It has been some time since I published anything. So long that I believe Johnny Depp and Amber Heard were blissfully married when I wrote my last article. The gap is certainly longer than their trial. Maybe. I hope it works out for them. I would appreciate if they could make up and reunite for a reboot of one of my favorite childhood shows, B.J. and the Bear. America needs a crime fighting truck driver show. It would solve so many problems in this world. And beyond.
For this article, I had the vcleat.com research staff pull the 1951 catalog of the Freeman Shoe Corporation from our extensive, subterranean archives. Freeman Shoe Co was a family-owned business founded in 1921 in Beloit of the “Forward” state, Wisconsin. Freeman produced quality shoes that sold in the middle of the price range at the time. The company peaked in the early 1950s and like many shoe companies of the United States of America (USA for short), began to struggle with changing consumer shoe preferences. The Freeman family sold the business in 1963 and afterwards, it cycled through various corporate overlords. By 1992, the Freeman shoe factory in Beloit was closed and Freeman was out of business. Weyco Group bought the name out of bankruptcy and still sell a few unremarkable shoes using the Freeman brand.
The catalog is actually three catalogs: Year ‘Round Styles; Fall and Winter 1951; and Spring and Summer 1952. These catalogs were for dealers and used to order store stock. They were delivered in a folder that contained all three booklets. I have several Freeman catalogs from the 1950s and 1960s, but the 1951 catalog is my favorite. It is Freeman at their peak. The catalog was likely expensive to produce and has page after page of classic American styles in mostly full color. Almost all models have traditional leather uppers and outsoles. No exotic leathers yet. Very handsome shoes. I want them all but seventy years later, it is rare to find an example on eBay for purchase. Below are a few Freeman shoes of the era that have appeared on my Watchlist in the past eight years.
- Blue Suede Bal
- French Toe Bal
- Lizard and Suede Spectator
- Shell Cordovan Cap Toe Blucher
- Shell Cordovan Wing Tip
- Shell Cordovan Wing Tip
- Split Toe Blucher
- Straight Tip Bal
- U Throat Bal
- U Tip Blucher
- U Tip Spectator
- Ventilated Spectator
- Ventilated Slip One
I have also included the dealer price list. It’s marked “confidential” so don’t tell anyone I did this. The prices in the catalog are the wholesale prices. Suggested retail prices were almost double the wholesale price. The top end shoes retailed for $21.95 which is about $250 in today’s dollars. A bargain. But if you wear an “extreme size” (12.5+), expect to pay extra.
Another thing to note is that Freeman Long Wing Blucher models, my favorite style, first appear in the 1951 Fall and Winter catalog. Very exciting.
Enjoy the catalog and leave comments or questions below.