Kepner Scott Shoe Company History
Welcome to Kepner Scott's first blog post! By now, you've realized that we are a children's shoe manufacturer located in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania. We've been around for 131 years, and more than 10 million pairs of our shoes have been worn by children around the world. You've gotten to know most of our family history, and if you haven't, you can check out the 'About Our Company' page.
A scene of our fitting department where shoes are sewn and stitched
In the early 1800’s, a man by the name of Samuel Kepner, purchased 390 acres of land in Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania. Initially, Samuel wanted to create a business center including a tavern and a store, he called it “Kepnersville”. However, Kepnersville is no longer on the township map.
In 1849, William Clinton Kepner (as seen above), a grandson of Samuel, was born. William started out as a teacher but soon learned that “business was a better field for his ambition.” His brother, Samuel R. Kepner, was also a local business owner at the time. He was a well-known cigar manufacturer in Orwigsburg. William took up a clerk’s position at a local shoe manufacturer. He closely studied the production and art of shoe-making.
Photographed above is an original catalog from 1927
Eventually, he partnered with a few others and formed a shoe manufacturing firm called Beck, Haeseler, and Co. In 1888, William partnered with Alexander Scott of Frackville, Pennsylvania. That’s when Kepner Scott Shoe Company was founded. They built a three-story building, 40x90 feet, with state of the art equipment in each department.
Featured is a postcard illustrating H. H. Brown Shoe Company and Kepner Scott Shoe Company
Throughout the years, William became a well know figure throughout the borough. He served in a number of public positions as well as the Orwigsburg School Board for nearly 20 years. He became the director of The First National Bank of Orwigsburg, and was a leader in a local church. At the time of his death in 1913, he was the president of the Keystone Club. After William passed away, Alexander would drive into the factory nearly every day from his hometown in Frackville. At this time, Miss Elsie Hartman was the book keeper for the company. Eventually, William grew tired of his commute and sold the company to Elsie. At the time, Elsie was in her early twenties. She successfully carried the company through The Great Depression, and WWII. Milo Zimmerman purchased the company after his retirement in 1961. Even in his mid 60’s, his dream was to always on his own shoe manufacturing company.
Milo Zimmerman at our factory location
The shoes originally manufactured by Kepner Scott were called "Turns". In this process, the uppers were stitched to the flesh side of the outsole inside out. They were soaked and then turned-out, put on the lasts to shape and dry out. At the time Milo purchased Kepner Scott, the factory was producing both pre-welts and cements. Not long after he took over, the factory stopped making pre-welts all together and made only cements. Having been in the shoe industry his entire career, Milo had a goal in mind to create something better than the heavy, welted shoes that were on the market.
A scene from our lasting room with leather welt
He figured out a way to manufacture a lighter and more flexible sole to provide healthier footwear for children. He, with the help of his sons, invested almost all of his retirement funds into the business. It took some time, and a lot of hard work, but the company began to grow. It quickly became a family business, with each generation bringing about new shoemakers, all maintaining the same vision Milo had when he purchased Kepner Scott Shoe Company.
Photographed is Milo Zimmerman, Clair Zimmerman, and Steve Zimmerman | Three generations of shoemakers!
Today, our promise to our customers remains the same. Kepner Scott Shoe Company is here to provide high quality children’s footwear made in our small town in Pennsylvania. Our focus is on fit, form, and flexibility. We’re here to stay, every step of the way.
Here's to another 131 years!