1907-1909 

26

 1912-1918 

26

"No. 1", 1918-1922 

26

"No. 2", 1922-1926 

27

"No. 3", 1926-1929 

27

Payroll 

Volume

"3" "Sales book", 1914 

54

 1940 

55

 1941 

56

 1940-1943 

57

"Sales record", 1941 

58

Trial balance 

Volume

 1898-1916 

59

 1917-1940 

60
Volume

Collection register, 1903-1908 

61

Liability insurance account/bus transportation account, 1919-1940 

62

Shoe findings "1", 1909-1914 

63

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 (Series 4) Subsidiary Financial Materials 

Volume

Trial balance, 1919-1924 

64

Cash book, 1919-1921 

65

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 (Series 5) Patents and Trademarks 

Box Folder

 1856-1929 

5 2-20
Box

 1930-1948 

6

 1948-1953 

7

 1954-1976 

8

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 (Series 6) Personnel and Property 

Box Folder

General, 1966-1995 

9 1

Production log, 1928 

9 2

Retiree list, 1995 

9 3

Property Documents 

9 4

History 

9 5

Insurance appraisals 

9 6

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 (Series 7) Photographic Images 

Oversize

Reproduction historical photos mounted on foam core; oversize artwork and ads, building layout 

10

Glass plate negatives 

Box

Building 

11

Products 

12

Photographs 

Ads/Artwork 

Box Folder

Buildings 

13 1

Production 

13 2

Products 

13 3-4

Other 

13 5
Box Folder

Aerial views 

13 6

Busses 

13 7

Buildings 

Box Folder

Exterior 

Related Materials

See also oversize picture file: Industries-La Crosse Rubber Mills

14 1

Interior 

14 2

Silo for raw rubber 

14 3

Personnel 

Box Folder

 undated 

14 4-5

 circa 1940-1949 

14 6

 circa 1980-1989 

14 7

Board of Directors 

15 1

Centennial events 

Box Folder

 Jan. 23, 1997 

15 2

 June 13, 1997 

15 3

Picnic, June 14, 1997 

15 4

Other 

15 5

Sales Banquets 

Box Folder

 1979-1981 

15 6-8

 1983-1984 

15 9-10

 1987-1990 

15 11-14

 1996 

15 15

 circa 1980-1995 

15 16-18
Box Folder

Production 

15 19

Products 

16 1-4

Other 

17 1-3

Videos 

Centennial celebration, 1995-1997 

Box

News coverage   VHS cassette; color; sound; runtime unknown

18

Audio   Audio cassette; runtime unknown

18
Box

Commercials, 1960, 1995-1996 

19

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 (Series 8) Shoe Samples 

Women's (in pairs) 

Box

Black Smart Avenue Blvd, sizes 5 and 7 

20-21

Black Broadway Blvd, size 6 

22

Silver Vogue Blvd, size 6 

23

Unnamed, size 8 

24
Box

Men's (single overshoe): White buckle, size 8 

24

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