The Hartt Shoe and Boot Company
The original board of directors and management December 27, 1898
From left to right standing: O.M. Hartt, factory manager, John Kilburn, president.
From left to right seated: R.L. Savage, business manager, John Palmer, vice-president, Edward Moore, director, Willard Kitchen, director, J.W. McCready, secretary
As it looks today
Hartt Boot and Shoe factory closed its doors in June, 1999.
Today the outlet store, located at the same site, will also
business began with the enthusiasm of one man who arrived back
in Fredericton more than 100 years ago. As a result, Christmas,
at the turn of the last century was one of employment and prosperity.
was Odber M. Hartt and he was born in Fredericton in 1852. By
the time he was 22, he and his wife, the former Miss Loretta
Kilburn of Kingsclear, had left for the United States, where
Hartt found success in the shoe trade. He became foreman and
superintendent with some of the leading American shoe factories
and, according to newspaper editorials, he became a gentleman
thoroughly versed in the manufacture of boots and shoes.
settled in New York, where three sons and two daughters were
born. They often returned to New Brunswick for visits and, when
they came in the summer of 1893, Odber arrived with an ambitious
surprise that Fredericton did not have a shoe factory among
its industries, believing that such an enterprise could be quite
profitable for the city. As evidence of his faith in the idea,
he would put $10,000 of his own money into it, if $30,000 more
could be subscribed locally.
old race course across from the train station on York Street
would make a splendid location," he said.
There was also exemption from civic taxation for industries
not already established, the possibility of free water from
the city, and the advantage of a large supply of leather from
several Fredericton tanneries.
made it clear that the majority of the 300 proposed jobs would
go to young local residents-two-thirds male, one-third female.
Their combined weekly payroll would range from $800 to $1000,
paid every Saturday night subsequently benefiting other businesses
in the city.
fall of 1895, Hartt, still realizing the potential of a large
factory returned and submitted a prospectus----to the Fredericton
Board of Trade this time estimating a capital of $50,000.
more years passed and although no factory commitment had been
reached, the Hartts came back to New Brunswick in the spring
the birth of their third daughter in Fredericton they decided
to stay. Hartt was fully convinced that he could get the support
he needed and, in a long letter to The Daily Gleaner, he was
would like to see my old native place possess a fine, large
shoe manufacturing business, one that we all could be proud
would be called The Fredericton Shoe Company and it was proposed
to make Hartt the superintendent.
was selected the city architect was engaged. It was hoped to
have the building up and covered in "before the snow flies."
Hartt thought he could now relax and breathe a sigh of relief.
Or could he?
20 of the shareholders met on Oct 10, there appeared to be signs
of unrest. Fortunately, Hartt was able to calm his shareholders
and anyone else who had doubts about the factory and its financial
situation. His enthusiasm and encouragement never diminished
as he continuously kept on the move. "It was said he was
like a blackfly in fishing time-nobody knew where he would light
In the time, Hartt was off to Upper Canada where he made "a
very careful investigation" of the leading shoe factories,
discovering that all leather was imported from the United States
with a high duty. For the first two weeks in November, he was
in Boston, visiting many of the large shoe factories in that
city. He inquired about the latest methods and learned about
new machinery. He also took the occasion to look for skilled
operators to come to Fredericton as foremen of various departments.
And he was convinced that the right kinds of shoes to make were
those with the finest grade and the highest class.
end of November, the first floor joists were on and the floor
was being laid, so as to keep the snow out of the basement.
By May 1, carpenters were rushing to finish the second floor
while another crew was installing two large steel boilers in
the engine house. By mid-May, the roof was being placed over
the third floor while bricklayers were finishing the walls.
Final total-one-half million bricks.
30,000 feet of kiln-dried hardwood were laid over the rough
floors on each level, several schoolboys were hired to whitewash
the interior, before the machines arrived from New England in
June. A corps of experts was to be present for the installation,
all arranged by Hartt.
touches included a flag-staff for the main tower, from which
the Union Jack would be flown; a two-story vault, built in connection
with a suite of three offices in the northwest corner of the
first floor; the installation of an elevator and a generator;
the dismantling of the scaffolding for the 65-foot chimney;
and plans for a railway siding, so the product could be transported
the summer, crowds of curious citizens and out-of-towners visited
the factory, and were given tours by the energetic Hartt himself.
From the basement, with its new concrete floor, where the rubber
footwear department was to be located, to the stitching room
on the third floor, where the "uppers" of all the
shoes were to be made, the onlookers were astonished.
morning, July 26, 1899 the steam was turned on the actual work
upon a line of shoes commencing the next day. Young men and
women of Fredericton were at various machines, receiving instruction
from the skilled operators who had been imported. A century
first-class boot and shoe manufacturing had begun.
2.500 pairs completed the end of August were samples for the
firm's travelers to take on the road. Two months later, they
were called home because they had placed as many orders for
Spring as the company could produce. The Hartt factory was on
its way to become Canada's best shoemaker.
1899, the total output for that Fall was 11,000 pairs the first
month of the new century. By Christmas 1900, 9,000 pairs were
produced per month by the staff of 300, which included Hartt's
two sons. By Christmas, Frederictonians were wearing Hartt Boots
and Shoes with pride and the Hartt trademark was featured in
store windows across the country.
end of 1901, there were employees manufacturing 1000 pairs daily
and the company made its first shipment to England. In 1903,
employee counts was almost 500, the daily production number
was 2000 pairs. The founder's dream had been realized.
in 1904, Odber M. Hartt tendered his resignation, disposed of
his holdings, and left Fredericton as suddenly as he had arrived.
He returned to the United States and became associated with
one of the largest Boot and Shoe concerns in Indiana.
13, 1918, he died of heart failure in Fort Wayne at the age
he started in Fredericton continued to grow and prosper, giving
secure employment to young people and substantial profits to
shareholders. Even when other companies took over, the Hartt
named stayed and was a constant reminder of high standards until
the end of the century closed the factory."
Source: Ted Jones for the Daily Gleaner, December 23, 2001
Company was started with $100,000.00 on November 25, 1898 with
ten businessmen from Fredericton, each holding a $10,000.00
share in the company. John Kilburn, brother-in-law to Odber,
Willard Kitchen, merchant, John Palmer, tanner, Odber M. Hartt,
shoemaker, Edward Moore, yeoman, Turney W, Whitehead, land agent,
James S. Neill, merchant, James W. McCready and John Black,
barristers and George Colter of Keswick, NB began the company
for investment purposes. When Odber left the company in 1904
to return to New York City, John Kilburn became the manager
and was the company president until 1911. In 1957, the factory
was sold to A.H. Marston Corp. of Toronto, which sold shoes
under the Dack's brand name. Source: The Rolls Royce of the
Shoe World, by Heather Dunsmuir for The Atlantic Advocate
At the Provincial Archives of NB, Supreme Court of Canada, I
discovered documents that stated Odber Miles Hartt had sued
the Hartt Boot and Shoe Factory in 1905, for being dismissed
in 1904, without cause, and demanded $2000.00 in back pay. The
factory board countered with the statement that Odber had resigned
on October 1, 1904 and that all payments had been made. He,
at this time, was living in Huntington, Indiana. Researched
by Diana Cowland
This headline from the April 6, 2005 edition of the Daily
Fredericton says it all.
" The shoe factory built by Odber M. Hartt has been
sold for the third time since it closed in 1999 after one hundred
operation. A local developer has purchased the property and
rear annex has fallen to the wrecker's ball in preparation for
a 28 unit
apartment to be built. The factory has been declared a local
by the city council, the first step in the process of becoming
part of the
Canadian Register of Historic Places. Therefore the building
will look just
as it does now. The Hartt name will be kept along with the distinctive
white lettering that is visible from the York St. side."
The Daily Gleaner, Fredericton, NB - 07/07
The rehabilitation of the Hartt Shoe Factory building in Fredericton
is nearing an end and its debut on the apartment rental market
is coming soon. Local developer David Davis said although the
building's exterior hasn't yet been spruced up, the interior
of the former shoe manufacturing business is almost done. Once
the project is completed, the 1898 brick building will house
28 apartment units, as well as some commercial space on the