Confessions of a Shoe Fiend:

Spotlight on Jan Matzeliger

My closet is bursting at the seams:
Sneakers, pumps, and boots galore--
Different styles for different seasons
Every color of the rainbow
Dripping in to the soles
Of countless shoes
Tailored to every outfit...
The smell of new leather
Aromatizing my room
A soft touch enveloping my feet,
It's an addiction I couldn't shake
Even if I wanted to...

Jan Matzeliger

Jan Matzeliger was born in what is now Suriname in 1852. He moved to the US in 1873, settling first in Philadelphia then Massachusetts. It in the US that he took up the trade of shoe maker. Just 10 years after taking up the trade, Matzeliger invented the Lasting Machine.  His machine sped up the shoe making process such that in one day, 10 times as many shoes as the human hand was capable of making could be produced. This not only enabled a lower cost for higher quality shoes but allowed less skilled workers to be eligible for jobs in the shoe factory. He received a patent on March 20, 1883, though the Consolidated Lasting Machine Company would mass produce and sell the invention. Although Matzelinger did not own the company (and died shortly after it opened), he was able to receive some amount (often described as large) of stock in the organization [1]. The machine is estimated to have cut the cost of shoes by 50%! Sickness ended his life in 1889 at the young age of 37, so he was unable to fully enjoy the success of his machine [2]. In 1991, the US created a Black Heritage postage stamp in Matzeliger's honor [1, 3].


  1. "Jan Matzeliger". Biography; visited February 25, 2014
  2. "Inventions Still Used Today". African American Registry; visited February 2014
  3. Jan E. Matzeliger. "Inventor of the Week: Jan Matzeliger". MIT Inventor of the Week; visited February 2014

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