Tag Archives: Ball-Band

Ball-Band Canvas Sport Shoes, 1936

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.

Rubber shoes and over-shoes were added as products in 1898 with many of the shoes having a rubber sole and upper, and wool legs.  In 1922, they added sneakers, or sports shoes.  Two years later the company changed their name to the Mishawaka Rubber and Woolen Company to better represent the products made.

My 1936 wholesale catalog does not show the boot with the wool uppers, but they were still making wool products in the form of heavy woolen socks. Leather boots were also being made, but their main product appears to be canvas and rubber sports shoes, or sneakers.

They had also gotten into the casual canvas shoe for women market with their line of Summerettes. First made in 1934, Summerettes were popular through the 1950s.

Ball-Band also made basketball shoes for both men and women, or what today would be known as high-tops.

They also made shoes to wear in the water, made of all rubber. I have a pair that is very similar to the Newport Locker Sandal, seen above. I have always thought these to be from the late 1940s, but now I need to reexamine that thought.

One great feature in this catalog is this photo of the soles of the shoes. The style of tread can be used somewhat to help date shoes.

I find it amazing how similar these are to modern sneakers. Sports shoes do reflect fashion though, mainly in the shape of the toe.

And finally, here’s a view of the Ball-Band factory complex in Mishawaka, Indiana. There were over forty acres of floor space and around 5000 employees. 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.

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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.

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