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A job by any other name

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Job types have come and gone over the years. No longer are carriage makers found in every city and town supplying the residents their transportation. Livery stables are no longer need in the same towns to hold and care for the residents horses. My ancestors were members of the mentioned professions and more that were wheelrights and farmers, oil producers and singers.


I was baffled by a relative’s occupation, he was a cordwainer. I asked friends and relatives if they knew what the word meant, no one did. The cordwainer lived in Massachusetts among a lot of ancestors that were ships captains and seamen. My first thought was that a cordwainer has something to do with creating the ropes that were used on ships. After googling the word I realized that a cordwainer was a shoemaker. From the fact I learned that cordwainers and cobblers in the 1700’s had very different jobs.


Cordwainers made shoes from soft new leather. They hand make shoes and still exist to this day, although fewer in number. A cobbler was only allowed to repair existing shoes and was prohibited by law in some areas from making shoes. Many cobblers would find worn shoes and remanufacture them into inexpensive shoes.


Eventually cordwainers and cobblers would merge. The word cordwainer isn’t recognized by the word program spell check dictionary. Ironically, cobbler is the word most people recognize as a shoemaker, although they never made shoes.

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