The Family Craft10th May, 2023
The Viberg story begins in the small town of Löderup, Sweden, where Axel Viberg learned to make shoes from his father in the early 1890s. Together as father and son they worked side by side in a small workshop providing their local village with shoes and boots.
In 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, Axel moved his family from Europe to the snowy Canadian frontier of Zeneta, Saskatchewan. There he found work making boots for local farmers. Axels's son Edwin also learned to be a cobbler, and after construction work dried up in the Great Depression, he relied on bootmaking to provide for his family.
In 1931, Edwin founded Viberg as an official company in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan to make boots and horse harnesses, sometimes bartering for goods when there was little cash to go around.
Bootmaking has always been a complicated endeavour. A single boot requires 66 separate operations, and in the early days of Viberg, Edwin executed every step by hand. Even with the addition of machines and other workers, Viberg could only produce 200 pairs a month. During these days of the Great Depression, Saskatchewan farmers were only willing to spend their savings on boots guaranteed to withstand years and years of arduous daily labour.
Edwin responded by inventing the Viberg Service Boot, offering unprecedented sturdiness through an innovative "naildown" construction that secured the outer sole to the insole with nails. Naildown boots worked well as a long-term investment, as they could easily be repaired on site as soon as holes emerged.