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