A Walking Tour of Brockton, Massachusetts
There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. This walking tour of Brockton, Massachusetts is ready to explore when you are. Each walking tour describes historical, architectural landmarks, cultural sites and ecclesiastic touchstones and provides step-by-step directions. More
There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. Whether you are preparing for a road trip or just out to look at your own town in a new way, a downloadable walking tour is ready to explore when you are.
Each walking tour describes historical and architectural landmarks and provides pictures to help out when those pesky street addresses are missing. Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.
Great 19th century poet Poet William Cullen Bryant once described Brockton this way: “The whole place resounds, rather rattles, with the machinery of shoe shops, which turn out millions of shoes, not one of which, I am told,is sold in the place.” For the first 200 years or so of its existence this was farm country with scattered mills and forges the only hint of industry. The town was known as Bridgewater and the district that would become Brockton was cleaved off in 1821 as North Bridgewater. Population was fewer than 2,000 souls.
There were tanneries around as early as the 1700s and a bit of a shoe-making tradition established. By the 1840s Brockton shops where churning out more and more footwear, mostly boots. In 1848 Daniel Howard introduced a quality shoe that sold for $1 which took New York City by storm and it is said that he was producing more shoes than all other manufacturers in town put together to keep up with demand.
Up to that point all shoes were made with practically the same hand tools that were used in Egypt as early as the 14th century B.C. as a part of a sandal maker’s equipment. To the curved awl, the chisel-like knife and the scraper, the shoemakers of the thirty-three intervening centuries had added only a few simple tools such as the pincers, the lapstone, the hammer and a variety of rubbing sticks used for finishing edges and heels. In the 1850s Gordon McKay adapted the new sewing machine technology of the day to shoes, a fortuitous leap in technology that arrived simultaneously with the Civil War. The town landed enormous government boot and shoe orders and became America’s largest shoe producer as it boasted that “half the Union Army was shod by North Bridgewater.”
Other technological advances followed. Lyman Blake of Abington came up with a machine that joined the uppers to the soles of hoes 400 times faster than nailing by hand. Chandler Sprague of Brockton had molds that created left and right shoes in quantity for the first time. By 1874, when the town changed its name to Brockton, it was well on its way to becoming the “Shoe Capital of the World.” By the early 1900s more than 15,000 people were employed in the shoe industry and it was reported that Brockton had the highest percentage of any city in America of working-class people who owned their own homes.
In the 1930s the Great Depression, overseas competition and low-cost Southern labor conspired to bring down the Brockton shoe industry - fast. By the 1960s there was only ten shoe factories left in the city and today only one, FootJoy, a golf shoe manufacturer that can trace its roots to the Burt and Packard Shoe Company founded in Brockton in 1857, survives.
Our walking tour will begin at a souvenir of a time when Brockton was at the forefront of progressive American towns, in the 1880s, when Thomas Alva Edison came to town to provide for the first time electrical power to an entire city that looked forward to a bright future...