Tisza shoes, at all times!

Martfű became famous as the peak of Hungarian shoes, though the Czech born Jan Antonin Baťa was the one who first saw fantasy in the little village by the Tisza. He bought the site of the shoe factory in 1939 and started producing three years later under the name Cikta Inc. After nationalisations, it received the well-sounding name Tisza Shoe Factory National Company and the rest is history. The irony of fate is that besides the shoe factory, Martfű went down in history with the atrocities of a serial killer. This week we are travelling to Martfű.


Brothers Baťa’s shoe empire in Hungary


The Baťa brothers established their shoe factory in Zlin in 1894, and it became the most famous factory in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in a couple of years. Ambitious work and enterprising enthusiasm bore its fruit. The factory was industrialised with mass production on American-style moving conveyor, because it became obvious by then that the age of handmade shoes was over. The factory that grew from a family business started expanding.
Martfű-puszta seemed a promising location, because public roads, railways and a river met here. According to plans, Jan Antonin Baťa would have built a highway, navigable channel and several satellite cities here. But the war interfered in the grand plans and they had to curtail their original ideas; especially as the family had to emigrate and they could not supervise the investment, only by their representatives. Thus, finally only one factory building was built instead of eight, and twenty-one Baťa houses were built for their workers instead of forty-three. Production started under the name Cikta Inc. in 1943. The shoe factory provided its employees not only with accommodation, but also with very good salary. They established a day nursery, a kindergarten and a school for employees’ children, and allowed vocational training as well.

Production did not stop during the war either; however, the shoe industry suffered from such a shortage that they made shoes with wooden soles instead of rubber for a while. The factory in Zlin was also nationalised after the war. From then on, Baťa shoes were produced and sold all over the world except for Czechoslovakia for forty years. Probably, it was the only “banned shoe brand” during communism. Nowadays, the largest Baťa store can be found on Wenceslas Square in Prague. The factory of Martfű was nationalised in 1949, and it received the name Tisza Cipőgyár Nemzeti Vállalat (Tisza Shoe Factory National Company).

Tisza shoes, at all times!

2014_500.jpgDuring the 1950s and ‘60s, the factory supplied only Hungarian demands and exported to the Comecon (CMEA) market exclusively. The new logo of Tisza Shoe Factory was approved in 1971, and with this, it became obvious that the own developed sports shoes line of the factory lived up to expectations. Variety broadened continuously: after sports shoes and traditional low shoes, high-top shoes appeared as well. Later, they also produced canvas and leather shoes for different sports. In 1974, the brand received the qualification “Excellent Product” – anyway there could not be any problems with quality, as they had a contract even with Adidas.




The importance of Martfű and its shoe factory is shown by the fact that Vladimirovna Tereshkova, who was the first woman in space in 1963, visited the shoe factory in 1965. It is likely that this was the apropos of naming the newly established housing cooperation after her, and it is still called by her name. The shoe factory was the largest factory with the most complex production in Hungary. They put great emphasis on workforce supplies, and the already existing vocational training provided both its students and the factory with a guarantee for well-trained workforce and continuous high-quality work.

However, the lives of envied shoe-factory women were shadowed by the monster of Martfű, Péter Kovács, who massacred four women as of 1957. After killing his last victim, he became a suspect. During the interrogation, he resolutely denied having known the victim, but he was confronted with the eyewitnesses and even his brother-in-law confessed against him. He thought he would avoid being hanged by claiming mental disorder, so he confessed two more murders. Investigation kept going and finally four murders and two attempted murders were unveiled. Kovács was sentenced to death. János Kirják, who was innocently convicted for the murder of the first victim, was acquitted from the prison Csillag of Szeged after eleven years.

The monster of Martfű made the city infamous, though he was from Tiszaföldvár. Nowadays, the home of Tisza shoes is not Martfű anymore, but the brand survived and it is at least as popular as it was in the heyday of the factory.

Translated by Zita Aknai





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