If you have ancestors from Lynn, Massachusetts, we are pleased to announce the addition of The Daily Item to our archives. With issues dating back to 1877, you can search through nearly one and a half centuries of Massachusetts history.
In 1629, Salem colonist Edmund Ingalls and four others settled the town of Saugus. Shortly after that, the first colonial tannery began operating. In 1637, Saugus was renamed Lynn in honor of Samuel Whiting, the first minister in the area. He hailed from King’s Lynn, England.
Lynn was predominantly an agricultural town, but by 1775, numerous tanneries were operating along Black Marsh Brook (also called Tannery Brook). The tanneries spawned a leather shoemaking industry. In fact, during the Revolutionary War, boots worn by Continental soldiers were made by Lynn craftsmen. Shoemaking is at the heart of the town’s heritage and is reflected in the city’s seal, which includes a colonial boot.
A local Lynn Quaker, Ebenezer Breed, traveled to Philadelphia and successfully lobbied to impose tariffs on shoes and boots from European nations. As war continued in Europe, American-made shoes rose in demand and helped Lynn become a major shoe center.
In 1837, the Eastern Railroad extended from Boston to Salem through Lynn. The railroad further bolstered the growth of their shoe industry and became the catalyst for creating a factory district. On September 28, 1841, abolitionist Frederick Douglass was removed from his railroad car at Lynn Central Station when he refused to sit in a segregated coach. Douglass ended up moving to the area.
The prosperity of Lynn’s shoe industry continued through the Civil War and thrived despite fires in 1869 and 1889 that destroyed swaths of businesses. After the 1869 fire, multi-story shoe factories replaced the burned buildings.
Attaching the upper part of a shoe to the sole was a lengthy manual process performed by an artisan called a ‘hand laster.’ In the late 1800s, it took an experienced hand laster ten hours to complete 50 pair of shoes. In 1882, Jan Ernst Matzeliger, the son of a Dutch engineer and Surinamese mother, revolutionized the shoemaking industry when he invented a lasting machine. The invention could last 700 pair of shoes a day.
Lynn continued to grow and became an industrial shoe center. If you have ancestors from Lynn, The Daily Item is a wonderful research resource. You’ll find treasures like this newspaper article that gives a detailed genealogy of four Lynn families who played a part in the Battle of Lexington.