Shoemakers of Lynn, Massachusetts, 1850-1880

Author: Mulligan Jr., William H.
This study looks closely at the lives of shoemakers in Lynn, Massachusetts during the period when their work was mechanized and moved into factories. For many decades prior to the 1850s, Lynn had been a major center for the manufacture of shoes, all made by hand through a putting-out system. Men and women each had a role to play in making shoes. The family was the center of production and shoemaking shaped many aspects of family life, including fertility. Beginning in 1851, a series of machines replaced handwork and work moved from the home and near-by workshops to factories. By 1880, the old system was all but extinct and a large number of machines replaced the hand skills of Lynn’s cordwainers and binders. This change in both the nature and location of work affected family life in a number of ways, including choice of marriage partner, fertility and the role of the family in providing job training. This work explores both pre-industrial and industrial Lynn and analyzes the relationship between work and family life and how changes in work changed family life. It will appeal to those interested in the social history of industrialization, the history of the family, and demographic history.


“ .. While economic growth is considered to be ‘a good thing,’ more recently several other aspects of economic change have come to be given more attention in the evaluation of these developments ... Dr. Mulligan follows the major sources and methods of social historians, including the pioneering studies of Dr. Tamara Hareven, and he has been able to frequently compare his results with the studies for other New England towns and cities undertaken by Dr. Hareven with, at times, co-authors. This study is enriched by the comparisons of Lynn with other areas, providing a broader historical context for examining the effect of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. By combining the examination of technical change with an analysis of changing family patterns, and gender roles, Mulligan has made a major contribution to the study of economic and social change, and has added to our understanding of what the development of the modern world has meant for those at the time, and after.” (from the Foreword) Professor Stanley L. Engerman, University of Rochester

“Dr. William H. Mulligan, Jr. examines the ways in which the mechanization of shoemaking in Lynn, Massachusetts changed the lives of traditional craft workers in this important industry … He tells this story in a clear and convincing manner. Using the shoemakers of Lynn, Massachusetts as his case study, Dr. Mulligan has advanced our understanding of the impact of mechanization and the factory system on craft workers in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. This is a valuable contribution to the historical literature which examines the interaction between technological change and society.” – Professor Charles K. Hyde, Wayne State University

“ ... Professor Mulligan’s book on the Lynn shoemakers is a superb job of integrating social and economic history. Some historians do narrowly defined case studies of historical problems, and they are sometimes very useful. But Dr. Mulligan looks at many parts of a historical problem, pulls together much relevant secondary research, and then fits the many pieces of the historical puzzle together very effectively ... I highly recommend this book for advancing historical knowledge and for telling the fascinating story of the Lynn shoemakers and how they responded to dramatic economic change. The Lynn story is key ingredient in the story of how and why America industrialized and how the U. S. became a world power in the late 1800s.” – Professor Burton W. Folsom, Jr., Hillsdale College

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword by Stanley L. Engerman
1. The Family and Industrialization
2. The Lynn Shoe Industry Before 1850
3. The Family in an Artisan World – Lynn in 1850
4. Mechanizing the Gentle Craft
5. The Families of Lynn Shoeworkers in 1880
6. Fathers and Sons, Mothers and Daughters: The Transmission of Skill in the Shoe Industry
7. Concluding Observations