Almost Yesterday: The shoe industry comes to Cape Girardeau

Jan 5, 2021

It seems like Almost Yesterday that the Roberts, Johnson and Rand Shoe Company of St. Louis opened a manufacturing plant in Cape Girardeau. The date was September 9, 1907 and this proved to be a significant development in the economic growth of the city.

In 1900 Cape Girardeau was a small community of fewer than 5000 residents. But it was eager to grow. In 1904 a railroad connected Cape to St. Louis, enabling residents to visit the World’s Fair and bringing frequent visitors from St. Louis. Leaders of the community identified a need for a factor or sizable business enterprise that could create jobs and increase the population that had grown slowly during the last half of the 19th Century.

In September of 1906, the owners of the Roberts, Johnson and Rand Shoe Company arrived in Cape to announce that they were interested in establishing a new factory and were considering such possible sites as Quincy and Mount Vernon, Illinois; Washington, Missouri; and Cape Girardeau.

The company executives returned in November to indicate that they would build a factory in Cape that would have the capacity to manufacture 19,000 pairs of shoes per day, and within twelve years would have an annual payroll of $2 million … if the city would donate the land for the factory and provide $60,000 in cash to assist in the erection of the building.

By late December of 1906, the company’s requirements were met and construction was soon underway. On September 9, 1907, the Roberts, Johnson and Rand Shoe Factory opened at 700 North Main Street. Within a few months there were 700 employees.

Cape Girardeau was poised to grow.