INTERNATIONAL SHOE COMPANY
                         Vandalia Bottomstock
                         Manufacturing Facility

In the early 1930s, when the nation was recovering from the Great

Depression, a group of privately owned shoe companies merged with a

St. Louis based firm to become what would be International Shoe Co.

By 1945, this company had grown to be the worlds largest manufacturer of

some fifty plants in the Midwest and northeast. Because of their location,

the company felt it would be to their advantage to move it’s bottom stock

manufacturing from a central plant in St. Louis to several locations to

better meet the needs of supply. Four plants were opened at that time,

namely, Vandalia, Ste. Genevieve, St. James, MO., and Bald Knob, ARK.

A new facility was built in Vandalia consisting of forty thousand square feet

to house this project. The original plan for this facility was to manufacture

leather insoles for men’s and women’s shoes, then transport by truck to the

shoe plants.

Because of WW 2 and the military needs for a better shoe which would be

waterproof and mold resistant. The government asked the shoe industry to

produce a leather to meet these needs. The reason this is mentioned,

International Shoe Co. patented such leather at its Philadelphia, Penn.
tannery. This leather was patented under the name Boltan and was

introduced to the industry through the Vandalia plant. Every sole produced

was stamped with the Boltan symbol. These soles were first used in the

company named HY-Test Work Shoes and Boots, but later became

common in all of it’s lines of dress shoes.

The J.C. Penny line of both men’s and women’s shoes at one time were

made by International Shoe Co. The leather most commonly used for

insoles was Boltan, but they were granted to use the name Pentan as a trade


In the early fifties the heel plant was moved from St. Louis to Vandalia.

This became known as the Vandalia Heel Co. and increased the work force


The use of leather and leather fibrous materials was used in the construction

of these heels. One of the most widely used heels manufactured in Vandalia

was a five eighth inch thick heel consisting of a fibrous material and a

leather cap until the plant closing. Thousands of these heels were made in

Vandalia. J.C. Penney used them on their world famous “Penney Loafers”.

The heels for this shoe was shipped to the company’s Searcy, Ark. plant for
shoe construction. Plywood heels using the same construction later became

popular and were also manufactured in Vandalia.

In 1960, with the closing of the Ste. Genevieve plant the leather welting

operation was moved to Vandalia. To make room, the insole manufacturing

was moved to St. James. The leather welting was used in the construction of

Goodyear Welt Shoes, a construction technique used almost exclusively on

men’s work and dress shoes. The news of the closing of the Vandalia plant

came in late 1962, when it became obvious that not only shoe

manufacturing, but all soft goods for U.S. use would be made overseas. The

initial plan was to transfer the heel plant to Puerta Rica and the welt plant to

St. James. It was later decided to close the welting operation in favor of

purchasing the leather welting as it became obvious that new shoe

manufacturing technology would eliminate the need for most leathers.

The following five names appear at the top of the only plant seniority list

available; E. Kidd, V. McDannold, B. Taylor, H. Carr, and E. Bailey.

The plant was unionized and a very friendly and workable relationship was

maintained throughout the plant existence.

The plant managers were John Crockett, Leonard Debrock, Lee McKinley,

Richard Jones, Joe Bahr, and Richard Tredway. Many other supervisors
held positions in the plant during its existence.

Submitted by Joe Bahr

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