In February 1905, fifteen investors, including Charles Beckman, organized Red Wing Shoe Co. and ground was broken for the first factory. The employees were paid between 3.5 and 25 cents per hour. The first sale - a dozen pair of men’s shoes - occurred when Charles Beckman’s shoe store purchased them for $1.25 per pair.
By 1906, a ten-hour workday resulted in the production of 110 pair of shoes. The company grew and changed hands. J. R. Sweasy started work in 1914 as the assistant superintendent and worked his way up the ladder, eventually becoming president. The Sweasy family has been involved in the company since the time when J. R. Sweasy took it over.
The love that J. R. Sweasy’s son, W D., had for Red Wing led him to take on a number of projects to enhance the quality of life in Red Wing.
The company eventually expanded from work boots to sport boots and oxfords and women’s shoe wear. By 1954, with 370 workers, Red Wing Shoe Co. was the city’s largest employer. The shoe industry has had its ups and downs, but the shoe company has survived. It now has several plants, but retains its roots in Red Wing. It is one of the most successful shoe manufacturers in the nation and has maintained its reputation for high quality footwear.