United Shoe Machinery Corporation Records, 1898-1987
United Shoe Machinery Corporation
Turner Tanning Machinery Company
Smith (H.E.) & Company
Photonegatives: Silver gelatin on glass
Photonegatives: Silver gelatin on cellulose acetate safety film
Photoprints: Silver gelatin on paper
Approx. 145 cu. ft. 296 boxes
Motion pictures (visual works)
16mm motion picture film
The United Shoe Machinery Company was formed in 1899 by the consolidation of three shoe machinery firms in the industry: Goodyear Shoe Machinery Company; Consolidated McKay Lasting Machine Company; and McKay Shoe Machinery Company. The new company continued the practice previously followed by its constituent firms of renting machinery that it manufactured instead of selling it. After the 1899 merger, United grew quite rapidly. In 1903, it began construction of a new factory in Beverly, Massachusetts about thirty-five miles from Boston. At its peak, this company employed 9,000 workers and produced eighty-five percent of all shoemaking machines in the United States. By 1910, it had an eighty percent share of the shoe machinery market with assets reaching forty million dollars, and it had acquired control of branch companies in foreign countries. In 1917, the United Shoe Machinery Corporation, incorporated in 1905, absorbed the United Shoe Machinery Company. The United Shoe Machinery Corporation had its headquarters in Boston and its main manufacturing plant in Beverly, Massachusetts. In 1968, the United Shoe Machinery Corporation changed its name to USM Corporation. In 1976, United Shoe Machinery Company merged with Emhart Industries and produced the modern-day Emhart Corporation. In 1989, in order to resist a two billion dollar takeover attempt by a New York investment group (which included oil heir Gordon P. Getty), Emhart merged with Black & Decker Corporation. The merged company operates from Black & Decker's headquarters in Towson, Maryland. The company headquarters in Farmington, Connecticut, were closed in June 1989.
The records document in considerable detail the firm's engineering department and research and development efforts in shoe making machinery and in related technical areas, especially during World War II and as it attempted to diversify its activities after the war. There is detailed information, much of it on microfilm, about the leasing of USM machines. The records also provide insight into the USM's culture of corporate paternalism, including its athletic and relief associations and its industrial school. The collection is rich in visual materials depicting both the machines made by the firm and the employees and the facilities. The collection includes approximately 5,000 glass plate negatives (1909-1932) and 1.5 cu. ft. of safety negatives (1932-1960s) documenting different types and models of shoe-making machines produced by USMC. Other major records include a sampling of important research project files, such as the Baseball Stitching Machine Projects, 1949-1973, scrapbooks concerning advances in shoe-making technology by USMC, company catalogs, and other items.
Photographs: Include Turner Tanning Machinery Co. Photographs, 1926-1937 (8" x 10" photoprints, some in albums); and pictures taken in the Beverly factory.
Series 20, Audio-Visual Materials: includes color and black-and-white 16mm motion pictures, ca. 1934-1972.
United Shoe Machinery Company Collection, 1898-1987, Archives Center, National Museum of American History