The town of Pirmasens in the Palatinate was founded in the eighteenth century by the Landgrav (Count) Ludwig IX, and received its charter in 1763. The count had recruited a sizeable army which he exercised in Pirmasens, but it was disbanded on his death in 1790, and, by repute, the town’s shoe industry began when redundant soldiers began to sell simple shoes called schlabbe, made from leather parts of their uniforms. The shoe industry prospered while Pirmasens was part of France between 1793 and 1915 and in the years after the Second World War. In the 1960s a third of all the shoes worn in Germany were made in the town. As in other shoemaking towns in Europe, the industry has declined as production has been transferred to countries where wage costs are lower, although Pirmasens remains a centre for research into leather technology.
The shoe museum is one of four that share accommodation in the old town hall in the centre of the town. It has a large collection of footwear from all parts of the world, together with many products of the Pirmasens factories and machines that were used in them, and a reconstruction of a workshop where schlabbe were made.