All God’s Chillen Got Shoes

By this time in the story, a lot of the shoes and boots that come over the Ring are going to be worn out. Old folks who don’t go out much and may have several older pairs stashed away, much less so. Younger, more active people, much more so. The Army, especially, will need a lot of good fitting boots if they are going to stomp all over everywhere. Boot making in 163X took days of hard labor to make one pair of boots which just might satisfy an Up-timer. They were still in the “One size fits all, no left or right” frame of mind. We need to introduce them to the “ barley Corn” size we use (one barley corn = 1/3 in.) and widths (AAA to FFF, at least) I have looked into what can be done to speed up and modernize the process. Here is the best I’ve been able to come up with so far.

First, we need lots of well tanned leather. People have been tanning hides for a million years, so this industry is well established in 1632. It took eight months of hard, stinking labor and 160 lb. of bark for one eighty pound hide and was a disaster for the ecology, but that is another story that needs much work yet. For now, we just buy the hides. The shoe maker would then spend a lot of time and work pounding the hide to make it soft enough to use. A rolling mill like an old wash machine roller is used to “Automate” this step. We have usable leather. Starting with the uppers, each piece for each size and width will require a pattern. We could make stamping tools for each, but that would take our entire industrial output for years . A few common sizes, yes, the rest must be cut by hand for now. Good work for Lem’s kids. At one time in the 50’s, Brown Shoe Co. of St. Louis had the world’s largest computer, a Una-Vac, just for inventory.

Once the pieces are cut and matched for size, thickness, etc. we can start sewing them together. For this, the Sewing Machine Co. will need to come up with two sizes, one for uppers and one for soles. This was done real-time by 1850, so the tech should be no problem. High quality linen waxed thread will also be required, so the spinning industry will be needing to come up to speed, also. The shoe is started inside out , and after each sewing step is placed over the proper last and pounded to make it soft and the correct shape. The lasts can be of hard wood, but cast iron is much better. Each factory will require a full set of lasts, a big investment, hence big factories over small. Once the upper is finished, it is turned right side out and returned to the last for more pounding. Those guys must have had arms like a blacksmith! The outer sole is then sewed on, on the last, and more pounding.

Now comes the hard part, the heel. Heels can be made of leather, but they slip and slide, so rubber is a must. The best I can come up with is old tires. One big, worn out radial should yield about 80 heels or 40 pairs. The scrap can be ground down and mixed with latex from local plants like milk weed and a little sulfur to be re-vulcanized into another 40 pairs. The heels are nailed on with lot s of tacks, so steel wire and tack machines will also be needed. The heel nailing is also done on the last, modern machined drive them all at once for a better fit. Sole edgers, etc are nothing but shaft driven grinders, so at least here, nothing new needs inventing.

This whole process will require a lot of down-time skilled and semi-skilled workers. Production line work will eliminate most of the training time to bring people up to speed, but supervision will be needed. There it is, the best I have been able to come up with. Everyone, feel free to jump right in here and help me out . I have been able to eliminate much of the hand labor, but all that pounding to shape will require special machines for each job, and that takes time and talent and materials. Strong arms we can find.

Chuck Dohogne dtiman