Search billions of records on Ancestry.com

CHAPTER XXVIII1
The Manufacture of Shoes and Hats--Improvements.

The first shoemaker in this town was doubtless Andrew Greeley, who came here in 1646, and some of whose descendants still reside here, and are engaged in the shoe business. From the above date until within the present century, shoemaking was confined almost exclusively to the wants of our own community. Shoes were not made up in quantities, and kept on hand for sale, like most kinds of goods at the present day; much less were they manufactured for foreign consumption. The time is almost within the memory of persons now living, when it was the common custom, outside of the villages, for shoemakers to "whip the stump;" ie. go from house to house, stopping at each long enough to make up a year's supply of shoes for the family. Farmers usually kept a supply of leather on hand for family use, and in many cases they were their own cobblers. Sometimes a firmer was also the shoemaker for the entire neighborhood, and worked at the latter employment on rainy days, and during the winter season.

In villages, the "village cobbler," or shoemaker, gradually came to keep a little stock of leather on hand, and to exchange shoes with the farmers, tanners, traders, and others, for produce, leather, foreign goods, &c. In this village, as late as 1794, there is said to have been but two shoemakers. Mr. Robert Willis remembers being in the shop of Enoch Marsh, in that year, when the latter was making a pair of shoes for Capt. Benjamin Willis,--of the privateer brig Betsey--between the soles of which a layer of gold pieces were placed. The precaution proved to have been timely, as the brig was captured the same voyage.

In course of time, storekeepers began to keep a few shoes on hand for sale. This naturally grew out of the barter system of trade, then so common. They bartered with the shoemakers for their shoes; bartered the shoes with the back country farmers for produce; and then bartered the produce for English and West India Goods.

In August, 1795, Moses Gale, of this town, advertised that he had "several thousand" fresh and dry hides, which he would exchange for shoes, and would give credit until the shoes could be made from the same hides. This is the earliest authentic information we have found of what may be called a wholesale shoe business in town. From this time, the manufacture of shoes began to increase quite rapidly.

Among the earliest to engage in the manufacture of shoes, were Moses and James Atwood, who also kept a store in the village. During the war of 1812, the first named sent a waggon load of shoes to Philadelphia, on which he realized a handsome profit. These must have been about the first shoes sent in that direction. [footnote: Mr. Atwood subsequently removed to Philadelphia, and founded the first wholesale shoe house in that city.] David How was also one of the first to encourage their wholesale manufacture. He is thought by some to have been the very first to send shoes to the south, in large quantities. He was for some years the largest manufacturer in town. Wesley Balch is said to have been the first one to manufacture roan shoes. If so, he must have commenced previous to 1814, as in that year we find "ladies' black Morocco shoes, with heels; ladies' colored Morocco shoes, with heels; and ladies' colored and black sandals, with heels; for sale by Chase & Cogswell," in this town. Amos Chase, who lived where J. B. Spiller now resides, made "roan ties" about 1810. He manufactured only what himself and one or two apprentices could make. They were spring-heeled, and without any stiffening at the heel. There were no pegged shoes made at that time. A few pegs were made by hand for pegging heels together. At that time no regard was paid to the sizes, or to the number of pairs in a case. Leonard Whittier was one of the first to put up regular sizes in each case.

Aroct M. Hatch was in the shoe business here in 1812. Mr. Hatch was a native of Ashby, but was brought up in the family of Deacon Balch, of East Bradford. He married a sister of Paul Spofford, of Georgetown, and soon after went with the latter to Salem, N. H., where they commenced the manufacture of shoes. After carrying on the business at that place about a year, they returned to Haverhill, and commenced in the Bannister block, as Hatch & Spofford. This was about 1817.

Phineas Webster was one of the earliest, if not the very first, who made the wholesale manufacture of shoes his sole business. He commenced about 1815. At first, he exchanged most of his shoes in Danvers, for Morocco and leather. The Danvers tanners and curriers packed their shoes in barrels, sugar boxes, tea chests and hogsheads, without regard to sizes or quantities, and shipped them to Philadelphia and Baltimore, where they were exchanged for a variety of produce, &c. On arriving at these ports, the vessels would be visited by crowds of people, to trade for shoes. The captain would thereupon hoist up his barrel or sugar box of shoes, at once converting the deck of his vessel into a retail shoe shop, and "dicker off" his stock. Mr. Webster is still engaged in the business, in connection with his son. Samuel Chase came to Haverhill in 1815, from Portsmouth, N. H., where he had kept a custom shoe shop. He had from that time to the present year (1860) been one of our most extensive shoe manufacturers, as well as most worthy and respected citizens. Warner Whittier was in the business as early as 1818, and probably earlier, and was for many years one of the most extensive manufacturers in the place. His son, and successor, Warner R. Whittier, Esq., is still in the business.

In January, 1818, Thomas Tileston, who had been engaged in the printing business in this town, removed to New York City, where he received large consignments of shoes and hats from the manufacturers in Haverhill, and established, in connection with Paul Spofford, one of our Haverhill shoe-manufacturers, one of the largest, if not the largest, shoe houses in that city.

Eliphalet Noyes, manufactured in the Bannister Block in 1820. His shoes were all made in his own shop, and were mostly "women's run-around ties," black and colored.

Thomas Meady was in the business here in 1817, at which date, it has been estimated, there were probably about two hundred shoemakers in town. Meady sent many of his shoes to Richmond, and Norfolk, Va.

James Noyes came here in 1820, at which time Moses French was manufacturing sale shoes, where Haseltine's store now stands, on Water street; and Eben Chase carried on the business where Hunking's block now stands. Jesse Harding was then the only Morocco dresser in town. The father if Mr. Noyes made shoes when the fashion was "picked toes, and wooden heels."

Daniel Hobson commences the business in Bradford, in 1824, and removed to Haverhill in 1828. He made mostly men's heeled pumps, with strap and buckle. "Hobson's pumps" were for years a standard article. Mr. Hobson is still in the business.

John Follonsbee manufactured shoes near the bridge, in 1826. He afterward went to Philadelphia, where he engaged in the shoe trade.

 

David P. Harmon commenced the business in 1826, and with the exception of a few years, has continued it to the present time.

In March, 1832, there were twenty-eight shoe manufacturers in the town, vis:--

Jacob Caldwell, East Parish Caldwell & Pierce Anthony Chase, East Parish
Tappan Chase, East Parish Samuel Chase Charles Davis
Benjamin Emerson, 2d Jesse Emerson, West Parish Samuel George
Joseph Greeley Gubtal & Haseltine Harmon & Kimball
Moses Haynes, West Parish Caleb Hersey Keely & Chase
Richard Kimball Oliver P. Lake, East Parish Thomas Meady
James Noyes Peter Osgood Page & Kimball
Daniel S. Perley Samuel Russell, Pond St. Job Tyler
Isiah Webster, West Parish David Whitaker, North Parish Whittier & George
John Woodman    

Of the above, at least sixteen kept "English and West India Goods" at the same time. (Cash was a very small part of the price paid for making the shoes.)

Prominent among the causes of the somewhat sudden increase in the manufacture of shoes, are to be found, first, the finishing of goat, kid and sheep skins in the form of Morocco, and, second, the invention of turned shoes. The first Morocco used in this town came from Dancers and Newburyport. The first Morocco dresser in town, was Jesse Harding. The first turned shoes made in this vicinity, were made by a "tramping jour," who learned the art in Philadelphia. He was hired in Charlestown, by James Gardner, of Bradford, for whom he worked long enough to allow others to secure the grand secret. His shoes excited a great deal of curiosity at the time, and large numbers of persons went to see how they were made. The introduction of these light, neat, cheap, and comparatively durable shoes, in place of the heavy styles then in common use, seems to have given a decided impulse to shoe manufacture in this town, and from that time the business rapidly increased until it became the principal, and almost the only manufacturing business in town.

. . .

In March, 1837, there were in town forty-two shoe manufacturers, and fourteen tanners and leather dealers. The following is a list of their names:--

SHOE MANUFACTURERS
George & Whittier George W. Lee Samuel Chase
John Woodman Roswell Farnum Whittier & Swett
Charles Hazeltine Anthony Chase John Kelly & Co.
James Noyes J. & N. S. Fuller Keely, Chase & Co.
Pierce Emerson & Co. Charles Davis Moses Nichols & Co.
Benjamin Emerson John C. Tilton Abel Page
Emerson & West Johnaon & George Bradley & Hersey
Nathaniel Currier, jr. Charles G. Grimes Pecker & Brickett
Fitts & Roberts James Grimes Daniel Hobson & Co.
Marsh & Hutchinson Benjamin Buswell Ingalls & Johnson
Brickett & Noyes Harmon Kimball & Co. Richard Kimball
Toppan Chase Samuel George Samuel Spiller & Son
Jesse Simonds William Hoyt John S. Webster
Joseph Greely Elbridge Souther Cornelius Jenness

 

TANNERS AND LEATHER DEALERS
Hersey & Whittier Ward Brickett Blodgett & Head
Edwards & Harding I. & C. Worthen William Burgin
Hayes & Pemberton John Woodman Aaron Gile
Thomas Harding Nathaniel Currier Rufus K. Knowles
Richard K. Wheeler Edmund Kimball  

Of the sixty names included in the above list of shoe manufacturers, we believe but twenty-one are now engaged in the same business; and of the tanners and leather dealers, we believe but two (Caleb Hersey and J. D. Blodgett) are in the business at the time of writing, (May, 1861).

The shoe manufacturers in West Bradford (now Bradford) at the same time, were

Josiah Brown William Day & Co. Guy Carleton, jr.
Leonard Johnson J. P. Montgomery & Co. Pressey & Fletcher
Samuel Heath Ordway & Webster  

Kimball Farrar, Leather Dealer

Of these, only Messers. Johnson, Heath, Ordway, and Farrar, are still in the business,--all of whom are now in Haverhill.

The financial "panic" of 1837, was especially disastrous to the manufacturing interests of this town, and many of its best citizens fell victims to the reverses which followed. It was a serious blow to Haverhill, and it was upward of ten years before it fairly recovered from the shock.

The discovery of the gold fields of California, and the rapid settlement of the Great West, by opening new markets for the various kinds of manufactured goods, gave a fresh impulse to the manufacturing interests in Massachusetts, and in this prosperity our town was a full sharer, as its rapid growth in population, wealth, and business, fully proves.

In 1857, there were in the town upward of ninety shoe manufactories, eighty-two of which were located in the central village. Besides these, there were eighteen inner sole and stiffening manufactories. In 1859, the number of shoe manufactories in the village was ninety. In 1860, there were in the town, according to the returns of the assessors, ninety-eight shoe factories, and two boot and shoe factories. Of these, nine were situated in that part of the town known as Ayer's Village.

[to be continued]

1. George Wingate Chase, The History of Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1861, reprinted 1997. pp. 532-7
        This page is a reproduction of the somewhat edited version developed by Lin Wright

Back to Haverhill home page