Carl Franz Bally (October 24, 1821, Schönenwerd – August 5, 1899) was a Swiss businessman who founded the Bally Shoe company in 1851.
Carl Franz Bally (Fig. 1) was the 11th of 14 children of Peter Bally (1783–1849) and Anna Maria Herzog. His grandfather, Franz Ulrich Bohli (1748–1810) immigrated as a young man from Vorarlberg in west part of Austria to Schönenwerd in the Canton of Solothurn in Switzerland, working as a mason for a manufacturer of silk ribbons. Later, he established his own silk ribbon manufacture in that town, relying mostly on work outsourced to local weavers. His sons Peter and Niklaus continued and enlarged the firm producing also suspenders and elastic fabrics and building an extensive second facility in Säckingen, (Germany). Carl Franz, one of the ten sons of Peter, entered the business at age 17 concentrating on the newest products. During a business trip to Paris he visited a shoe manufacturing plant and began to think about producing shoes, founding his own small facility in 1851. After initial difficulties the business began to flourish and in the early 1870s he established sales organizations in Buenos Aires (Argentina), Montevideo, (Uruguay) and Paris, (France). By 1880 Bally had transformed Schönenwerd from a sleepy farm village to an industrial center offering employment to hundreds of workers (Fig. 2) from the town and surrounding towns in what developed into one of the world’s leading shoe manufacturing enterprises.
Carl Franz was a progressive liberal, pushing forward many new ideas in the town, now taken for granted. He and his wife opened a special education school for girls, a kindergarten, an old-age home and a public swimming facility at the bordering Aare river. He built homes for workers and converted a flood region of the Aare in town into a luscious, publicly accessible park. He fought battles to break the long established bond between school education and religion (Schönenwerd is the location of a small monastery originally built around 600 AD) and supported the establishment of improved schooling facilities for grade schools and a regional middle school. To fill the need for workers he opened small manufacturing facilities in several towns in the surrounding region. He also served as a lawmaker in various local and federal positions. Carl Franz and his wife Cecile Rychner (1823–1893) had two sons, Eduard and Arthur, who continued their father’s business under the name C. F. Bally Söhne. Around the turn of the century, the firm employed some 3200 workers and produced over two million pairs of shoes a year. Carl Franz Bally died in Basel in 1899.