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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/512

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

MANUFACTURE OF BOOTS AND SHOES.
By GEORGE A. RICH.

XVI. DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS.

WITH all the uses to which leather is put, that of making boots and shoes is the most important, and calls for the greater part of the product of the tanneries of the country. It is not only the most important in point of magnitude, but it is one which has opened an unusual field for American ingenuity and invention. When the late Charles Stewart Parnell was in this country some years ago, he expressed a desire to see what could be done in an American shoe-factory. Accordingly, what is known to the trade as a Polish lace boot was selected by the Lynn manufacturer, whose building Mr. Parnell was inspecting, as the pattern to illustrate the processes of the art and the speed of the work. Mr. Parnell hastened from one part of the factory to another as the boot in its evolution flew hither and thither, and within twenty minutes after he had seen the pattern placed upon the leather the finished article was handed to him. That, of course, was an exhibition not practicable in ordinary, every-day work. But, compared with the time it would have required to make the boot by hand, it points to the saving that has been effected through the introduction of machinery and emphasizes the mechanical and economical development of the industry. As in the case of tanning, these advances are of comparatively recent origin, dating largely from the civil war and the scarcity of labor consequent upon it. But, though brief the time, the advance from the shoemaker of forty years ago with his hammer and lapstone, to the factory of the present day with its multiplicity of machines and its hundreds of operatives, has been a wonderful one. Indeed, within that period is crowded more in the way of progress and development than is to be found in all the centuries which intervene between the time of the Egyptian cobbler and that of our grandfathers.

There is no article of dress in which more striking changes have been made in the various ages than in the covering for the feet. Until the law was invoked, boots and shoes seemed to be the special field in which the whims of fashion manifested themselves. Coverings for the feet must have been among the earliest articles of dress. It is almost impossible to conceive of a time when ever-recurring injuries from contact with the earth's surface did not suggest some such protection. The primitive form of foot-covering was the sandal, which was simply a flat sole under the foot and secured to it by a thong. These were made of a great variety