J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Kimberly Alexander on Shoes in Lynn, 15 May

Alonzo Lewis’s 1829 History of Lynn says proudly:
The principal business of Lynn is the manufacture of Ladies’ shoes. For the first hundred years from the settlement of the town, this business was very limited. Few persons followed it constantly, and the farmers only pursued it in the intervals of their common employment. The shoes were generally made of neats’ leather or woollen cloth.

In 1750, Mr. John Adam Deaggeor [or Dagyr] came from England, and gave this business its first impulse. After his arrival, shoes were manufactured of finer stuffs—of calamanco, silk and satin. They were made with long straps, for the ladies, like the gentlemen, wore buckles, and the rands were commonly white. The reputation of Lynn shoes soon found way to the cities of the south, and the manufacturers began to extend their business by taking apprentices and employing journeymen.
By 1770, Lynn shoes had such a good reputation in Boston that merchants advertised them as such. During the height of the town’s non-importation picketing in February 1770, Isaac Vibird defended his wife Mary from the charge of buying tea from importer William Jackson by publicly offering to swear that she’d gone into Jackson’s shop only to pick up “a Number of Shoes from Lynn.” Surely Whigs would praise her for supporting local industry!

On Thursday, 15 May, the Lynn Museum will host its annual meeting, at which Kimberly Alexander will speak on “The Art & Mystery of Making Shoes”: New England Shoe Stories from the Long Eighteenth Century. Using the letters and biographies of “clever apprentices, skilled cordwainers, and elegant brides,” Dr. Alexander will explore “how shoes were made, sold, and worn in early New England.”

Alexander teaches courses in museum studies and material culture at the University of New Hampshire, Durham. She was founding Curator of Architecture and Design at the M.I.T. Museum and later worked as Curator of Architecture and Design at the Peabody Essex Museum and Chief Curator of Strawbery Banke Museum. Check out her blog for more on historical shoes and other garments.

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