If the shoe fits you, a cobbler or cobbler got a credit

Connie Esbach of the Rochester Historical Society examines the distinction between those who made and repaired shoes and the Rochester shop run by a Civil War veteran in the early 1900s.

In the early days of shoemaking in England, there was a distinct difference between a cobbler, originally known as a cobbler, and a cobbler.

A cobbler made shoes and used good quality thick leather. Legally, a cobbler was only allowed to repair shoes and only had access to used or inferior leather. These rules crossed the Atlantic to America with the first settlers and continued until the 1700s.

However, the tools used by the two were very similar. Awls were used to punch holes in the leather to facilitate the sewing of the upper and lower parts of the shoe. Marking wheels marked where the holes and the needle should go. Hot burnishers rubbed the soles and heels to make them shine, while sole cutters were used to shape the soles. There were also stretching pliers to stretch the leather uppers and pruning sticks.

None of these tools took up much space. A cobbler may have a bench and tools in a room or a small shed. In parts of New England, sheds were called 10×10.

Pictured with this item is a durable jack that is part of our museum exhibit. The base is the jack and it raises and lowers to make it easier to work on the shoe positioned last on top. The last of the shoe was used to mold the last of the shoe.

The first shoes and even those made in the 1850s were not created as a left and a right. The straight sole would eventually mold to the shape of the wearer’s feet, making breaking in a pair of shoes an uncomfortable process.

Until the early 1900s, women’s ankles were not required to be shown in public, so they were hidden by long skirts or high buttoned shoes or boots. These were closed by a series of small buttons which required the use of a button hook of which we have several in the museum.

In the 1903 book of businesses in the area there is no mention of cobblers or cobblers, but we know from other sources that Nehemiah Sherman had a shop. Nehemiah was a Civil War veteran and when he returned home, he shared a house with his sister, Susan, at 251 New Bedford Road.

He was both a farmer and a cobbler/cobbler. Now the two terms had become confused. Nehemiah had a storehouse upstairs. As a shoemaker, he could also repair leather goods used by farmers and those with carts, carriages, and horses. Nehemiah died in 1908.