Jan Ernst Matzeliger (1852–1889) invented a shoemaking machine that increased shoemaking speed by 900%!
Jan Matzeliger was born in Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana in 1852. He was a shoemaker by trade, the son of an African homemaker and a Dutch engineer, in whose machine shop Jan Matzeliger began working at the age of ten.
Jan Matzeliger immigrated to the United States at age 18 and went to work in a shoe factory in Philadelphia. Shoes then were hand made, a slow tedious process. Jan Matzeliger helped revolutionize the shoe industry by developing a shoe lasting machine that would attach the sole to the shoe in one minute.
The shoe lasting machine adjusts the shoe leather upper snugly over the mold, arranges the leather under the sole and pins it in place with nails while the sole is stitched to the leather upper.
Jan Matzeliger died poor, but his stock in the machine was quite valuable. He left it to his friends and to the First Church of Christ in Lynn, Masschusetts.
Fast Fact: In 1992, the U.S. made a postage stamp in honor of Matzeliger.