The Path to Mechanized Shoe Production in the United States
In 1800, shoes in the United States were made by craftsmen, each trained to create an entire shoe. A century later, shoes were mass-produced in factories employing dozens of machines and specialized workers. Ross Thomson describes this transition from craft to mechanized production in one of the largest American industries of the nineteenth century.
Early shoe machinery originated through innovations made by shoemakers, tailors, and especially machinists. It continued to evolve through a process of "learning by selling," in which sales of one generation of machines led to technological learning and ongoing invention by those who used, serviced, and sold them. As a result of this process, the mechanization of the shoe industry and the manufacturers of the machinery it used -- including such firms as Singer and United Shoe Machinery -- evolved together.
In researching the process of industrialization, Thomson examined nearly 8,000 patents. Comparing the patent information with directories for more than eighty American cities, he was able to find out who the inventors were, who employed them, how many patents they held, and the extent to which their inventions were used.
Originally published in 1989.
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The Manufacturing Dynamic
The Evolution of Markets
New Means of Production
The Introduction of Shoe Machines
The Evolution of DryThread Sewing Machines
Ongoing Shoe Invention
Integration by Inventors
Integration by Firms
The Birth of the Sewing Machine
The Genesis of Shoe Machinery
Continuity and Change
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