The first shoe factory in Utica was opened in 1837 by John Cantwell. Large-scale factories flourished in the 1870s and 80s when Utica made 1,500 – 2,000 pairs of shoes daily. Nearly all the factories here made high-quality women’s and children’s shoes.
In its heyday, Utica shoes had a reputation throughout the United States and sold readily. The shoe factories expanded and multiplied and employed over two thousand people in Utica by 1880.
By 1893, after workers began to organize, many of these prosperous shoe factories closed their doors or moved away from the city. The Hurd Shoe Company building still stands as the last vestige of the shoe industry in Utica.
You can find out more on a walking tour of Utica’s historic shoe district with the Oneida County History Center Saturday, August 5, 2023. The tours start from the History Center table inside the REA wing at the Oneida County Public Market, 321 Main Street, at 10:30 am and 12 pm.
The Oneida County History Center is a private 501(c) (3) not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to preserving the history, heritage, and culture of the Greater Mohawk Valley for present and future generations. Admission to this program is free for the general public; donations are encouraged. For more information contact the History Center at 315-735-3642 or visit www.oneidacountyhistory.org.
Photo of the 2022 Utica shoe industry tour, including some of the Hurd Family, provided.