The F. J. Stahmer Shoe Company

Not only do we encourage you to join the Davenport Public Library’s “QCMade” events for a behind-the-scenes look at the places where local goods are created in present-day Davenport and surroundings, but also to visit us at the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center (and watch this blog) to learn about products manufactured here in the past.

Did you know that the F. J. Stahmer Shoe Company was the largest producer of wooden-soled shoes in the country, possibly the world, in the 1920s? The factory at 2351 Boies Avenue is shown in these three images from RSSCC Collection #2015-34:


By 1928, a shop of 20 workers made 360 pairs of shoes per day. [1] The sole and heel sections of the shoes, seen stacked above, were cut as one by machine from thick pieces of southern soft maple. They were specially designed for workers in “…packing houses, candy and ice cream factories, soft drink breweries, canneries and farms,” providing protection from the heat, cold, wet, and even acid. [2]

Frank J. Stahmer was involved in the shoe business as early as 1899, when he and Julius Bremer bought out John C. Stahmer & Brothers (no relation determined) at 3rd and Fillmore. [3]

Davenport Daily Leader, April 10, 1903

Over the next few years he had stores on Brady, 127 East 2nd Street, and possibly elsewhere. He joined forces with Lester Vanderslice about 1913, and in late 1917, Vanderslice-Stahmer Shoe Company sold off the “agency end” of their business, retaining only the wooden-sole shoe factory at 213-215 East 2nd Street. [4]


The factory moved to the new facility on Boies Avenue in 1920.

Frank J. Stahmer died suddenly in 1927 at the age of 49, leaving control of the business to his 23-year-old daughter Ella.

The Iowa District News, May 1927
Davenport Democrat and Leader, February 26, 1928

(posted by Katie)

[1] Davenport Democrat and Leader, February 26, 1928.

[2] Davenport Democrat and Leader, March 10, 1920.

[3] Davenport Daily Leader, April 30, 1899.

[4] Daily Times, November 7, 1917.

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