Canadian Fashion Connection – Hydro City Shoes

In 1889 G. V. Oberholtzer founded a shoe factory with his business partner M. Armbrust in Berlin, Ontario. After Armbrust’s death, Oberholtzer carried on alone, moving the company to new premises in 1893 to Weber and Victoria streets, to be nearer the railway station. In 1897 Oberholtzer built a tannery in Port Elgin to supply leather for his shoemaking. Three years later, on┬áJune 7, 1900, Oberholtzer died at the age of 34.

Ownership of the company next came under the Detweiler brothers (Noah and Daniel), there were also two younger brothers (Joseph & Aaron) who worked in the plant. In the midst of the Great War, Berlin, held a vote to change its name. Anticipating what many thought would be the favourite, the company changed its name to ‘Hydro City Shoes Manufacturing’. Although Kitchener won as the new name for Berlin, the company stayed with Hydro City until closing its doors in the late 1960s.

The company originally made McKay sewn leather boots and shoes for men, women, and children, but gradually came to make only men’s and boys footwear, including footwear for work and uniforms. Labels produced by the company included: Hydro, Hydro Arch Rest, Hydro Police Boot, and Hydro Winguard Safety Toe.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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