The Bally company is a global corporation which produces and markets luxury shoes and, since 1976, handbags and other leather accessories. It was founded in Switzerland in 1851 by Carl Franz Bally (1822-99) and passed to successive generations of his family. The company had 500 employees by 1860, and more than 3,000 by 1900 when it was manufacturing two million pairs of shoes per annum.
The company’s museum at Schönenwerd, a small town in the canton of Solothurn in northern Switzerland, was opened in 1942. It is based on one of the world’s largest collections of footwear which ranges across some 3,000 years of human history. Exhibits are drawn from many countries and include shoes made from many materials other than leather. Themes such as the use of shoes as status symbols and shoe fetishes are explored in the museum, and there are also displays of shoes of all sizes modelled in porcelain, glass, wood and other materials.