The Shoemaking Industry

From 1825, the shoemaking industry represents the largest manufacturing sector in Montreal. In 1852, the city counts 409 shoemakers and shoe repairers. Between 1849 and 1870, the profession rapidly transforms as a result of mechanization. Numerous factories are established in Montreal, including in the Centre-Sud. Companies such as Dominion Rubber, Eagle Shoe and Aird & Son will thus employ thousands of workers in the neighbourhood.

 

Engraving of the MacFarlane Shoe Company factory, circa 1909
Montreal the Imperial City of Canada : The Metropolis of the Dominion, The Trade Review Company, 1909, Écomusée du fier monde

MacFarlane Shoe Co. was located at 92 Beaudry Street from 1907 to 1915. It shares the building with other companies in the shoemaking sector.

 

Rubber shoe cover and hoses made by Dominion Rubber Co., circa 1900 
Écomusée du fier monde

Founded in 1854, the Dominion Rubber Company will be among the first rubber manufacturers in North America. Its original name is Brown, Hibbard, Bourn and Company. Offering an avant-garde product, the company quickly distinguishes itself in the international market. Initially known for its shoe covers, the company diversifies its production through belts, fire hoses, bicycle tires, and rubber springs.

 

Advertisement fot Kedettes shoes made by Dominion Rubber Co. Revue Moderne, Spring/Summer 1939, Écomusée du fier monde

Women made up the majority of the workforce at Dominion Rubber, in addition to being the target audience of a large part of the industry’s products.

 

Metal label of the Eagles Shoe company, circa 1910-1930
Écomusée du fier monde

The Eagle Shoe company sets up on Beaudry Street in 1910, in an existing industrial building. The company expands rapidly and constructs a new four floor building on Visitation Street in 1918 and another new four floor property on Beaudry Street in 1929.

 

A sole in the process of being made, with an Eagle Shoe label on the heel 
Écomusée du fier monde

The Eagle Shoe company initially makes shoes for men, women, and children. It then begins to specialize in footwear for Montreal police and firefighters. The company ends its activities at the end of the 1960s.

 

Various objects used in the leather cutting workshop, 20th century 
Écomusée du fier monde

Cutting leather is the first step of shoemaking. The use of a knife and a compass allows for tracing the contour of the templates in pieces of leather to prepare them for assembly.

 

 

Cast-iron cutter for cutting the heels; steel work materials for shoe repair bench and shoe contours
Écomusée du fier monde

Steel tools are first associated with artisanal production. After the industrialization of production, these tools are used more for repairing shoes in shoe repair workshops.

 

A pair of wooden shoe trees made by United Shoe Machinery Co. of Canada, circa 1910 and resin shoe trees, unknown date 
Écomusée du fier monde

Located in the Maisonneuve neighbourhood, United Shoe Machinery Co. of Canada Ltd. made tools for the shoemaking industry. Wooden shoe trees served primarily to maintain leather shoes in order to conserve their shapes and permit drying after use. They are ultimately replaced by resin shoe trees.

 

 

Cleaning case that belonged to an itinerant shoe shiner, unknown date. 
Écomusée du fier monde

In addition to manufacturing, other professions like shoe-shining were also linked to shoe making.

 

Various ads for shoe repair in the Centre-Sud, in the years 1937-1938
Sainte-Brigide parish bulletin, 1937-1938, Écomusée du fier monde

In another time, well-established shoe repairers offering maintenance and repair services were much more prevalent. Today, this profession has all but disappeared.