Hyer Boot Company
In 1875 a cowboy dismounted in front of a small shoemaking shop in Olathe and asked the proprietor if he could make the cowboy a first-class pair of boots. The shoemaker said he'd never done it before, but he'd try. After discarding two pairs of boots that didn't meet his standards for quality, the shoemaker presented his third attempt. The cowboy, quite pleased, headed west with his new pair of boots.
The cowboy became a walking advertisement for the little shoe-shop run by Charles H. Hyer. Before long letters began arriving from all over the West, requesting boots custom-made by Hyer and his brother, Ed. The Hyer Boot Company, described at one time as the largest manufacturer of handmade boots in America, was born.
Charles H. Hyer, the son of an immigrant German shoemaker, arrived in Leavenworth in 1870 and worked, for a time, building railroads. He soon moved to Olathe and got a job teaching shoe and harness making at the Kansas School for the Deaf. With money he saved, he opened his own shoemaking shop in Olathe and asked his brother, Ed, to join him in running the business. In the years that followed that first satisfied cowboy, the Hyers developed a measurement chart to send out with their flyers that enabled customers, even cowboys at the remotest ranches, to order custom made boots to fit their precise size and fashion preference. The business blossomed and, by 1900, it had grown from two employees to 15. During World War I, the Hyers made boots for the officers at Fort Leavenworth and at Camp Funston. By the 1960s more than 70 people were busy making boots for a worldwide clientele.
In 1903 the firm moved from its original location to a three-story brick building. In 1914 an empty hotel building next door was acquired and converted to factory space. In 1964 a new 23,000-square-foot facility was built to include all the modern requirements of employee comfort, manufacturing convenience, and economical operation.
From the beginning, customer satisfaction was the primary goal. Boots were available in a variety of styles, heel heights, leathers, and decorations. Boots could be ordered with anything from the simplest stitching to diamond insets and gold and silver inlays. Customers ranged from ordinary $30-a-month cowboys to the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody, Clark Gable, Will Rogers, and Dwight Eisenhower.
The Hyer boot company was operated by the sons and grandsons of C. H. Hyer until 1977, when the business was sold to the Ben Miller Boot Company of El Paso, Texas. The Miller Boot Company moved all of Hyer boot-making equipment to El Paso but brought back the name in the 1990s.
Entry: Hyer Boot Company
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: December 2004
Date Modified: June 2011
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