Hyer Boots, home of the cowboy boot

Charles H. (C.H.) Hyer’s lasting footprints on Johnson County history come in the form of boots worn by cowboys, outlaws, presidents and many others since 1876. Hyer learned the art of boot making from his father William, who immigrated to Illinois from Hanover, Germany in 1850. C.H. Hyer moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, for a railroad job. In 1872, after his railroad job ended, he taught leather working at the Kansas State School for the Deaf in Olathe. Here Hyer passed on to students his boot-making knowledge and skills that would later make his name legendary.

Outside Hyer Boot Company, circa 1881 Original image: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/1950

Outside Hyer Boot Company, circa 1881Brothers Charles H. Hyer and E. W. Hyer are 3rd and 4th from the right.

Original image: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/1950

Hyer began making shoes out of his home to supplement his income in 1875 and later opened a small boot shop in Olathe.

Hyer Boot Co. sewing room, 1895 Original image: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/1519

Hyer Boot Co. sewing room, 1895
Original image: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/1519

According to legend, Hyer’s reputation started when a lone cowboy rode up to Hyer’s shop in 1876 wanting a new boot design. With a pointed toe, raised heel and a scalloped top, the new boots were proudly worn to the Colorado range by this nameless cowboy, who told others about the fine boot maker.

A.E. Hyer with boots, 1938 Original image: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/1723

A.E. Hyer with boots, 1938
Original image: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/1723

One of Hyer’s major contributions to the boot trade was his measuring system that allowed customers from all over the country to mail order their boots. A version of this chart is still used by boot makers today.

Work order for Will Rogers' boots, 1932 Original image: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/4589

Work order for Will Rogers’ boots, 1932The customer name and address: Will Rogers, Beverly Hills Calif. The cost for two pair was $26.50. Stamped on the top edge of the form was the order number (254774), date received (April 11, 1932), and the date shipped (May 10, 1932).
Original image: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/4589 

As demand for his boots grew, Hyer’s brother Edward and later his three sons joined in the boot making company, changing the name to C.H. Hyer and Sons. In addition to family, Hyer employed and looked out for many European immigrants as well as former deaf students. Hyer was soon a major employer in Olathe.

Workmen at Hyer Boot Co., circa 1905 Original image: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/1617

Workmen at Hyer Boot Co., circa 1905
Original image: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/1617

Hyer’s cowboy, riding and army boots have served a long list of legendary customers including presidents Calvin Coolidge and Teddy Roosevelt; outlaws Jesse James and Billy the Kid; illustrious cowboys Buffalo Bill Cody and Will Rogers; and actor Clark Gable.

Hyer Boot Factory, date unknown Original image: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/1952

Hyer Boot Factory, date unknown
Original image: http://www.jocohistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/jcm/id/1952

The Hyer Boot Company legacy spanned 93 years. Ben Miller Boot Company of El Paso, Texas bought Hyer Boot Company’s interests in 1977. They assumed the Hyer name in 1997. Hyer’s innovation, national reputation, and high quality standards left no doubt that the nation found some of the best boots right here in Johnson County.

–ALBUM vol. 16, no. 4 (fall 2003)

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2 Comments

Filed under Business, People, Research

2 responses to “Hyer Boots, home of the cowboy boot

  1. I had no idea that the history of these boots was so rich! Thanks for sharing such valuable information.

  2. Marlayne Boblett

    My mother used to work for Hyer Boot Factory. I have a photograph that shows the entire Hyer Boot Company organization and my mother is on the second row. Wish I could see photos of the boots she did. One was supposedly Roy Rogers Spread Eagle boots with her name inside. Since the Roy Roger’s museum closed I’ve not been able to find out about this. Any information would be extremely helpful.

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