If ever I Saint Crispin’s day forget
may my feet be never free from wet,
But ev’ry dirty street and lane pass through
Without one bit of sole to either shoe.
Saint Crispin is the commonly recognized patron saint of shoemakers, though there have been others. Since medieval times, October 25 has been celebrated as St. Crispin's Day feast day and the shoemakers’ holiday. Boot and shoemakers would close their shops on this day in celebration.
In colonial times, a cordwainer was the name for a shoemaker as opposed to a cobbler, who was a shoe repairer and who had as much as five years less training than a cordwainer. Cobblers were often prohibited by law from making shoes.
Shoemakers had arrived in Jamestown, VA, by 1607, and were flourishing by 1616.
Before leaving England, each colonist was allotted four pairs of leather shoes called “Well-Neat Leather” shoes. Working shoes were fully welted and made from heavy leather on the top and bottom.
|Lady's shoe (Los Angeles Museum of Art)|
Boot making was the most sophisticated and prestigious branch of the trade. By tradition, the making of boots and shoes for men and the making of shoes for women were separate pursuits. Dancing shoes had lighter soles and were usually made out of material.
The shoemaker’s tool kit included items with names such as “helling sticks,” “petty-boys,” and “St. Hugh’s Bones.”
Cordwainers in New England set up small shops, sometimes in their homes, where they made shoes on request. For custom made shoes, models were made of people’s feet. These models, called lasts, were carved out of wood and kept for subsequent shoe orders. Large plantations usually had a shoemaker to maintain the families’ shoes.
|Cordwainer's tools |
(The Trade Museum of Suhlendorf)
Susan F. Craft
I am a historical fiction writer with a novel, The Chamomile, released in November 2011. The Chamomile won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Okra Pick Award. I'm represented by Hartline Literary Agency