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Interior; General view of belt-driven machinery. Library of Congress Collection
And indeed, comments from Shoe workers, past and present, suggest that it was one place at which you wanted to get a job. By the height of World War I, when shoes were being cranked out for the troops, almost 5,000 people were working off Elliott Street. Housing demands for this massive work force created whole new neighborhoods near Gloucester Crossing, Swan and Mason Streets, and all of Rial Side. Four new schools popped up in the town within ten years, including the “McKay” School and the “Winslow” School. As a Beverly Times article said in 1918,



“The presence of any enterprise, employing thousands of clean-living, self-respecting people and spreading millions of dollars in wages every year is always a welcome addition to any community, if only for the material benefits it brings with it; but when that enterprise adds to its material and financial benefits, an enlightened industrial policy, founded on a recognition of duty and humanity in its dealings with its employees and of service and fraternity towards its clients, it gives a distinct character to the community that is as valuable as its financial assistance.”



Employees of the United Shoe Machinery Corporation
Notman Photo Co., Oct 16, 1911
Library of Congress Collection [303kb fullsize jpeg]
So much for a critical press!



Now the Shoe has moved out of Beverly —its doors closing in 1987. Many of the problems which led to the decline of USMC can be found in anti-trust litigation filed in 1911 and settled in 1971. For decades, the company enjoyed a lucrative monopoly. Instead of selling their machinery, USMC employed a leasing system in which they received a payment according to how many shoes were manufactured on that machine. Initial investment costs were therefore kept low-a bonus to new companies-and the Shoe had a steady profit. They maintained their machinery as well-often the repairman became a permanent fixture at the local shoe factory. Of course, he wouldn’t touch another company’s broken machine! This steady income with low debt made USMC, as Fortune Magazine wrote, “the bluest of blue-chip investments.” Loss of this monopoly and forced divestiture led eventually to acquisition by the Emhart Corporation. Several analysts suggest too, that as the Shoe tried to expand through acquisition rather than its trademark research and development teams, the Company lost its unique business qualities. One USM inventor, for example, had the second longest list of patents in the country at one time-beaten only by Thomas Edison.



Someone wrote, “There will never be the day when you can put a cow in one end of a machine and have a shoe come out the other, but we have given them better technology in almost all ways.” The Shoe created 20th century Beverly while making its mark on the larger history of American industry.



From “Made In Beverly —A History of Beverly Industry”, by Daniel J. Hoisington. A publication of the Beverly Historic District Commission. 1989.

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