IOWA ICON: Fox River Socks

You can learn from a label.

I like to learn where things are made, and in the case of these Fox River Socks, I got more than a lesson.

Fox River Valley Knitting Company was founded in 1900 along the Fox River in Wisconsin.  It made warm wool socks for outdoorsman and would later acquire the Marr Knitting Company in Osage, Iowa to make a line of gloves and mittens.

When the Marr mill burned down in 1969, Osage made a bold move.

“There was no other industry at that time and the city fathers of Osage put up a building, here,” said president, John Lessard, “and they enticed Fox River to move its entire operation.”

“They were excited about the opportunity of someone coming into the community that could employ spouses of the area farmers and that type of thing,” said Becky Lessard, vice president of administration.

Since 1971, the company named for a river in Wisconsin, has been one of Iowa’s most innovative and resilient businesses.  Fueled by miles of yard and thread, and by 200 Iowans fully aware of how many factories like this have been moved overseas.

“We’re very fortunate to still be able to keep a good job here at Fox River and still live in a small community like Osage,” said Larry Mork, who supervises the knitting floor.

Mork oversees a 250,000 square-foot factory that would be the envy of every grandmother in a rocking chair.

“This one here is just short of five minutes knitting time,” he said of one of the knitting machines.”

The automation is impressive, but wouldn’t you know? Someone still has to turn the socks inside out, and someone still has to wash them (poor guy).

“Right now we’re currently running probably 1,400 dozen socks per day,” Mork said.

Fox River is now the oldest sock brand in America, and Lessard says its success has hinged on a very modern philosophy.

“We try to make a different sock for every activity.”

Did you know that there are socks for skiing and snowboarding?  Work and outdoors, sure, but how about socks that don’t smell and know left from right and are specifically made for the mountains of Afghanistan?

“Some days it helps you get through that, while you’re doing these things, especially like the military socks, you realize the possibilities of where they might end up and the good they may do,” Mork said.

If Americans want a shoe for every occasion, Fox River says there should be socks to match!

“Everything’s got to be visually appealing, I think,” says Jackie Johnson, board pair operator. “Things gotta match.”

“When you actually hear people say what a wonderful product it is, it gives you a lot of pride that you do that.”

Manufacturing was once as much a part of Iowa as agriculture.  Now a place like this is an exception, almost a novelty.  But in Osage, it’s still a way of life.

“We want to be here to employ people in the area,” Becky Lessard says, “to be able to provide jobs so people can stay in the community where they grew up.”

“We have people that live very close to us that have no idea that we’re here,” says Mork, “that we exist here in Osage and manufacture the Fox River line.”

Yep, they’re right here under our feet!  A true Iowa Icon.  A lesson learned on a label.

2 comments

  • Brix and block sir

    Fox
    Socks
    Box
    Knox

    Knox in box.
    Fox in socks.

    Knox on fox in socks in box.

    Socks on Knox and Knox in box.

    Fox in socks on box on Knox.

    Chicks with bricks come.
    Chicks with blocks come.
    Chicks with bricks and blocks and clocks come.

    Look, sir. Look, sir. Mr. Knox, sir.
    Let’s do tricks with bricks and blocks, sir.
    Let’s do tricks with chicks and clocks, sir.

    First, I’ll make a quick trick brick stack.
    Then I’ll make a quick trick block stack.

    You can make a quick trick chick stack.
    You can make a quick trick clock stack.

    And here’s a new trick, Mr. Knox….
    Socks on chicks and chicks on fox.
    Fox on clocks on bricks and blocks.
    Bricks and blocks on Knox on box.

    Now we come to ticks and tocks, sir.
    Try to say this Mr. Knox, sir….

    Clocks on fox tick.
    Clocks on Knox tock.
    Six sick bricks tick.
    Six sick chicks tock.

    Please, sir. I don’t like this trick, sir.
    My tongue isn’t quick or slick, sir.
    I get all those ticks and clocks, sir,
    mixed up with the chicks and tocks, sir.
    I can’t do it, Mr. Fox, sir.

    I’m so sorry, Mr. Knox, sir.

    Here’s an easy game to play.
    Here’s an easy thing to say….

    New socks.
    Two socks.
    Whose socks?
    Sue’s socks.

    Who sews whose socks?
    Sue sews Sue’s socks.

    Who sees who sew whose new socks, sir?
    You see Sue sew Sue’s new socks, sir.

    That’s not easy, Mr. Fox, sir.

    Who comes? …
    Crow comes.
    Slow Joe Crow comes.

    Who sews crow’s clothes?
    Sue sews crow’s clothes.
    Slow Joe Crow sews whose clothes?
    Sue’s clothes.

    Sue sews socks of fox in socks now.

    Slow Joe Crow sews Knox in box now.

    Sue sews rose on Slow Joe Crow’s clothes.
    Fox sews hose on Slow Joe Crow’s nose.

    Hose goes.
    Rose grows.
    Nose hose goes some.
    Crow’s rose grows some.

    Mr. Fox!
    I hate this game, sir.
    This game makes my tongue quite lame, sir.

    Mr. Knox, sir, what a shame, sir.

    We’ll find something new to do now.
    Here is lots of new blue goo now.
    New goo. Blue goo.
    Gooey. Gooey.
    Blue goo. New goo.
    Gluey. Gluey.

    Gooey goo for chewy chewing!
    That’s what that Goo-Goose is doing.
    Do you choose to chew goo, too, sir?
    If, sir, you, sir, choose to chew, sir,
    with the Goo-Goose, chew, sir.
    Do, sir.

    Mr. Fox, sir,
    I won’t do it.
    I can’t say.
    I won’t chew it.

    Very well, sir.
    Step this way.
    We’ll find another game to play.

    Bim comes.
    Ben comes.
    Bim brings Ben broom.
    Ben brings Bim broom.

    Ben bends Bim’s broom.
    Bim bends Ben’s broom.
    Bim’s bends.
    Ben’s bends.
    Ben’s bent broom breaks.
    Bim’s bent broom breaks.

    Ben’s band. Bim’s band.
    Big bands. Pig bands.

    Bim and Ben lead bands with brooms.
    Ben’s band bangs and Bim’s band booms.

    Pig band! Boom band!
    Big band! Broom band!
    My poor mouth can’t say that. No, sir.
    My poor mouth is much too slow, sir.

    Well then… bring your mouth this way.
    I’ll find it something it can say.

    Luke Luck likes lakes.
    Luke’s duck likes lakes.
    Luke Luck licks lakes.
    Luck’s duck licks lakes.

    Duck takes licks in lakes Luke Luck likes.
    Luke Luck takes licks in lakes duck likes.

    I can’t blab such blibber blubber!
    My tongue isn’t make of rubber.

    Mr. Knox. Now come now. Come now.
    You don’t have to be so dumb now….

    Try to say this, Mr. Knox, please….

    Through three cheese trees three free fleas flew.
    While these fleas flew, freezy breeze blew.
    Freezy breeze made these three trees freeze.
    Freezy trees made these trees’ cheese freeze.
    That’s what made these three free fleas sneeze.

    Stop it! Stop it!
    That’s enough, sir.
    I can’t say such silly stuff, sir.

    Very well, then, Mr. Knox, sir.

    Let’s have a little talk about tweetle beetles….

    What do you know about tweetle beetles? Well…

    When tweetle beetles fight,
    it’s called a tweetle beetle battle.

    And when they battle in a puddle,
    it’s a tweetle beetle puddle battle.

    AND when tweetle beetles battle with paddles in a puddle,
    they call it a tweetle beetle puddle paddle battle.

    AND…

    When beetles battle beetles in a puddle paddle battle
    and the beetle battle puddle is a puddle in a bottle…
    …they call this a tweetle beetle bottle puddle paddle battle muddle.

    AND…

    When beetles fight these battles in a bottle with their paddles
    and the bottle’s on a poodle and the poodle’s eating noodles…
    …they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle
    bottle paddle battle.

    AND…

    Now wait a minute, Mr. Socks Fox!

    When a fox is in the bottle where the tweetle beetles battle
    with their paddles in a puddle on a noodle-eating poodle,
    THIS is what they call…

    …a tweetle beetle noodle poodle bottled paddled
    muddled duddled fuddled wuddled fox in socks, sir!

    Fox in socks, our game is done, sir.
    Thank you for a lot of fun, sir.

  • Foxinsox

    Fox
    Socks
    Box
    Knox

    Knox in box.
    Fox in socks.

    Knox on fox in socks in box.

    Socks on Knox and Knox in box.

    Fox in socks on box on Knox.

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