Belleville Shoe was founded in Belleville, Illinois in 1904, employing 50 workers making 50 to 75 pairs of shoes a day. Within a few years the company was selling mens and boys shoes from coast to coast.
In 1917, during World War I, Belleville Shoe received its first order for military footwear, beginning an enterprise that has not only sustained the company ever since but has revolutionized it from a small operation making uncomplicated shoes to today's large, technology-driven business developing and producing breakthrough footwear for the nation's armed forces.
During the lean years of the 1930s, the company marketed its shoes to social service agencies in Chicago, which were supplying them to the Depression's destitute victims. Military production resumed during World War II, and the War Department was so impressed with the firm's products and its unfailing on-time delivery that it bestowed its coveted Army-Navy "E" Award on the firm in 1945. Of the 90 companies producing combat boots during the war, only five received this distinction. In the years since, the government has repeatedly honored the company for its quality and performance.
In the 1950s and 60s, Belleville Shoe branched out into athletic shoe production, making baseball, football, golf, soccer, bowling and track shoes under the RAWLINGS brand. Baseball great Stan Musial was their best customer; he would typically go through six or seven pairs in a season.
Production turned increasingly to military boots in the 1970s, though the company continued to make shoes and civilian boots for varied uses. In 1986 the company moved from its second home - a 77-year-old Main Street building - to its current location in the Belle Valley Industrial Park east of town.
In the years since, Belleville Shoe has become an industry leader in research and development of new boot technologies by reinvesting heavily in cutting-edge, computer driven equipment. It has pursued an expanding market share aggressively and is now the country's largest supplier of military boots.
In 2002, company officials learned of a shuttered shoe factory in DeWitt, Arkansas. Within four days they finalized lease agreements and began small-scale operations there as Belleville Shoe South.
Today, Belleville Shoes' employees turn out over 1,000,000 pairs of high-tech military boots annually, and since 1997 this footwear has borne the Belleville name. Today military personnel around the world refer to their boots as "Bellevilles."
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