Monday, October 22, 2018

Blessed are the shoemakers

In Norman times it was not uncommon for the Royals to have a trade. William the Conqueror was a tanner just like his grandfather before him.

Pope Urban IV (1261-64) was the son of a shoemaker and his real name was Jacques Pantaleon. Pope Urban IV is associated with two churches one of which was erected on the site of his father's shoe shop and the other, St Pantaleon contains a statuary by Francois Gentil (16th century) representing the arrest of St Crispin and his brother (Patron saints of shoemakers).

In 1316, another shoemaker was made pope, John XXII. He was a cunning fellow, and when he recognised the Papal conclave was unable to agree on a successor to the previous pope, he suggested he had a simple and fool proof solution. The conclave agreed to accept his solution and he promptly chose himself.

To kiss the Pope's slipper was a privilege few of the devout would miss. Prior to this custom kissing the Pope's ring was common place until a young lady overcome in the presence of His Eminence abused the Papal hand.

The upper of the shoe of Thomas Becket became part of the relics housed at St Nicholas, near Canterbury. Visitors were expected to kiss the leather.

In 1371 the first Charter of Chester cordwainers was established. Cordovanner or cordwainers took their name from Cordova a centre for the leather trade in Spain. The Cordova goat had died out by 1670. The cordwainers of Chester were compelled to provide the town with a "balle of leather called a footballe of the value of 3s. 4d."

In the fifteenth century during the reign of Henry VI (1421-71), Sir Simon Eyre became Lord Mayor of London. Simon was by trade a shoemaker. Thomas Beard was a cobbler in the 17th century and travelled in the New World. There shoe makers worked from home, in small shops or as roving workers. In the 19th century Charles Goodyear began experimenting with raw rubber. Most of his contemporaries felt because rubber was susceptible to melting in the sun it should be ignored. Goodyear meantime remained fascinated with the material and made magnesia-rubber overshoes in hid family kitchen. His son Charles Jnr made his fortune from shoe making machinery. By the 19th century machinery replaced most of the manual process and readymade shoes found an eager market. Once the machinery was employed to create shoes the design element broadened, permitting the use of innovative materials increasing function and offering creative shape and varied sizes. Machinery changed the face of the shoe making industry. Lasting did however present a problem and had to be completed by hand.

Jan Matzeliger was a South American shoe maker and spend many hours wrestling with the problem and ultimately invented a prototype machine which not only lasted a shoe but accomplished the task quickly and efficiently. Acceptance of the new machine eventually brought the cost of shoes down and hence more people could afford them.

Another milestone in the development of modern footwear took place in 1928 when Waldo Semon developed polyvinyl chloride (PVC). During experimentation he made shoe heels which years later led to the use of a vinyl-based latex for waterproofing boots. In 1964 Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight formed Nike. Bowerman developed optimal traction for the waffle sole by shaping rubber in a waffle iron. He also invented the wedged heels running shoe, cushioned mid-sole and nylon uppers.

John Hobbs was a well known shoe maker and had this poem written in his praise.

A jolly shoemaker , John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
A jolly shoemaker, John Hobbs.
He married Jane Carter ,
No damsel looked smarter;
But he caught a tarter,
John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
Yes, he caught a tarter, John Hobbs

He tied a rope to her, John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
He tied a rope to her , John Hobbs!
To 'scape from hot water ,
To Smithfield he brought her;
But nobody bought her,
Jane Hobbs, Jane Hobbs;
They all were afraid of , Jane Hobbs

Oh who will buy a wife ? says Hobbs, John Hobbs;
A sweet pretty wife says Hobbs.
But somehow, they tell us,
The wife-dealing fellows
Were all of them sellers.
John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
And none of them wanted, John Hobbs

The rope it was ready, John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
Come give me the rope, says Hobbs.
I won't stand to wrangle,
Myself I will strangle,
And hang dingle -dangle.
John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
He hung dingle-dangle, John Hobbs.

But down his wife cut him, John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
But down his wife cut him, John Hobbs.
With a few hubble bubbles,
They settled their troubles
Like most married couples
John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
Oh happy shoemaker, John Hobbs.

Reviewed 22/10/2018

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