Born in Suriname (to parents of Surinamese and Dutch descent), Jan Ernst Matzeliger developed his passion for machinery at a young age, while working with his father in factories. Upon immigrating to the United States at age 19, Matzeliger learned English and eventually settled in Massachusetts. There, Matzeliger began working for a cobbler and developed an interest in making shoes. Noticing that all the shoes were made by hand, Metzeliger sought out to find a more efficient approach to making shoes. The African-American inventor would go on to create his patented shoe last machine in 1883.
Matzeliger’s invention would revolutionize the shoe industry. Prior to Matzeliger’s invention, cobblers would manually attach the “upper” to the sole of each shoe individually- with the use of a wooden or metal shoe last- making up to 50 shoes per day. With the shoe last machine, up to 700 shoes could be made each day. Try THAT on for size!
Putting you best FEET forward,