Over the course of the next year, we'll be detailing the history of 52 companies that sold branded fishing tackle. 52 trade houses in 52 weeks -- some obscure, some famous, and all available exclusively here on the Fishing for History Blog! If you have any items from the week's entry you'd like to share with us, please send it my way and I'll make sure it makes it on the blog.
For a discussion of what exactly trade tackle is, Click Here. Enjoy the 52 for 52!
Today we feature one of the strangest, and most interesting, of all trade tackle--a "give away" item for a famous shoe company. In this case, the iconic Red Goose Shoes.
The company appears to have been founded back in 1869 by German immigrants and originally called the Gieseke-D'Oench-Hayes Company. Since Gieseke is a german slang word for goose, at some point red geese were painted on the sides of shipping boxes and the company logo was born. The famed "red goose" logo would be known and loved by three generations of American children as a result. It is believed that during World War I the firm took on the Red Goose Shoe Co. name to disassociate itself from its German origins (anti-German hysteria hit many parts of the country in 1917-1918).
At some point the firm was taken over by the massive International Shoe Company and run by the Friedman-Shelby division of this huge conglomerate (which owned Florsheim, Buster Brown and other famed brands). When this occurred seems to be a bit of a debate, but I have seen clains as early as 1904. I believe it was right after World War I.
What is not in question is that Red Goose Shoes were hugely popular, rivaling their more famous competitor Buster Brown for many decades. The firm specialized in children's shoes, and tens of millions of American kids came of age in their hugely durable Red Goose shoes. In the 1920s through the 1950s, there were a number of Red Goose Shoe Stores across the nation. If you google "Red Goose Shoes" you'll see dozens of photos of shoe stores with the giant red goose logo prominently displayed. The company was also a prolific advertiser, putting full page ads in many popular weekly and monthly magazines.
The Red Goose Shoe stores were unique for a number of reasons, not the least of which was a particular gimmick used by the company to lure children in. As Tim Patterson, in an article for The Standard, wrote:
. . . slick Madison Avenue marketing techniques were powerful enough to persuade me to go with the Red Goose brand. It had little to do with the quality of the shoe and everything to do with the big red goose that was strategically positioned near the cash register.
This was no ordinary red plastic goose. If a purchase of Red Goose Shoes was made then the extraordinarily fortunate buyer received the privilege of pulling down on the long extended neck and head of the goose. The process of this neck bending would automatically release a golden egg from the goose’s entrails, which would be expelled from its, well let’s say, posterior.
Within that golden egg could be anything. Toy prizes that were beyond imagination were encased in that golden sphere of surprise. The sheer thrill of chance and surprise beckoned my imagination to worlds of childhood wonder.
These prizes ranged from tokens to handkerchiefs to banks to…fishing reels?
Yes! Red Goose Shoes gave away fishing reels, and miracle of miracles, these fishing reels were marked. In fact, I've only seen one in all my years of collecting, but it bears the unmistakeable Red Goose Shoes label.
The most awesome thing about this ca. 1940 single action fly reel--likely made by Bronson--was that it was all red, just like the company logo. It came complete with a painted "Red Goose Shoes" logo on the back side. I believe that Red Goose also gave away other fishing tackle, but whether it was marked with the famous logo or not I do not know.
All in all it's a remarkable piece of trade tackle, and an excellent window into a forgotten world. In today's America you can hardly find a pair of shoes that aren't made somewhere else. I guess that's a fact of the modern 21st century world.
But there was a time when American boys and girls wore American-made shoes, and dreamed of the day when the big mechanical goose might lay a golden egg that contained a fishing reel. If anything is worth remembering, that is.
-- Dr. Todd