More Days Wear, Warm and Dry in “Ball-Band” Boots

I think most of us in the Northern Hemisphere could do with a good, warm pair of boots today.  This little sales booklet comes from 1922, and is full of interesting options.

Ball-Band was a trademark of the Mishawaka Woolen Manufacturers of Mishawaka, Indiana.  As the name implies, the company started out as a woolen mill, making blankets and wool felt boots.  In 1886 the company conceived of a boot with knitted wool uppers in which the wool was first knit, then felted through shrinkage.  The owner’s mother, Mrs. Jacob Beiger, knit the prototype for the product.  They were still being sold in 1922.

Rubber shoes and over-shoes were added as a product in 1898 with many of the shoes having a rubber sole and upper, and wool legs.  In 1922, they added sneakers, or sports shoes.  The next year the company changed their name to the Mishawaka Rubber and Woolen Company.

The little booklet tells not only the company’s story, but it also explains how rubber is produced and made usable by use of the Goodyear process.  They also treat us to views of the woolen mill.

To vintage collectors  probably the most familiar Ball-Band product is their line of Summerettes.  Summerettes were fashionable canvas sandals which had rubber soles and were meant for casual wear.  The name Summerettes was trademarked by the company in 1947 with the claim that the name had been in use since 1934, but their era of popularity was the 1950s.

By the 1960s, rubber over-shoes, regardless of their practicality, had become passe’.   Ball-Band fell behind in the sneaker game, with Keds, Converse, and PF Flyers all being the brands kids loved.  In 1967 Ball-Band was bought by Uniroyal, and in 1969, the last pair of shoes was made at Mishawaka.  Today the factory site is a public park.

A quick internet search showed that the Ball-Band brand name lives on in the form of cheap synthetic shoes for nurses and nuns.  I assume they are made in the Far East.

I have a new pair of Ball-Band shoes that I’ll show off soon.  They are sneakers in the form of Maryjanes.

PS:  How about that cover image?  Would you put a gun into the hands of a child that small?  And check out his “hunting” dog.

11 Comments

Filed under Shoes

11 responses to “More Days Wear, Warm and Dry in “Ball-Band” Boots

  1. Nice! I never heard of them! In those days I think the boys did use shot guns !

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  2. I might be obsessed with that foxy little dog in the booklet image…and that kid’s fur cap!

    I’m most familiar with Ball-Band basketball shoes/sneakers (we’ve found a few pair in the past). But you now have me very interested in those wool/rubber boots. What a clever idea! I wonder if they were as warm and practical as they sound?

    Can’t wait to see your sneakers.

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  3. I’d agree with desiring a pair of these warm boots. That or one of the knitted wool long johns that I saw on Kerry Woolen Mills’ Facebook page. If you’re in the mood for a little humor, take a look. It has Aran style knitting the whole way down! On the shot gun……..only if I knew it was completely unloaded *and* Dad was standing right there. Now that I’m the mom of a boy of 6, I understand the attraction for a boy to a gun. Fascination, interest……..it all has to be guided! I’ve answered questions like, “was the car or the gun invented first?” Which kind of gun shoots farther? It’s a great opportunity to talk about the proper use of a good tool, and I can see “hunter safety” in our future. And that hat would be great on a day like today.

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  4. When I was a kid, “Red Ball Jets” were a popular advertised canvas sport shoe. I’m guessing these came from this same brand factory?

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  5. Christina

    I wouldn’t put a gun in the hands of a child or an adult for that matter to advertise anything.

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  6. Sorry if that was too much, Lizzie. It was funny to us, as we have been knitting fisherman ganseys & things with their yarn lately. It’s organic & good stuff! Made in Ireland, of Australian organic yarn.

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