THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#76 Post by das » Wed Jan 05, 2011 5:07 am

Nasser,

Yes... What prompted me to post that old postcard of the Putney building was, it's always stood out on Broad St., Richmond I took it for granted as a local landmark. It served as the DMV, where you go to get your driver's license renewed, etc. when I first started driving passed it in the 1980s. They still had a lot of the overhead power shafting up on the ceiling. Anyway, I got into a discussion recently with a pal about Frye boots, and the current 3rd party holding company using that brand name "since 1863", claiming to be the longest continuously operating shoe co. in the USA. Something didn't sound quite right there so I did some poking around.

John Addison Frye (1st) came to Massachusetts from England "in 1863", supposedly sold boots to both the US Army and Confederate Army during the Civil War, which was illegal. Frye expanded factory works in Marlboro, Mass., providing boots through the 1880s and the Spanish Am. War (1898-190?). Their big thing apparently was when John A. Frye (3rd) sold their low "Wellington" called the "Jet Boot" to US forces during WWII and beyond. Then came a line of basic cowboy boots, all mail order until the later 1960s when they started retailing their now famous square toed "harness" and "Campus (TM)" boots. Frye was sold to Reebok in the late '70s. Reebok sold the brand to Hanson, UK. Some Fryes were made in China etc.. Hanson first licensed, then finally sold the brand outright to one "Jimlar Corp." in NY in the 1990s, and Frye boots are currently being made in Arkansas, a long way from Marlboro, Mass. I guess Frye brand boots have been "continuously" available "since 1863", but like so many venerable old brands, the label has been bought and sold by so many folks it can hardly be considered the original company IMO.

So far I've found little on Putney. Putney & Watts started in 1817. Watts split. Putney was described as one of the several huge shoe manufacturers and wholesalers in Richmond in the 1850s. There survive two huge Putney homes in Court End--giant Victorian townhouses. After service in the Civil War Stephen Putney settled down to manufacturing boots in earnest it seems and amassed a tidy fortune--that 1900s factory tells the tale. I owned a pair of Battle Axe boots in the mid '80s, a 6" front-laced work boot with nitrile/cork composite soles. Wish I still had those for posterity at least. In all events, the upshot is, the stereotype here is the Northern states were "industrial" and the southern states were "agricultural", so heavy manufacturing industry in the southern US gets overlooked far too much. Who'd have thought that the oldest running, and possibly one of the nation's largest shoe manufacturers was indeed in Richmond, VA, not New England?

I did acquire a Battle Axe Shoe Co. metal watch fob on eBay, probably from around 1910.

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#77 Post by dearbone » Wed Jan 05, 2011 6:37 am

Al,

Thank you for that background,I really admire people who take on such an enormous responsibility over many souls and huge real state to produce footwear by the thousands,I guess lucrative army contracts can make such an undertaking possible especially if they are selling to both waring parties,That gives a new meaning to their logo,Two axes crossing each otherImage,The Bata shoe co is near 120 year,I wonder how long they will last,there is an old saying,dynasties fall by the 4th generation.

Here is the full uniform of the Chief of the Toronto Scottish regiment,I asked to see a picture of the full uniform after restoring the sporran.
12642.jpg

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#78 Post by das » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:04 am

Nasser,

Yes it's a hard perspective to keep in mind. I'm writing a paper just now on British Army footwear production and procurement, and am boggled by how many firms supplied 1,000 to 10,000 under contract from the sixteen-40s through the seventeen-70s, waaaaaay before any machines. I guess the Romans started it, supplying their armies and colonies in lands far from home. There are three 1st c. CE shoes surviving marked Lucius Abutes Thales (Greek name?), one found at Hadrian's Wall, UK, one in Syria, and one in Gaul, the high water mark of the Roman empire.

At least Bata Shoe is still owned by the Bata family right? If Putney's was still going they'd be 194. A wildcat search the other day turned up a rather cheesy-looking 1970s Putney zippered boot on-line. I wonder where all those Battle Axe Shoes went?

I'm curious about Frye's claim that their founder John Addison Frye sold to "both armies in the Civil War". It's plausible, but. . . He only got here in 1863--the war was over 2 years later--so he must have organized a factory, got it up and running, and then sweet-talked a government shoe contract "overnight". Based in Marlboro, Massachusetts, I can't figure out how in the world he supplied footwear to the Confederate Army without getting shot for treason. Maybe via his footwear contacts back in the UK? I'd think his Mass. workers would have rioted if they found out any of their boots were going to the enemy? Anybody got any thoughts on this conundrum?

Nice sporran!

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#79 Post by dearbone » Wed Jan 05, 2011 2:27 pm

Al,

Interesting to hear about the paper on British Army footwear,In the 80s while in Northampton museum i bought a small booklet which listed half a dozen or so companies built in the 19c and some in early 20c there that made boots/shoes,but one in particular "Simon Collier's factory" during work on a huge war contract 1914-16 made one million pairs of army boots,The booklet was reprinted from a book, "Life in Old Northampton". Pictures of outside and the inside of the factories with men and women in big numbers building boots and shoes,those factories must have felt like a prison in comparison to the old days prior to 1850s when all boots and shoes were made by hand and at the shoe maker house or shop.

collageman

Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#80 Post by collageman » Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:59 pm

Hello - My great great granduncle John Hesler was a shoemaker born in Norway in 1831. His grandfather, father and at least two brothers were shoemakers, too. John made his way to California by 1859 and from 1860-1873 had a boot and shoe shop in Mariposa and then from 1873-1878 in Merced, CA. He was close to the only shoemaker in both towns at the time, and his shops were on Main Street. He also repaired shoes. I know he paid taxes for selling new shoes and repairing old ones. I recently saw a tax record in which it was noted the value of his residential lot was $125, improvements ie house several hundred dollars, furniture $15 and a "sewing machine" valued at $15 - the same as his furniture! Is there anything comparable today to what that sewing machine may have been? Or can someone suggest where I might find an image of a machine that might fit the bill of this circa-1873 shoemaker? I have asked about my relative before but the new info prompted me to ask a question again but differently. Any suggestions or ideas greatly appreciated! Steve Heimerle

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#81 Post by das » Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:52 am

Just clobbered together this rough time-line of US shoemaking for The History Channel script, but shoot got cancelled. Rather than dump it I thought you all might enjoy:

370 BCE, shoemaking has divisions of labor seen in modern factories--mass production begins in Greece. Later, Roman shoemakers complain about cheap imports from Greece flooding their market
1st c. CE, ready-made "designer" fashion-shoes (women's) exported to extreme frontiers of Roman empire
Middle Ages, standard shoe sizes emerge, ready-made shoes in stock on-hand becomes common
1586, "first" named shoemaker(?) arrives, Roanoke, NC (went home or disappeared with "Lost Colony"]
1610, "first" shoemakers arrive Jamestown, VA
1616, shoemakers and tanners thriving in VA
1620, Pilgrims land in Plymouth, MA
1620s-40, "first" multi-worker shoe "factories" (VA) making/selling wholesale, mass-production for export
1629, "first" (2) shoemakers arrive in MA (one soon returned home)
1661, up to 32 shoe factories legislated to be set up in VA counties
1750s, Adam Dagyr starts producing women's shoes with division of labor in Lynn, MA
1700s, shoemaking and tailoring are 2 largest shop-keeping trades in most American cities
Early-mid 1800s, US shoes radically redesigned/simplified to meet westward expansion, agrarian population, growing export markets, 1849 CA "Gold Rush", etc., impulse for mechanization/speed rages
1850, Shoemaking single largest US skilled trade (steadily rising until crash of 1929)
1857, "first" commercially viable sewing machines introduced--prior to this all hand-sewn
Late 1880s, all steps in shoemaking successfully mechanized--"American Invasion" begins, inexpensive shoes flood world markets
1929, "Crash" dents growth, by mid-20thc USA producing 60% of the world's manufactured goods (inc. shoes)
1960s-on, "Off Shoreing" begins to take its toll
2011, Less than 1%(!) of all shoes sold in the USA today are made here

The Worst Myths (to avoid)--

US shoemaking began in MA
All shoes were custom, made-to-order, one pair at a time
One man working alone could make shoes (minimum for commercial viability 3-4+)
Early shoes were "crude"
Pilgrims wore buckle shoes (no shoe-buckles < 1660)
Shoemakers made new shoes. "Cobblers" mended old ones (terms often conflated)
Shoes were not right and left shaped until the Civil War [all L&R before c.1600, most were L&R after c.1800]

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#82 Post by das » Fri Nov 11, 2011 12:49 pm

Collection: The South Carolina Gazette
Publication: The South-CAROLINA Gazette
Date: September 16, 1751
Title: CHARACTERISTICKS.
Location: CHARLES-TOWN



"A CERTAIN writer compares quacks to coblers, but they differ in this, a distress'd shoemaker, may be a good cobler, but a distress'd physician can never be a quack; the prudence, of the multitude supports a cobler, but a quack lives by their ignorance: Add to this, that honesty and coblership are no wise incompatible, but an honest quack never existed."

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#83 Post by courtney » Wed May 30, 2012 5:15 pm

http://www.whateversleft.co.uk/industrial/george-barnsley-sons-sheffield-3

I dont know if this is the place to post, but this link shows the Barnsley factory closed down with broken windows and all these tools just laying around.

Courtney

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#84 Post by dw » Thu May 31, 2012 10:19 am

I was listening to a Doc Watson retrospective on the Internet radio station "Sugar in the Gourd" (can't remember the call letters) and they played a song called "Peg and Awl" leastwise that's what I think it was called..

It's a story that starts in 1801...the first verse goes "back in 1801, I was just hangin' on, peg and awl peg and awl..." and ends "peggin' shoes is all I done".

The song proceeds through 1804 when our intrepid shoemaker decides he "ain't gonna peg shoes no more..." and then goes on to tell why---"they invented a machine, pretty as a dream, does a hundert to my one...peg and awl, peg and awl."

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#85 Post by dw » Thu May 31, 2012 10:33 am

Here...I got the lyrics off the Internet (ain't it amazin'??)

In the days of eighteen and one
Peg and awl
In the days of eighteen and one
Peg and awl
In the days of eighteen and one
Peggin' shoes was all I done
Hand me down my pegs my pegs my pegs my awl

In the days of eighteen and two
Peg and awl
In the days of eighteen and two
Peg and awl
In the days of eighteen and two
Peggin' shoes was all I'd do
Hand me down my pegs my pegs my pegs my awl

In the days of eighteen and three
Peg and awl
In the days of eighteen and three
Peg and awl
In the days of eighteen and three
Peggin' shoes was all you'd see
Hand me down my pegs my pegs my pegs my awl

In the days of eighteen and four
Peg and awl
In the days of eighteen and four
Peg and awl
In the days of eighteen and four
I said I'd peg those shoes no more
Throw away my pegs my pegs my pegs my awl

They've invented a new machine
Peg and awl
They've invented a new machine
Peg and awl
They've invented a new machine
Prettiest little thing you ever seen
Throw away my pegs my pegs my pegs my awl

Makes one hundred pairs to my one
Peg and awl
Makes one hundred pairs to my one
Peg and awl
Makes one hundred pairs to my one
Peggin' shoes it ain't no fun
Throw away my pegs my pegs my pegs my pegs my awl

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#86 Post by paul » Thu May 31, 2012 10:40 am

Good one Ddub!

Here's the Youtube link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_3N3kPWV3E

Thanks for the bright spot today!

Paul

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#87 Post by sorrell » Thu May 31, 2012 11:46 am

DW,
That's a really sad song.

Lisa

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#88 Post by tomo » Thu May 31, 2012 12:36 pm

Sad that Doc Watson's passed [img]http://www.thehcc.org/forum/images/old_smilies/sad.gif"%20ALT="sad[/img] He was ol' time. And thanks for that link Paul.

(Message edited by Tomo on May 31, 2012)

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#89 Post by das » Thu May 31, 2012 3:28 pm

I wouldn't jump to conclusions on dates here--it's a tad too early for pegged soles, and way too early for pegging machines. It's just a song, it's just a song, it's just a song.....

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#90 Post by das » Fri Jun 01, 2012 3:01 am

The historians are digging into this song's origins. So far the only comment I've gotten back is: "If it is the song I think it is, it is late 1800s or later and is a protest song, and the dates have now't to do with real history, they are just for emphasis. It is rather like someone trying to use "In The Year 2525" http://www.metrolyrics.com/in-the-year-2525-lyrics-zager-and-evans.html as history. Anyone trying to use this song for dating shoe technology is grasping at straws..."

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#91 Post by dw » Fri Jun 01, 2012 5:25 am

For the record...I had/have no idea whether the song was historically accurate or not. It was interesting to me because of the subject matter and the performers--Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson.

I didn't give it anymore thought or research than that.

How often do you hear a song about shoemakers or shoemaking techniques?


That said, it's nice to know something of the provenance...if it can be found.

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#92 Post by frank_jones » Fri Jun 01, 2012 7:02 am

I might have another angle on the idea of pegging by machine in 1804.

The machinery used to make pegged footwear for military footwear was attributed to Marc Isambard Brunel. Marc Brunel is famous in UK history for two things

1) He built the first successful underwater tunnel (under the River Thames in London)
2) His son was Isambard Kingdom Brunel the famed railway and shipbuilding engineer. The first ocean-going iron steamship but also the first with a propeller rather than paddles.

I remember learning about Marc Brunel when I was a student at Cordwainer’s College because he set up the first mass-production footwear factory at Battersea in London to supply the British Army fighting Napoleon. The story went that once the war against Napoleon was over there was no market for mass-produced footwear and the machinery was destroyed. For some unknown reason there are no detailed records of the machine/s.

There is a very limited mention in Wikipedia but I don’t know of any other reference to the machine or factory.

Frank Jones
frank.jones@noblefootwear.com

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#93 Post by kemosabi » Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:17 am

"It's just a song, it's just a song, it's just a song....."

HA!!! Thanks for a good chuckle this morning Al.

-Nat

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#94 Post by das » Mon Jun 04, 2012 2:16 pm

Frank,

Brunel's 1810 patent was for riveting (nailing) soles--not pegging. His 1812 factory went broke on that scheme, as the war ended before he got paid. Sad.

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#95 Post by das » Wed Jan 08, 2014 11:44 am

Here's a 1765 Dutch cobbler pegging a heel with a biggest heel bock under his left foot I've ever seen.

http://collectie.atlasvanstolk.nl/colle ... n=collform

(Click on tiny image--it'll get bigger)

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#96 Post by farmerfalconer » Wed Jan 08, 2014 1:27 pm

That is odd! Any idea what the chap behind him is doing? I couldnt read the german.

-Cody

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#97 Post by das » Thu Jan 09, 2014 5:02 am

I wondered the same, unless that fellow is another subject. Sitting with a barrel, maybe a cooper?

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#98 Post by dmcharg » Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:29 pm

Possibly the customer? He doesn't seem to have any specialised clothing on. Seems an expensive thing to do considering the cost of printing and engraving; though the artwork is beautifully done, and the shading is very impressive.

Just a thought
Cheers
Duncan

P.S. My wife, Sandra, just suggested it might be the cobbler's own barrel for soaking leather.

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#99 Post by farmerfalconer » Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:53 pm

I wondered that myself. The man has his breeches unbuckled and un buttoned so I guess he plans on sitting there for a bit. I always unbuckle my breeches when i plan on sitting a while as it a bit more comfortable.

Cody

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Re: THE GOOD OLD DAYS?

#100 Post by das » Thu Jan 16, 2014 3:49 am

I think the chap with the barrel is a cooper--another subject IOW. There are several more images of that cobbler in the book with nobody else in the scene. Plenty of period art shows shoemakers with breeches unbuckled at the knee. For comfort yes, but the knee buckles can also snag your sewing threads--believe me.

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