Thursday, January 20, 2011

Johannes & Catharine

Family legend has it that one couldn't exist without the other.

Johannes was a talented artist. He won a job to paint Catharine's portrait. That's how they fell in love. Unable to marry in Europe because she was nobility and he a commoner, they eloped to America.

The ship carrying Johannes & Catharine landed at Philadelphia on September 28, 1749. They had just a few belongings and little money. They married and Johannes quickly found a job working with a millwright in Philly. After several years of learning the trade, he moved his growing family to New Jersey to set up his own shop.

Johannes' son Leonard served in the Revolution with New Jersey troops as one of Capt. Hazlett's "Minute Men." He married a girl named Peggy and moved to North Carolina where he was awarded a land grant and took up farming. Eventually they moved on to Tennessee, established a plantation, and raised twelve children. Even with all that, Peggy lived to be 103!

Their son Leonard Jr. moved to Nashville and set up a dry goods store on the public square. Leonard Jr.'s son John, after running away as a teenager, returned home when his dad became ill and managed that business for him until he was well again. Then John started his own business serving the new sewing factories springing up in the South in the 1900s.

One of John's daughters married a fellow from Minnesota with the first name Art and a funny last name. When Art returned from WWII John persuaded him to come to work for him, eventually turning the business over to him.

That's how my name is John today--Johannes was my great-great-great grandfather and Art was my father. Such is the story of many American families, some here for generations, some just starting out. They came here then and they still come here now seeking what Johannes and Catharine found in America in 1749: freedom and opportunity.

One can't exist without the other.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Made in USA: Chippewa Boots

I've been looking for a pair of boots for quite a while, since that time I finally got the cleanout valve loose down in my basement and the last pair got drenched with... well, nevermind. They went straight to the garbage can.

I've sure missed having a good pair of boots. But I never got further with finding a new pair than looking in stores now and then on my way to buy something else. I could find no boots made in USA, so I kept going without.

Finally I got online some time ago and found that Chippewa still makes boots in the USA. So I got in the car and headed out to the local retailer, only to find that the Chippewa boots they carried were NOT made in the U.S. Chippewa, like many fashion retailers, mixes its sourcing. Moral: Don't assume that just because a brand has an American name or projects an American image, that anything or everything it makes is made in USA.

So, it was back to the drawing board. On days when I really felt the need for boots I was tempted just to go by some regardless of origin. But I found a site called Boots99 that was the perfect answer. They carry several brands including Chippewa and have a big selection. I chose a model, placed an order, and included a comment on the order that I wanted to make sure the boots were made in USA.

I was pleasantly surprised to get a note back from Lee Schulz at Boots99 informing me that the boots I had chosen were again NOT made in USA. He gave me good suggestions for choosing from other models that were marked specifically "Handcrafted in USA." The boots I chose are pictured above. They are #20065, described as 6" soft toe laceups.

They're great! They are comfortable, give good support, and they don't get too warm when I'm wearing them in the office yet provide plenty of warmth in the cold and snow we've had this year. And notice the great little American flag that rides in the shoe string. I get lots of comment on that. And it's a great way to launch into a discussion about the importance of made in USA.

Go buy you a pair.