By Carla Charter
Marlborough these days, is a bustling city in Metro-West Massachusetts. Still as with many cities, there are important monuments that link passersby to the town’s history as well. Among these monuments is a statue honoring the shoe workers who used to populate the city.
The shoe industry in Marlborough began with Samuel Boyd, in 1834, according to Bob Kane, Curator of the Marlborough Historical Society. “He was the Henry Ford of Shoemaking. Prior to him, one person made one pair of shoes and it would take about a week. He revolutionized how shoes were made. “
Boyd’s business started in his house and soon expanded to neighboring houses. Boyd created a partnership with his best friend Thomas Corey, the two eventually building Boyd and Corey, a shoe factory five stories high, two blocks long and two blocks wide.
“There were shoe centers in Lynn and Haverhill. Boyd could make almost as many shoes without as many people. Boyd created the biggest shoe factory in the country. Even the Japanese ambassador in DC came to tour the factory to see how they made so many shoes.”
Along with Boyd’s shoes revolutionizing the shoe industry, it also revolutionized Marlborough from an agricultural village to a bustling city. “I call Sam Boyd the father of the city, because of him, in 1890 Marlboro became a city. The population in 1834 was under 1,500 by 1890 it was approximately 13,500 people, all because of the shoe industry.” He added the factories also attracted many immigrant workers from Canada, Ireland, Italy and Greece.
Sam Boyd also created one of the first electric trolley systems in the country, to get his employees back and forth to the factory. “He thought he had created the first (electric trolley system) only to find out he had been beaten out by a couple of weeks by Baltimore.”
Kane continued that because of the Boyd and Corey Factory, other footwear factories began to appear in the area, among the most famous were Frye boots. “There were many shoe factories in Marlborough that were in business from the 1800’s to the 1930-1940’s.” He added that S.H. Howe, the first mayor of Marlborough, owned a shoe factory.
The statue honoring the shoe workers of Marlborough, which was created by Marlborough’s David Kapetenopolous (Kales), stands at the intersection of Route 20 and Route 85, opposite Main Street Bank, in that town. The Historical Society also has pieces of the city’s shoe factory past on display including shoe industry tools, shop whistles and many pictures of the old shoe factories.
The Marlborough Historical Society is located at the Peter Rice Homestead, 377 Elm Street and is open on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Thursdays from 12-4 p.m. Call in advance to confirm a historical society member will be available during these hours. More information about the society can be found at http://www.historicmarlborough.org/
Carla Charter is a Historian, blogger, journalist and author. Her books Across Lots, Miracle of Faith, Call to Freedom and Abolitions Verse can be found at Amazon.com