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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"

Chapter  34 - Eau Claire Industries

The A. A. Cutter Shoe Factory

(-as transcribed from pages 474 - 476)

The man on the drive, the cruise or in the woods - the lumberjack - is the most discriminating person in the world about one thing.  He is as exacting in that as the Beau Brummel of the boulevards is about his dress.  That one thing is his shoes.  The shoes of the lumberjack must fit comfortably, since the nature of his work demands foot comfort.  His shoes must be made of the very best leather and fashioned in the very best way in order to stand the heavy strain.  The lumberjack has his shoemaker just as the boulevard dandy has his tailor, and usually his shoemaker is the A. A. Cutter Company, of Eau Claire, Wis.  Ask almost any lumberjack what make of shoe he wears and his answer will probably be "Cutter."  The Cutter make means par excellence to the man with the ax and saw or the peavey, pike pole and cant hook.

Back in 1870, when Eau Claire was a great sawmill center, with twenty-two mills busy sawing northern timber, A. A. Cutter was the leading shoe retailer in town.  The lumberjacks who occasionally came out of the woods in large numbers demanded a distinctive shoe.  To meet this demand Mr. Cutter kept two cobblers busy making shoes that suited the lumberjacks.  The lumberjacks, who were mostly of French or Irish nationality, demanded quality in their shoes and did not heed the cost.  At that time it was customary for them to leave their measure in the fall before going into the woods and on their return the following spring their made-to-measure shoes would be ready.  Mr. Cutter did not create a lumberjack's shoe.  The lumberjacks created their own shoe.  It was their criticism and their "kicks" that led to the making of a shoe that was the best of its kind, and today criticism and "kicks" are just as welcome with the A. A. Cutter Company as they were many years ago.  The result is a perfect driving shoe.

For a few years making shoes for lumberjacks was only local in its extent.  It was not until a lumberjack had left Eau Claire to become a foreman in the Pennsylvania woods that the fame of Cutter began to spread.  He took two pairs with him and gave one pair to a fellow-worker.  The shoe attracted so much attention that several lumberjacks induced Joseph Lechner, a local shoe merchant at Emporium, Pa., to order shoes for them.  That was the first outside order that the Cutter concern ever received.  Later a lumber company, of Pennsylvania, sent a crew of forty lumberjacks to New Mexico.  They had all been wearers of Cutter shoes and on reaching New Mexico found they could not get along without their favorite make.  The forty sent an order to Eau Claire.  So the fame of Cutter shoes began to widen until today they are sold in every State except one, and the exception is Rhode Island.  Rhode Island is not a State of Lumberjacks.

In 1892 Mr. Cutter discontinued the retail business and began manufacturing exclusively for lumbermen's needs.  Today the concern is considered one of the leading manufacturers of high-grade footwear for lumbermen, miners, cruisers, surveyors, prospectors, rangers and sportsmen in the United States.  The company has a model factory at Eau Claire.  A force of nearly 100 are employed in making handmade shoes, and the output is from 200 to 350 pairs a day.  Mr. Cutter died a few years ago and the following year the company was incorporated.  Mrs. Belle F. Cutter is president, William P. Bartlett vice-president and W. J. Carpenter secretary and treasurer.  Mr. Carpenter, who started to work for Mr. Cutter when a mere lad and who has been thoroughly schooled in every phase of the high-grade shoemaking business, is general manager.

The making of Cutter shoes is an interesting story.  Only skilled, custom shoemakers - old-fashiond [sic] cobblers - are employed.  These old-style cobblers  call to mind the saying, "Let the cobbler stick to his last."  The tale goes that a cobbler detected a fault int he shoe-latchet of one of Apelles' paintings, and the artist rectified the fault.  The cobbler, thinking himself very wise, next ventured to criticize the legs, but Apelles answered, "keep to your trade - you understand about shoes but not about anatomy."  A proof that the cobblers employed at the Cutter plant do stick to their lasts and keep to their trade is found in the fact that one of their number, Halvor Johnson, started with Mr. Cutter when he established his cobbling shop in 1870.  While Johnson has served the Cutter concern for forty-three years, ten others have been employed there at least thirty years.  The Cutter cobblers certainly understand about shoes.

The Cutter shoes are almost entirely hand-made, the only exception being a minor part of the stitching.  Only solid leather throughout is used.  No leather substitute ever entered the Cutter factory.  Some leather reaches there that inspection shows can not be used, and in such case it is returned to the tanners.  Only the heart of the imported hide is used and the remainder is disposed of to other manufacturers or used in cheaper low-cut shoes.  The cobblers employed are chiefly German and Norwegian, who served apprenticeships in their native countries.  The only difficulty that the Cutter company experiences is in obtaining skilled workers.  Since the introduction of machinery into most shoe factories of this county and Europe, fewer young men have been apprenticed to the cobbler's trade.

Only the best leathers obtainable in the world's tannery market are used.  The French kip used in Cutter drivers is tanned at the Simon Ullmo tannery at Lyons, France, and is imported especially for the Cutter company.  It is considered the best leather that can be procured for this class of shoes, as French kip will stand the water as no other leather will.  The French kip is used in the vamp of the Cutter shoe.  A French kip tanned hide weighs from 5 to 5½ pounds and only the heart of it is used.

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