Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Blast from the Past: 18th Century Shoemaking at Colonial Williamsburg

The outside of the shoemaker's shop in Colonial Williamsburg.

I recently visited Colonial Williamsburg and found an exciting shop, the shoemaker. Although the styles and process was a bit different from today, shoes had a role in that society. In fact, The College of William and Mary was partially founded on revenue collected from a tariff on shoes (Colonial Williamsburg, n.d.)!

Shoemaking has taken place in America since at least 1610 when the first shoemakers came to Jamestown, VA, according to Colonial Williamsburg.  In 1661, the Virginia Legislature mandated that each county have a shoe manufacturer.

The shoemaker shop in Williamsburg is set up to be that of George Wilson from the 1760s-1770s. Wilson was known for making fine boots and shoes for gentlemen.  As a side note, shoemakers either made shoes for men or for women, according to Colonial Williamsburg.

A Williamsburg employee demonstrates how shoes were made in the shoemaker's shop in the 18th century.

At the time, there were 10 to 12 other shoemakers in Williamsburg. The shoemakers competed with each other and with shoes imported from England and with shoes made in wholesale factories.

When buying shoes from a shoe maker you had two options, to buy stock shoes, which came in popular sizes and styles, or to order custom made shoes. It took only a day to get a custom made pair.

The inside of the shoemaker's shop, showing some pre-made shoes.

What do you think of 18th century shoe making? It’s surprisingly not too different from today.

Related Posts:

Other Post You May Enjoy:


Colonial Williamsburg (n.d.) SHOEMAKER. Retrieved Tuesday, September 06, 2011 http://www.history.org/almanack/life/trades/tradesho.cfm

No comments:

Post a Comment