Our Shoemaking Ancestors in Massachusetts


One of the titles of a chapter in my Biographical Sketch of John Prouty Pepper is “Shoemaker.” Shoe-making became a huge activity in parts of Massachusetts beginning in the 18th century. In the 1850 US Census my 3rd Great-Grandfather Porter Hamilton/Pepper and several of his children were working as shoemakers.

In colonial America, shoe making was a side business for farmers who plied their craft during the slow times in the agricultural cycle.” This quote is from a simple looking site which is LOADED with facts and information about Massachusetts history. Please see: Mass Moments sponsored by the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities.

Shoe-making became a large industry in certain parts of Massachusetts, especially in Essex County, and Central and Eastern Massachusetts.

One of the old books I have is, The Organization of the Boot and Shoe Industry in Massachusetts Before 1875 by Blanche Evans Hazard, Professor of Home Economics in Cornell University. It, unfortunately, is not fully indexed, but I will be willing to do a few look-ups for you if you think you had a Massachusetts shoemaker in your family before 1875.

Mass Moments – “The Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities (Mass Humanities) launched the Mass Moments project—an electronic almanac of Massachusetts history—on January 1, 2005.” Specifically the Sunday, February 22, 2015 post “Lynn Shoeworkers’ Strike, February 22, 1860

Hazard, Blanche Evans, The Organization of the Boot and Shoe Industry in Massachusetts Before 1875 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1921). (Teresa’s personal copy) Available at the Internet Archive Online.


About Teresa Hamilton/Pepper Rust

Married to Brad Rust for 43 years. Mother of two lads and two lasses and the gran of Aidan and Jacob. I love learning and sharing information about the Scottish prisoners of war. My hobbies are reading, especially history, and British 18th and 19th Century literature. I do a little knitting and really like traveling and look forward to new travel adventures!
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4 Responses to Our Shoemaking Ancestors in Massachusetts

  1. Thanks for posting this books. I have several generations of Massachusetts shoe makers and shoe factory workers. Brockton (Plymouth county) had a thriving shoe factory sector during the nineteenth century.

  2. Oh, great! That is good to know!

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