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United Shoe: 1931

United Shoe: 1931

1931. "Boston skyline view -- United Shoe Machinery Corp. Bldg., Custom House Tower, etc." Yes, there really is an enormous Art Deco skyscraper called the United Shoe Machinery building, and it still stands. 4x5 glass negative. View full size.


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United Shoe

If this was taken during the work week in 1931, there's a good chance my grandfather was in the building, doing his shop foreman job. I've been waiting to see a relative in a crowd shot in one of these photos, this is probably the closest I'll come. Also, we had loads of taps, dies, and other tools marked "USMC" that my dad would pull out of the trash (they'd just throw the stuff away).


My Dad worked for and retired from USMC. They had international offices and once for a brief period of time we were considering moving to Puerto Rico. It would have been a great promotion for my father but family ties kept us stuck in southern Illinois. As it was dad traveled the USA on a regular basis working out of the St Louis, Mo office. We had glue guns at home long before they were commonly available. Fun to see the corporate building after all these years.

Boston skyline

The Art Deco building behind and to the left is the State Street Trust Building, a 21-story structure which opened in 1930. Being built behind it is the 22-story Federal Building & JW McCormack Post Office, which was completed in 1931. To the right is the 1913 Custom House Tower (now a Marriott Hotel), which at 32 stories was the city's tallest building until 1964.

Corporate behemoth

A couple of years ago, I was given a box of random junk, which included an old hot glue gun and a box of glue sticks. The melting point of the glue was clearly higher than modern glue sticks, and I wanted to know more about the physical properties, so I searched on United Shoe Machinery in hopes of finding a datasheet. I gave up that search when I realized the company (which invented the glue gun) had been dissolved in 1976. The company was so huge in its day, and successful in a monopolistic sort of way, that I was surprised I had never heard of it.

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