Justin, Herman Joseph (1859–1918)

By: Brian Hart

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: March 1, 1995

Herman Joseph Justin, pioneer bootmaker, was born at Lafayette, Indiana, in 1859. His father was a cigarmaker, a trade that Joe disliked. Justin moved to Gainesville, Texas, in 1877 and found a job at the Norton Shoe Shop. For two years he worked for a pair of sisters who had inherited the store. Using the skills he developed at Gainesville and thirty-five dollars that the town's barber loaned him, he opened a boot shop at Spanish Fort in 1879. In a one-room frame structure Justin produced an average of two pairs of boots a week. The quality of his work soon established a statewide reputation for him. This renown, plus the location of Spanish Fort on the Chisholm Trail, increased his sales and enabled him to hire assistants and move to a larger workplace. For ten years cowboys would stop at Spanish Fort, order their boots, drive their cattle to Abilene, Kansas, get paid, and pick up the boots on the return trip.

In 1887 Justin married Annie Allen, the daughter of the local physician. Two years later, shortly after the arrival of the tracks of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, he moved his business to Nocona. The shipping facilities there enabled Justin to enlarge his business, which grew because of his craftsmanship, his reputation as an honest businessman, and his inventiveness. In the 1890s rancher O. C. Coto, formerly of Montague County, wrote Justin from Montana that he wanted his cowboys to wear Justin's boots. The problem, however, was that Justin could not travel to Montana to measure the cowboys' feet and legs. To solve the problem he and his wife made a device by which the cowboys could measure themselves, so that boot orders could be sent through the mail. Although many suggested that Justin copyright the device, he refused, on the grounds that if it was good for the boot business it was good for him.

Between 1892 and 1898 the young couple had three children. For the next twenty years Justin strengthened his reputation nationally. In 1917 he financed the construction of a large building to house his business, but he died the following year. His sons continued his business at Nocona until 1925, when they moved the business to Fort Worth. Justin's daughter, Enid, however, believed that "Daddy Joe" would have remained at Nocona, so she established the Nocona Boot Company there. Both businesses flourished.

Nocona News, August 28, 1975. Dale Terry, "Nocona's Lady Bootmaker," Texas Highways, January 1975.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Brian Hart, “Justin, Herman Joseph,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/justin-herman-joseph.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 1, 1995