For Red Wing Shoe Company's 100th birthday in 2005, custom-painted fiberglass boots like this one were displayed all over Red Wing. The company also designed a shoe for the Guinness Book of World Records that stood 16 feet tall, was 20 feet long and weighed 23,000 pounds.
History — Boots, Jugs and Puffed Wheat
It is amazing that this little city of fifteen thousand people has been, and continues to be, nationally recognized for what it produces … Shoes, Pottery and Wheat. In the 1870's, its was the nations largest exporter of wheat; in the early 1900’s it was home to the nation’s largest stoneware industry and during WWI and WWII, the Red Wing Shoe Co was enlisted to make shoes for the military. Today Red Wing is still manufacturing shoes, pottery and has a sound foundation in the agricultural industry with ADM and Continental Grain plants in town.
The Red Wing Shoe Company is still using their original plant that was built in 1905 in downtown Red Wing. They also have another plant on the outskirts of town that was built in the 1960s.
Visiting the Red Wing Shoe Museum was a blast. We loved learning about the shoemobiles; that when Red Wings were first sold in 1905, they cost a mere $1.75; A Red Wing Shoe company employee split away in 1945 to form Riedell Skates and the sad fact that some product lines, of this very American company, are made in China.
Located within the last of the old factory buildings, the Red Wing Pottery Museum preserves the history of the pottery industry in the area. Although Red Wing Potteries closed in 1967, the grandson of the last company president continues the tradition at the Red Wing Stoneware Co.
This vintage photograph, which we found hanging on the museum wall, shows women hand painting designs for the Red Wing Dinnerware. When the plant closed in 1967, it was the only commercial pottery in the U.S. still painting ceramic dinnerware by hand.
Clay dug from local pits was transformed into utilitarian stoneware such as jugs, crocks butter churns, bowls, jars, water coolers and other items used in the home and on the farm.
Red Wing Potteries has a long heritage of producing promotional items. Danny loved the cigar advertisement.
One of Red Wing’s best known promotional items is the Hamm’s Bear designed as a bank. The bank is hard to find in good shape since the holes in the bottom of the feet were too small to actually get the money out; so many people broke off the legs to retrieve their cash.
Beginning in 1935 thru the late 1960’s, Red Wing made over 100 dinnerware patterns, many of which were hand-painted.
The Goodhue County Historical Society is the oldest county historical society in Minnesota. Of all the exhibits related to Red Wings history, Sherry was captivated most by the story of Alexander Anderson, the inventor and creator of the process for puffing cereal grains.
Among the vintage puffed cereal advertizing artifacts, is the "cannon" built in 1902 to demonstrate "the cereal that was shot from guns."
As we were leaving, Sherry lamented that the museum neglected to tell the story of Frances Densmore, the renowned music historian known as Writing Down Woman. She recorded the voices of hundreds of American Indians, including Geronimo. Red Wing is the place of her birth and burial. Click here and here to learn more.
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