January 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
In England you always heard Boston is the Shoe Center of this country, so I was anxious to get to Boston, see what it was like. I kept finding jobs and the union wouldn’t give me a permit to go to work. That’s why I came back to New York. – Ben Benjamin
Before he left Schwartz & Benjamin my grandfather went back to Boston.
A couple years before I got out, before we moved into New York City. We talked it over, Ben Schwartz & I, about starting a factory out of town instead of NY. See? It was getting impossible to lead the business there because of the unions and their demands. Prices kept on going up higher, and new machinery was coming into place. So people out of town who made cheap shoes could make better shoes than what they were making with the new equipment. So we went. We went to Lynn, and Boston and St. Louis, Cincinnati. We went all around. When I came back we sat down and talked it over. I says Ben, after seeing all the towns, I think Lynn is the best place of the lot. A lot of the shoe factories have went out of business there. Not good shoemakers like we’ve got in New York, but they could be trained–taught to make better shoes. After I got out, Ben Schwartz did finally go to Lynn. – Ben Benjamin
January 19, 2014 § Leave a comment
Then I created a little pump with a certain bow on it…and that’s what kept us busy…Well that little shoe, forget now what the name… we had a name for it…And I kept on creating new things and I’ll never forget one shoe I created. A step in, kind of an open throat, I remember crossing the instep…there was a piece. There was no, no going there but it had a square on one tag and I got a hold of some buttons, brass buttons, some with pearl, with a loop in the back see? And uh…I put 4 buttonholes and I made the leather different on one side to two of the other. I had been sick. I went down to Bermuda for a few days just when the style show was on. Ben Schwartz cabled me in Bermuda. I forget the name of that shoe now. He says the shoes gotten over big, very big. Now I had patented that design but first thing I knew everyone started to copy it. All Manufacturers. But we did a lot with it. You had to sue them and we didn’t have that much money. We were a small company, see? Cost you and dragged on for 2 or 3 years. By the time the trial comes up the style is all gone, over. Wasn’t worth it. After a while I stopped patenting styles. It didn’t pay. – Ben Benjamin
January 9, 2014 § 2 Comments
Love Bill Cunningham! Take a look at what he captured on the streets this week in the video below.
…and here are a few pictures I took in the city on Wednesday when the temperatures had warmed up just a bit. I think it was in the 20’s.
Manhattan January 9th, 2014
East 58th Street
Nine West, Lexington Ave.
Kenneth Cole, Lexington Avenue _
January 6, 2014 § 4 Comments
As the daughter of a shoe salesman and granddaughter of a shoemaker my love of shoes and fashion began early. Growing up there was always a copy of Footwear News on the kitchen table. My father had a home office with shelves of women’s shoes and handbags (one of a kind) and our garage was filled with shoemaker tools from my grandfather’s days in the factory.
My grandfather Benjamin Benjamin, born in England was the oldest of 8 children. He was 12 when both his parents died. His mother first in childbirth, then 10 weeks later his father.
Some say from a broken heart, but the truth was he was a sick man and had 8 children to take care of.
My grandfather’s own words. When I was 12 I sat down with a tape recorder every Sunday when he would come over for dinner and asked him about his life. He told me about his grim childhood and early success in America. When his parents died he had to quit school. With the help of The Jewish Board of Guardians (a chartable organization) he was able to get an apprenticeship in a shoe factory in London. He stayed there 5 years and learned the trade. He spent 6 months to a year in each department.
He never really lost his East London accent.
Because shoe factory is all different kinds of departments, there’s the cutting, there’s fitting, what they call the stitching the uppers. There all trades in itself, you see?…And then after the uppers are made, there’s what they call rough stuff, that is cutting the soles, the insoles, the counters and things like that. That’s the rough stuff department and from that you had the lasting department where the shoes were lasted because you had the insoles, the soles were all ready, then after that was the heeling department and then there was the finishing department, see? A lot of departments, and it was a very good thing I got all that information. It was very good for me after I came to this country…It did me good.