By Kris Leonhardt
Until the colonial days of America, shoes were typically homemade, created by pounding leather into shape, sewing the sole to an upper, and adding an insole.
The Revolutionary War prompted the need for mass production, and the industrialization of America further catapulted shoe fabrication.
Most shoes and boots were produced in the eastern part of the country, which required the use of distributors to get them to middle America. In a time when families would sooner repair than buy new, rural areas had a great need for cobblers to mend damaged or worn footwear.
In 1891 Albert Bartmann came to Marshfield from Appleton, where he had been operating a business with his brother-in-law selling and repairing boots and shoes.
He opened a store in the growing city at 130 S. Central Ave. With his family residing above the store, he enlisted the help of his 8-year-old daughter Amanda as a shoe salesgirl.
Assumedly grooming Amanda to take over the business, the young daughter worked by her father’s side until she married in 1905. Instead of passing the business on to his daughter and new spouse, Bartmann sold the store and went to work for another employer.
After three years of working for someone else, Bartmann opened a new shoe store at 300 S. Central Ave. and enlisted the help of another young sales lady, his daughter Freida.
She too worked by her father’s side until she married.
Upon reaching retirement age, Bartmann turned the shoe business over to his son Herbert. Herbert was a visionary and soon opened a modernized store at 209 S. Central Ave.
Herbert went on to expand his business to multiple locations in other cities with the help of his brother-in-law William Montgomery.
With the stock market crash of 1929, many businesses were taken down. Herbert sold off many of his holdings, only retaining the stores in Stevens Point and Marshfield.
The Marshfield store operated for less than a decade before that location closed as well.