Submitted by the Bedford Historical Society
In 1805, Bedford had good transportation to markets in Boston. John Hosmer and local inventor and business man, Jonathan Bacon, began the manufacture of children’s shoes for those markets. Shoemaking became a “cottage” industry with the establishment of small shoe shops in many of the homes and farms in town. Almost every family had a “ten footer,” a small room where they made shoes in their spare time.
At its peak in the 1830’s, several hundred Bedford residents turned out over 90,000 handmade pairs of shoes annually, with an estimated value of $50,000. It was a very profitable industry for the town. Concord historian Lemuel Shattuck wrote, “No shoes are in better credit than those made in Bedford.” Benjamin Simonds, Zebedee Simonds and Reuben Bacon were all in the shoe business, with factories along the Great Road.
Unfortunately, Bedford began to struggle economically around the time of the Civil War. Large mills and factories replaced the smaller manufacturers, and Bedford’s shoe industry was wiped out.
The main house in this sketch of Jonathan Bacon’s shoe shop is now 29 Elm Street.
These photos are brought to you courtesy of the Bedford Historical Society.
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