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Brown Shoe Factory


Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois


Coles County



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The Brown Shoe factory is a significant building in Charleston’s history. The factory was built in 1919, and has remained largely unchanged since then. The factory is significant to the area because it was the first major non-agriculture related factory to be built in the town of Charleston.

The building of a factory in Charleston was significant to the community because it opened up new job opportunities to the locals and diversified the economy of the area. The primary market of small Midwest towns like Charleston at the turn of the century was as a location of service centers and to collect, process, ship, and distribute goods from the local agricultural areas. The factory provided work that was not based on agriculture and therefore did not depend on the seasons and could employ large numbers of workers, especially women.

Photographs of the factory workers were taken by Art & Emma in January of 1930. The photographs are organized by division and provide an interesting view of the factory and the people who worked there in the 1930s.

The Brown Shoe factory closed in the 1980s but the building still stands today near the railroad on Division Street.



Cronan, William. Natures Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West New York: W. W. Norton and Co. 1991.

Clark, Bonnie Brooks and Nancy Easter-Shick. Round the Square: Life in Downtown Charleston Illinois 1830-1998. Charleston: Easterchick Publishing, 1999.

Hart, John Fraser “Small Towns and Manufacturing” Geographical Review, Vol. 78, No. 3 (Jul., 1988), 272-287.

Hoover, E. M. Jr  “The Location of the Shoe Industry in the United States” The Quarterly Journal of Economics Vol. 47, No. 2 (Feb., 1933), 254-276.

Lee, Charles Lincoln. Journal Vol. 2, entry August 27, 1919. Coles Co Genealogical Library, Charleston Public Library

National Register of Historic Places, Brown Shoe Company Factory, Litchfield, Montgomery County, Illinois, National Register #10024-0018.

Sobel, Irvin and Richard C. Wilcock. “Secondary Labor Force Mobility in Four Midwestern Shoe Towns” Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Jul., 1955), 520-540.

 This webpage was created by Erika Allison, Historical Administration Graduate Student, Class of 2015-2016