The shoe-lasting machine invented by Jan Matzeliger not only revolutionized the shoe industry but also made Lynn, Massachusetts, the "shoe capital of the world."
Born in Paramaribo, Dutch Guiana, Matzeliger found employment in the government machine works at the age of 10. Eight years later he immigrated to the United States, settling in Philadelphia, where he worked in s shoe factory. He later moved to New England, settling permanently in Lynn. The Industrial Revolution had by this time resulted in the invention of machines to cut, sew, and tack shoes, but none had been perfected to last a shoe. Seeing this, Matzeliger lost little time in designing and patenting just such a device, one which he refined over the years to a point where it could adjust a shoe, arrange the leather over the sole, drive in the nails, and deliver the finished product- all in one minute's time.
Matzeliger's patent was subsequently bought by Sydney W. Winslow, who established the United Shoe Machine Company. The continued success of this business brought about a 50% reduction in the price of shoes across the nation, doubled wages, and improved working conditions for millions of people dependent on the shoe industry for their livelihood.
Matzeliger died when only 37, long before he had the chance to realize a share of the enormous profit derived from his invention.