Pair of wooden shoes Made by Dania Sko in Kimballton, Iowa, circa 1970 2010.008.001 - Gift of Bob and Joyce Lewis, in memory of Alfred and Marie Winther
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When The Danish Immigrant Museum acquired this pair of wooden clogs, made in the 1970s by the company Dania Sko of Kimballton, Iowa, it marked the first acquisition of American-made clogs in the museum collection. This inspired the museum to seek out the two founders of Dania Sko, Jens Sorensen and Howard Juel, and find out more about this company. A video recorded interview was arranged in Howard Juel’s home, where the two former business partners shared the fascinating story of Dania Sko.
The Danish tradition of wearing clogs goes back hundreds of years (which is why the museum already has a sizeable collection of clogs of all different sizes, shapes and ages). It was this tradition that Jens and Howard, who both have Danish roots, sought to continue and give a modern form when they started Dania Sko in the early 1970s. They did this by manufacturing clogs in styles that suited the tastes of the time and by using innovative, industrial production methods, even inventing, themselves, many of the machines they used. The creation of Dania Sko was also inspired by a wish to create a homegrown, modern industry in their small rural community of Kimballton.
The story of Dania Sko, in one sense a very local story set firmly in the community of Kimballton, is also a story tied into the larger history of Danish Americans and America in general. For example, the company hired a Vietnamese man, one of the Southeast Asian refugees brought to Iowa as a result of the governor’s Task Force for Indochinese Resettlement. And when the production of wooden clogs at Dania Sko finally stopped in 1981, this was in part due to the difficulty of competing with large-scale production in countries in the Far East such as China and Korea, where cheaper clogs were made of a pressed-wood composition.
Watch the interview with Dania Sko founders, Jens Sorensen and Howard Juel: