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History

Crafted by hand for over 124 years

Russell’s storied and far reaching history has always been written from the banks of the Fox River in Berlin, Wisconsin. William Russell, for whom the business is named, was a second generation leather craftsman alongside his brother Frank and father Charles. When the opportunity arose for his own venture, Will purchased the Wright Shoe Company from Stillman Wright and used its equipment to start the W.C. Russell Moccasin Company in 1898.

Originally the boots were made for the booming Wisconsin logging industry, but soon outdoorsmen began to recognize the unique benefits of the moccasin construction for hunting, fishing, and hiking. This shift would serve to focus Russell’s efforts towards a clientele that it has dutifully served for well over a century. A notable fact is that Saxton Pope and Arthur Young, the fathers of modern archery, were wearing Russells as early as 1915.

In 1928 one of Russell’s traveling salesmen, Bill Gustin, purchased the company following William’s passing. Gustin, a competitive trap and skeet shooter, hunter and fisherman, foresaw the ever increasing demands of sportsmen. In the early 1930's he introduced the now famous Russell Bird Shooter plus a line of oxfords, loafers and casual shoes.

The Russell legacy would be stewarded by Gustin’s son in law, Lefty Fabricius, starting the early 1980’s when Bill retired at age 92. Lefty would run the company for many decades, and eventually alongside his daughter, Suzie Fabricius. In 2022, Lefty, Suzie, and their family sold the company to Joe Julian, Luke Kolbie, and longtime Russell production manager, Joe Gonyo.

Although we could say a lot about where and how Russells have made their way in history, we would rather direct you to the countless articles that have been written by writers and historians far better than us. Quotes from these articles and links are provided below:

“Since the founding of W. C. Russell Moccasin in 1898 (although its roots can be traced all the way back to 1850), the company has shod the powerful, the influential, and the famous—presidents, kings, Hollywood royalty, military leaders, captains of industry. For parts of three centuries, the men who stride the earth like giants have come to Russell for the boots—also the shoes, slippers, and, yes, moccasins—in which they’ve made their footprints. When Charles Lindbergh emerged from the Spirit of St. Louis after his historic trans-Atlantic flight, the first things to touch the tarmac in Paris were the soles of his Russell moccasins. When Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII, he of abdication infamy) went on safari with Denys Finch-Hatton (the lover of Karen Blixen and Beryl Markham), Russell stalking boots kept him in the hunt.” - Covey Rise Magazine

“Shaffer was a World War II veteran, who, in 1948, became the first person to walk the entire Appalachian Trail. He was so picky about gear that he ditched his own cumbersome tent, sleeping in a poncho for months instead. He was particularly enamored of his Russell Moccasin Company “Birdshooter” boots, which bore him all the way from Georgia to Maine. (By contrast, modern through hikers may chew through two or three pairs of newfangled Gortex contraptions.) He paused often to sew, grease and patch his footwear, and twice had the soles replaced at shops along the route.” - Smithsonian Museum

“Anyone who is a outdoorsman understands that W.C. Russell Moccasin stands for craftsmanship, legacy, and quality. When you have a pair of their boots in your possession you feel as if you have a piece of history. Luminaries like President George H.W. Bush, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, General Norman Schwarzkopf, the King of Nepal, Harrison Ford and Robert Redford are customers.” - Heather Elder Notes From a Rep’s Journal