Thirty-two-year-old Enid Justin drove her Model T Ford into the small town of Jacksboro, Texas, in early 1926, determined to sell her quality, handmade cowboy boots to the mercantile owners there. As the head of the newly formed Nocona Boot Company, the tenacious woman knew what needed to be done to make her brand a success. She wasn’t afraid of hard work and was willing to be the first traveling salesperson for the business. Enid was convinced her merchandise was second to none and believed customers would flock to stores that stocked the brand. She was right. By the end of the first year in business, the manufacturing company was shipping boots to all the Western states.
Enid was no stranger to the boot making industry. Her father, Herman Joseph Justin founded H. J. Justin and Sons in 1879, selling his sturdy, handcrafted boots to cowhands traveling along the Chisholm Trail. Herman’s seven children learned the trade working beside him at the shop. From purchasing the leather to stitching the boots, the Justin clan were destined to become experts in the field. Born in 1894, Enid was sewing boot tops at the age of twelve. Little did she know then she would one day become the president of her own boot making company.
Herman Justin’s sons took over the business when their father died in 1918, and for awhile were content to continue running operations in Nocona where the company was established. By 1925, the Justin brothers decided to move the plant to Fort Worth. Enid, who by this time was married and working at the company with her husband, disagreed with the idea to relocate the enterprise. Believing her father would never have wanted the company moved from Nocona, she made up her mind to stay put and open her own shop. She’d been trained by the best and knew everything there was to know about boot making. She borrowed $5,000 to open the business and started out with seven employees. Initially, her focus was strictly on making high grade cowboy and lace boots but by the summer of 1927, she added boys’ cowboy boots to the production. Materials used in her factory came from various states and countries, such as calves from France, kangaroos from Australia, and the American tanned leather from the northern and eastern states.
Enid hadn’t planned to become one of the leading competitors to H. J. Justin and Sons, but she didn’t shy away from the achievement. It was unusual for a woman to run a major company in the late 1920s, but Enid saw herself as liberated long before the rest of the world knew what the term meant. It was difficult in the beginning. Ranchers and cowhands shied away from dealing with a woman bootmaker. Forced to find other ways to bring in money, Enid took in boarders at her home and cooked and ironed for oil field workers. In time, the Nocona Boot Company brand gained popularity and as sales increased Enid was able to set aside the odd jobs and work solely at the factory.
Throughout the course of the fifty-six years Enid was in business, she met with celebrities and dignitaries around the globe including Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush, Carol Burnett, Gregory Peck, and Walt Disney. In 1972, she was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame for her contribution to the culture of the West.
In 1981, Enid sold her business to the Justin Boot Company and retired. She passed away on October 14, 1990, at the age of ninety-six.