Sandals were the most common footwear in most early civilizations, however, a few early cultures had shoes. In Mesopotamia, (c. 1600-1200 BC) a type of soft shoes were worn by the mountain people who lived on the border of Iran. The soft shoe was made of wraparound leather, similar to a moccasin. As late as 1850 most shoes were made on absolutely straight lasts, there being no difference between the right and the left shoe.
Shoe Making Machinery
Jan Ernst Matzeliger developed an automatic method for lasting shoes and made the mass production of affordable shoes possible.
Lyman Reed Blake was an American inventor who invented a sewing machine for sewing the soles of shoes to the uppers. In 1858, he received a patent for his specialized sewing machine.
Patented on January 24, 1871, was Charles Goodyear Jr’s Goodyear Welt, a machine for sewing boots and shoes.
An aglet is the small plastic or fiber tube that binds the end of a shoelace (or similar cord) to prevent fraying and to allow the lace to be passed through an eyelet or other opening. This comes from the Latin word for “needle.” The modern shoestring (string and shoe holes) was first invented in England in 1790 (first recorded date March 27). Before shoestrings, shoes were commonly fastened with buckles.
The first rubber heel for shoes was patented on January 24, 1899 by Irish-American Humphrey O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan patented the rubber heel which outlasted the leather heel then in use. Elijah McCoy invented an improvement to the rubber heel.
The first rubber soled shoes called plimsolls were developed and manufactured in the United States in the late 1800s. In 1892, nine small rubber manufacturing companies consolidated to form the U.S. Rubber Company. Among them was the Goodyear Metallic Rubber Shoe Company, organized in the 1840s in Naugatuck, Connecticut. This company was the first licensee of a new manufacturing process called vulcanization, discovered and patented by Charles Goodyear. Vulcanization uses heat to meld rubber to cloth or other rubber components for a sturdier, more permanent bond.
On January 24, 1899, Humphrey O’Sullivan received the first patent for a rubber heel for shoes.
From 1892 to 1913, the rubber footwear divisions of U.S. Rubber were manufacturing their products under 30 different brand names. The company consolidated these brands under one name.When choosing a name, the initial favorite was Peds, from the Latin meaning foot, but someone else held that trademark. By 1916, the two final alternatives were Veds or Keds, with the stronger sounding Keds being the final choice.
Keds were first mass-marketed as canvas-top “sneakers” in 1917. These were the first sneakers. The word “sneaker” was coined by Henry Nelson McKinney, an advertising agent for N. W. Ayer & Son, because the rubber sole made the shoe stealthy or quiet, all other shoes, with the exception of moccasins, made noise when you walked. In 1979, the Stride Rite Corporation acquired the Keds