The Endicott Johnson Corporation:19th Century Origins

Prof. Gerald Zahavi
Department of History, University at Albany
Copyright © 1984, 2010 by Gerald Zahavi

The following essay is taken from unpublished sections of my dissertation, with revisions and corrections updating the original 1983 text. As this on-line project progresses, it will be illustrated with excerpts from newspapers, early company photographs, selections from the Johnson family correspondence, and donated images from readers. Please send me your feedback and suggestions for improvements.

Gerald Zahavi [[email protected]]
Last updated: March 31, 2011

The Lester Shoe factory.Horace N. Lester—temperance activist, senior officer of the Binghamton Savings Bank, former mayor of Binghamton, president of the YMCA, and co-founder of what the local papers exaggeratedly referred to as the "largest and most successful" shoe manufacturing concern in the country—died on October 1st, 1882. The large four-story Lester Brothers factory on the corner of Washington and Henry streets stood idle for a brief spell, as workers and foremen attended the funeral. The city's prominent citizens, men who made their fortunes in leather, cigars, or wood, the three pillars of Binghamton's economy, took some precious hours and paid tribute to a fellow manufacturing pioneer.[1]

Obituaries in local papers praised Lester's active involvement in Binghamton's social, political, and religious life. But perhaps his most important contribution to the community lay in the four-story factory that stood idle on his burial day.[2] From that factory, and the firm that controlled it, would grow one of the largest and most integrated shoe manufacturing companies in the world, the Endicott Johnson Corporation. Horace Lester's death marks a dividing line, separating one era of shoe manufacturing from another. His entrepreneurial generation was instrumental in transforming the shoe craft into a shoe industry, replete with factories and all that accompanies them—machinery, division of labor, bureaucratic shop management, and class conflict. This is the story of that transformation, of the workers and managers of Lester's generation and the world they helped build in the Susquehanna Valley along the southern tier of New York State.

Leaving behind East Haddam, Connecticut, Horace Lester first came to Binghamton around 1850 and established a retail shoe trade in the village. At the time, he was a relatively young man of thirty. He took on a partner, John Doubleday, and the two of them set up a custom shoe shop on Court Street, a major commercial block in Binghamton. The "dingy old store" had a cobbler's bench in the rear, and quite quickly the bench became the real center of the concern, as retail sales all but disappeared   and Lester took up wholesale or "order" work. Doubleday soon dropped out of the partnership, for reasons that remain unclear, but was replaced by Horace Lester's brother, George W. Lester. On September 21, 1854, the two brothers established the firm Lester Bros. & Company.[3] The Lester brothers were among several New England men, most from Massachusetts, who ventured out of the safe harbors of eastern seaboard markets and credit houses and sought their fortunes in shoe manufacturing in the new urban communities that were growing in upstate New York, Ohio, and Illinois. By 1880, of the four shoe manufacturing concerns in the city of Binghamton, three were either headed by or had senior partners who came from Massachusetts.[4]

It is not surprising to find Massachusetts men at the helm of Binghamton shoe factories. New England was the national center of shoe manufacturing throughout the nineteenth-century, with Massachusetts alone responsible for over 50% of the nation's total shoe production through most of this period.[5] Hence, when shoe manufacturing began to spread westward, New England and Massachusetts shoe men helped carry it.

By the late 1850s and early 1860s, slight market advantages were starting to make the location of factories in inland regions more attractive to entrepreneurs. According to one student of the industry, the westward movement of population widened the distance between New England producers and westward-migrating consumers. Although this decreased sales, it was not a sufficiently decisive factor in itself to lead to the relocation of the shoe trade closer to shifting population centers. An additional stimulating factor to the migration of the shoe manufacturing was the growing scarcity of tanned hides along the coast. Tanneries required hemlock, oak, and chestnut bark supplies, "and as the bark was used up they moved southward and westward." Thus, the "interior regions were also beginning to furnish an important part of the supply of hides."[6]

Complementing these western advantages were a decreasing reliance on skilled workers, because of the advent of new technology, and a growing surplus of labor in the West—mainly displaced rural workers. "With labor and capital becoming relatively cheaper and more abundant in the West, and with the requirements of previous training becoming less important, it was only a question of time before the western cities likewise could develop a localized shoe industry and compete in the national markets." All these factors helped spread factory production westward, into Rochester, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee, and into many smaller communities along the way.[7]

While many migrating manufacturers made their way to large western cities, where lucrative local markets could be immediately exploited, others found their niche in smaller urban centers, such as Binghamton. Their paths often followed somewhat circuitous routes, as was the case with one Binghamton shoe manufacturer, James M. Stone. He was born in New Braintree, Massachusetts, on February 11, 1830. He lived at home, attended school, and worked on a farm until he was twenty-two years old. In 1852, lured by stories of gold riches on the West Coast, he left with a party of other men for the California gold fields. There he remained for three years and amassed a substantial enough fortune to return, in 1855, and become a junior partner in a boot and shoe business in North Brookfield, Massachusetts—in the firm of Gulliver and Stone. In 1865, the partnership was dissolved, "upon which Mr. Stone came to Binghamton and established the industry."[8] Whether motivated specifically by the opportunities of a westwardly shifting market, personal commercial failures, or merely restlessness, young capitalists like Stone and the Lesters helped build the foundations of a factory system in Binghamton.[9]

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, Binghamton could hardly have been called an industrial community. Nestled in an agricultural and lumbering region, and spreading along the banks of the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers at their confluence, it did, nevertheless, establish itself very early on as Broome County's commercial and trading center. Numerous saw and gristmills, a few tanneries, an iron factory, a plaster mill, and a handful of other small industries were founded in the village in the first half of the century. Yet Binghamton grew only modestly between 1800 and the 1850. It was not until the completion of rail links with New York, Scranton, Syracuse, and the Great Lakes, in the 1850s and 1860s that the village really began to industrialize.[10]

The ready access to new markets brought about by the extension of railroad trackage, the village's proximity to coal-rich regions in Pennsylvania, and the stimulation of industrial production triggered by the Civil War soon led to the expansion of the village's modest economy. Cigar, furniture, boot and shoe, and clothing manufacturers soon took root in the community. Growing numbers of merchants, industrialists and workers entering Binghamton swelled its population and led to the re-chartering of the village as a city in 1867.

Industrial growth continued to fuel population growth. Between 1860 and 1890, Binghamton's population increased from 8,325 to just over 35,000.[11] Commercial and population expansion not only represented incremental increases in Binghamton's industrial base but also reflected substantive structural changes within industries in Binghamton. Nowhere was this more pronounced than in the shoe industry.

In the mid-nineteenth century, around the time the Lesters established their shop, important organizational and technological innovations had already begun to transform boot and shoe manufacturing. The days of master workmen and apprentices, as well as custom shops, were waning. In New England, small shops, the "ten footers," were being abandoned, as            workers streamed into the factories that were cropping up in the many shoe towns that surrounded Boston. The pattern was repeated in other communities throughout the Northeast. Although the past order would be sustained both within and without factories, as traditional craft practices were stubbornly maintained and protected by older workers, and as small manufacturers continued to operate alongside increasingly larger factory behemoths, the introduction and perfection of various technological devices, mainly stitching machines, insured that the future fate of the industry would lie within factories. There, capitalists would be able to concentrate machinery and workers and compete handily with custom shops, survivors of a bygone craft era.[12]

Until the 1850s, machines had played an insignificant part in the manufacture of boots and shoes. With relatively few hand tools, skilled shoemakers were able to provide sufficient footwear for both local and regional markets. But the expansion of wholesale markets just prior to and during the Civil War placed a premium on rapid and large-scale production. The introduction and development of several important inventions during this period—devices such as the automatic pegging machine (1818), the sole cutting machine (1844), and the leather rolling machine (1846)—did much to satisfy the imperatives of growing demand, but their impact on the trade was limited. While they facilitated the standardization of shoe sizes and shapes, they did not affect key manufacturing processes such as binding, bottoming, upper leather cutting, and lasting.[13] It was only with the adaptation of Elias Howe's sewing machine to the stitching of leather uppers, in the 1850s, that mechanization of the industry really began.

John Brooke Nichols' version of the Howe machine had an immediate impact on the trade. It quickly put an end to the putting-out system that had prevailed for three-quarters of a century. Prior to the introduction of the    stitching machine, women bound the uppers of shoes by hand, working in their homes on materials provided them by a shoe manufacturer. With the advent of the stitching machine, "binding and stitching had ceased to be a by-employment which women could carry on in as leisurely a fashion as they wished," instead, they were "suddenly obliged to go to a factory and work regularly during a long working day."[14] The new device also reduced the number of women needed to bind leather uppers. Between 1850 and 1860, the decade during which the stitcher was introduced, the percentage of women in the shoe trade dropped from 31_% to 23_% 01880    (from 32,949 to 28,515.[15]

Mechanization of the industry spread with the invention and perfection of the McKay stitching machine in the early 1860s. Designed for binding uppers and soles, a task which had been done by skilled men, the McKay machine was quickly and widely adopted by shoe manufacturers. The induction of many shoemakers into the Northern armies during the Civil War and the resulting shortage of skilled labor, compounded by an influx of large government orders for military footwear, helped promote the rapid spread of the machine.[16]

David N. Johnson, a skilled Lynn shoemaker who witnessed the introduction of the McKay stitcher, claimed that the device was capable of completing as many as eighty pairs of shoes in the time it took a skilled hand worker to produce just one.[17]

So profound an impact did the invention have on the shoe industry that it led one observer to declare that the machine "has built great factories and made thriving cities.[18] The McKay and upper leather stitching machines introduced into the shoe industry what Alan Dawley has called a "revolutionary dynamic. . . . As speed and efficiency increased in one branch of production, other branches strained to catch up, and to restore equilibrium it was necessary for the whole industry to move at a much faster pace. In this fashion the introduction of the first sewing machines for binding created an imbalance in the rhythm of production. Once, it had been necessary to hire more binders than bottomers to keep the latter supplied with materials. Now the reverse was true; while binding was done in great speed with fewer and fewer binders, bottoming lagged behind. Balance was restored by the McKay stitcher, which vastly increased the velocity of bottoming, but this change, in turn, created new imbalances vis-a-vis cutting, lasting, shaping, trimming, nailing, and buffing. . . . In this period of rapid technological advance, one increase in productivity beckoned forth another . . . innovation sparked further innovation...change begat change.”[19]

Indeed, technical innovation transformed the industry in the second half of the 19th century. The Goodyear welt stitcher, using a curved needle to sew welt, upper, and insole together without producing a row of stitches inside the shoe, was perfected in the late 1860s and early 1870s. Employed in the manufacture of finer and more flexible shoes than the McKay stitcher was capable of, it eliminated some of the last vestiges of custom work. Edge and heel trimming machines were introduced in the late 1870s, and in the 1880s, the Metzeliger lasting machine was invented, taking on the task that lasters had long boasted could not be done, the mechanical lasting of shoes.[20] Numerous less important inventions accompanied these, all of which contributed to the erosion of craft skills and to the growing division of labor that came to characterize the factory.[21]

While mechanization of production generated a dynamic of expansion, it did not act alone in the transformation of the shoe industry. Rather, it operated as a catalyst within a complex web of market and managerial forces that functioned together to create a factory system. As one scholar has argued, centralization of shoe production inside of factories arose mainly "because industrial organization, in order to secure uniformity of output, economy of time, labor and stock, demanded foremen to superintend, and regular hours of steady work on the part of the men and women employed in all processes of shoemaking."[22]Yet, in spite of the technological dynamic that new machines created and the imperatives of industrial organization, centralization of production did not occur overnight. What stands out in the evolution of the shoe industry between 1850 and 1890, is the uneven, often chaotic, mix of old and new, of custom and innovation. While some shops hastily adopted new technology, others continued to rely heavily on hand labor. Though a number of manufacturers built large factories and quickly centralized production, many did not, and persisted in farming out various tasks to subcontractors. The decisions made by manufacturers were based on many factors: their conservatism, the resistance of their workers, the cost of innovation, the size of the enterprise, the specialization of the shop. In Binghamton, and particularly in the Lester shop, the growth of a centralized factory system occurred slowly and at an uneven pace.

The Lester factory began as a custom shop, in 1854, with only a handful of employees. A year later, it was employing some two dozen workers, making it the largest manufacturing firm in Binghamton.[23]Through the 1850s and 1860s, the firm continued to expand to meet increasing demand, moving from one location to another as available working space proved insufficient. Almost all of the work was done by hand, with only a few foot-powered devices, mainly stitching machines, in the shop.       In 1860, the firm employed 55 workers, 45 men and 10 women. It was manufacturing one hundred dozen pairs of boots and shoes a week. The growing market for heavy boots created by the Civil War led to to a rapid increase in both output and workforce, and shifted emphasis to the manufacture of boots, at the expense of shoes. By 1865, the firm had moved to a new building. Production was tripled and additional machinery, mainly upper leather stitching machines, was purchased. The proportion of women in the firm's workforce declined, due to both the increasing number of stitching machines and the emphasis on boot manufacturing, which involved heavier stitching work—considered men's work. Not until the late 1880s would their representation in the factory labor force appreciably increase. But, while the number and proportion of women in the shop decreased, the overall size of the workforce rose. In 1865, the firm employed around 120 workers. The anticipation of further expansion soon led to plans for the construction of a new factory.[24]

Even as the workforce grew and output was increased, centralization of production came slowly. Following a pattern that was widespread at the time, shoe manufacturing in Binghamton in the middle of the century was distributed among various shops and sub-contractors. In the late 1860s, the Lester factory concentrated on manufacturing the uppers of boots and the bottom stock and shipped both to a nearby  contracting shop which specialized in lasting and finishing.[25] This practice was probably an outgrowth of earlier divisions of labor organized around "teams" or "gangs." According to one student of the industry, a team consisted of a number of workers, "each performing a particular process, the whole team producing an entire shoe. On the other hand, a team might consist of a group of men all experts upon a single process. Such a team was known usually as a 'gang.' A gang of bottomers, for instance, often went from factory to factory, or from employer to employer, having a contract with each to bottom all the shoes in process of making."[26]

Taking charge and supervising a "team" or "gang," the contractor would make contact and obtain contracts with manufacturers. He generally received a certain percentage of the negotiated contract price, which varied with the wages he paid his workers. There were all sorts of variations in the way the system worked, but the pattern was the same. In spite of all the forces at work consolidating and centralizing production in factories, the contracting system continued to exist through the latter decades of the century, sustained by custom. Certainly, sufficient economic and social incentives existed for its elimination and for the establishment of direct management of workers by manufacturers through the use of foremen.

But custom was strong enough to weather the many conflicts and inefficiencies that accompanied the contracting system. Though the practice of contracting existed, in one form or another, for over three-quarters of a century, competitive market conditions exacerbated its more exploitative aspects in the decades between 1860 and 1890. Competitive bidding between contractors for jobs often led to increasing exploitation of employees, as bosses tried to compensate for low bids by reducing wages of workers or by replacing skilled ex-artisans by less experienced operatives or "green hands." Such practices met considerable worker resistance.

"The time is coming," wrote a Binghamton shoemaker in 1869, "when laborers will command that respect of which contractors and greedy capitalists have so long robbed them¾and Crispins claim that labor is their capital, and they, as men, will use it to the best of their advantage to gain for themselves respectable positions in society to which they, as American citizens, are entitled.”[27] The statement was written in the wake of a strike, led by the local Binghamton lodge of the Knights of St. Crispin, against the Lester shop. The strike itself was not a major event in either Binghamton history or the history of the Lester shop, but it does provide us with an indirect opportunity to examine in some detail the sort of transformations that the Binghamton shoe industry was undergoing and it does offer us some insight into the impact of these transformations on the generation of shoemakers who were experiencing the coming of the factory system.

According to an early student of the Knights of St. Crispin, Don D. Lescohier, the underlying causes of the Binghamton strike were the same as those which had brought about the formation of the Knights of St. Crispin in the first place: the growing encroachments of machinery and unskilled labor on the status, position, and autonomy of skilled shoeworkers. Noting the provision in the Crispin constitution which sought to limit the entry of "green hands" into the trade, Lescohier identified the Binghamton strike as a typical case of an attempt to enforce this provision.[28] The introduction of new technology and the evolving division of labor in factories allowed manufacturers to segment jobs and to substitute relatively unskilled operatives for skilled workers, and in the process, to reduce wages. The spread of such practices finally led to collective action by shoeworkers:

The shoe industry at the end of the war was evidently in a most chaotic condition. Hand and machine labor was competing fiercely for the market; and an oversupply of labor was seeking employment. Markets were lessened though factories had become larger and more numerous. Unskilled labor was on the machines. Wages were uncertain and falling, employment irregular and uncertain. Large manufacturers were reducing wages to increase their competitive advantage, small manufacturers to save themselves from bankruptcy. Out of this chaos came the Knights of St. Crispin, the protest of fifty thousand shoemakers against their unfortunate situation.[29]

The spread of the Knights was nothing less than lightning-like, reaching almost every major shoe manufacturing community in the nation, and a number of not-so-major centers. When and how the Crispins first organized in Binghamton is uncertain. Also uncertain is the extent of their organization in the late 1860s. Whatever the particular origin of the local Crispin order, in 1869 it was present and active in Binghamton and about to take on the community's largest shoe manufacturer. In the second week of August of 1869, six lasters approached their shop bosses, contractors for the Lesters, and demanded an increase in their wages. They claimed that other lasters in the city were receiving far more than they were and that Buckman and Benson, the two contractors, were exploiting them. The contractors refused the men's demand and the six of them quit. An officer of the local Crispin lodge, when questioned by a Binghamton reporter, declared that only four lasters left their work and that they left because of their "dislike to working with men whom shoeworkers denominate 'scabs'!"[30] Whether the lasters quit because of wages or because of working with "scabs," it is clear that their action did not provoke a general strike. The local Crispin organization did not call out the rest of the men in the shop, because, as one Crispin put it, "our constitution and by-laws will show that we do not favor or uphold strikes.”[31] In fact, Crispins had no inhibitions about using strikes to better their condition. The remark was probably made to gain public support.

The Crispin officer, cited above, was careful to note that the laster's behavior was "not 'sustained' by the Order, although their action in this particular is endorsed.”[32]

While the laster's unsatisfied demands from the contractors had not led to a strike, what did finally provoke a strike was the subsequent actions of Buckman and Benson: "Buckman and Benson have set at work ten or twelve green hands in the place of the men who quit work. This is entirely Crispin principles. The men throughout the shop feel aggrieved, not only because it is detrimental to the Crispin order, but because it is hurtful to the shoe making trade thoughout the country, as it floods the market with poor work, and throws good workmen out of employment. . . . Now if Lester Brothers' would pay the men the price they pay these contractors, and deduct from that price sufficient to pay a foreman to take charge of the work, it would no doubt satisfy the men . . ."[33]

Clearly, the introduction of "green hands"reflected an attempt on the part of the contractors to reduce costs and maximize profits at the expense of skilled workers. The Crispins, apparently blind to the general forces that were increasingly converting former artisans to factory operatives, merely appealed to the Lesters to rid themselves of Buckman and Benson and to replace them with a foreman, thereby eliminating two middle-men. The firm would save money and would be able to increase the wages of the lasters.

The fundamental issue underlying the conflict in the Lester shop in 1869 was control, whether voiced as a conflict over wages, "green hands" or exploitative contractors. That was   clear to both George and Horace Lester when they announced to the local papers that they "claim simply the right to run their shop in their own way.”[34]

Control, in the context of industrial capitalism, meant regulation of space, time, technology, wages, and the rituals of work, all of which were coming to rest in the hands of manufacturers like the Lesters. It is ironic that while the Crispins were reacting against one particularly oppressive aspect of an evolving factory system, they were suggesting a solution which would come to represent merely another phase of regimentation, centralization, and loss of control over skill. But at this early stage of factory building, the potential abuses of foremanship were dwarfed by the immediate experience of an exploitative contracting system. The Lester factory strike was by no means an isolated event in the late 1860s and 1870s, nor was its underlying cause unique. A number of New York Crispin strikes dealt with issues related to contracting, particularly in 1870. In Rochester, for example, six hundred members of the local Crispin lodge successfully struck and did away with the contracting system in that city.[35] Although the constitution of the International Grand Lodge did not contain an explicit prohibition of the practice, by 1870 the New York lodge added a provision to its by-laws which forbade Crispins from making "any percentage on the labor of another."[36]

With some exceptions, the Crispins were generally unsuccessful in overthrowing the contracting system and in halting the replacement of skilled Crispins by "green hands." In Binghamton, unskilled workers (and later immigrants) continued to make their way into the city's factories and it would be another decade before Lester factory contractors would be replaced by foremen. The Binghamton Crispins were not destined to see it through. The International Order of the Knights of St. Crispin declined just as rapidly as it grew, disappearing almost entirely by1873, a year that marked the beginning of a major national depression.[37] Along with the International Order went the Binghamton local.[38] The issue of "green hands" continued to figure in both local and national disputes as skilled workers persisted in their efforts to halt the erosion of their skills and status by limiting access to jobs and machinery. The solution to the exploitative practice of subcontracting offered by the Binghamton Crispins, namely, the substitution of foremen for contractors, was widely adopted in due time as the imperatives of centralization and factory rationalization became more pronounced under the pressure of expanding markets and competition. But its adoption came slowly and unevenly, and contracting continued to survive within factories. As late as the 1880s, subcontractors were still operating in such places as Philadelphia and Albany. As one student of shoe industry unionism noted, “[In Philadelphia it] had been customary for the manufacturer to pay the contractor, who also acted as a foreman, a specified amount for getting out a certain number of pairs of shoes. In order to get work the workmen were obliged to tip the contractor. The best and most steady work went to the one who gave the highest tips. Contractors often made as much as $300 a week in this way.[39] Only with the rise of the Knights of Labor in the 1880s did Philadelphia contractors confront an opponent powerful enough to overthrow them. In other cities, meanwhile, they were able to weather the challenges of labor organizations. In Albany, foremen-contractors were still operating in the late 1880s, receiving a cut of their workers' wages.[40] Vestiges of the contracting system persisted in many factories through the 1890s, with foremen, as contractors before them, receiving wages based on production. In Binghamton, at least within the Lester factory, the practice seems to have died out by the early 1880s.

Through the 1870s, the Lester factory slowly took on more and more work that previously had been contracted out. Some time around 1874, the Blackmer shop, the Lesters' major contractor, specializing in finishing and lasting, was absorbed into the main factory.[41]  By the early 1880s, around the time when Horace Lester died, the firm of Lester Bros. & Company was producing over seventy-two thousand pairs of boots a year and employing as many as 120 workers during the peak working season, a fair sized factory when one considers that the American shoe factory of the time employed about 57 workers.[42] All production was now superintended by foremen, paid in weekly wages, and carried on entirely within the factory, a large four-story structure located in the center of Binghamton's commercial district. The elimination of the firm's subcontractors and the establishment of a unified locus of production prepared the way for further mechanization and expansion.

Richard W. LesterHorace Lester's death in 1882 created a void in the firm's management which was quickly filled by his son, G. Harry Lester. George W. Lester, Horace's brother, had recently retired, and his son, Richard W. Lester, soon joined Harry -- but apparently not at the helm of the firm. According to Richard's great granddaughter, Patricia Sweeney, "Richard worked for a subsidiary company, not for the shoe co. as such.  My impression is that he had a weak, melancholy character, thus was no match for his cousin G. Harry, & let G. Harry do what he wanted to."[42b]

G. Harry Lester took control of the firm at an opportune moment. The company, like many others, was just emerging from the depths of depression.The hopes for expansion, kindled by the Civil War economy, had been dashed in the crash of 1873 and in the subsequent depression. But in 1882, prospects seemed bright. The revival of the economy brought an increase of orders from national retail outlets, such as Montgomery Wards. The firm, under the vigorous and aggressive policies of G. Harry Lester, began a decade of rapid expansion. The extent of the company's growth during the 1880s can be measured in rising employment statistics and in the growing presence of new machinery. Between the mid-1860s and 1880, rarely did the workforce surpass 120 in number. Yet, in the decade of the '80s, it rose from an average of 95 in 1880 to 425 in 1889, more than quadrupling. By 1889, the Lester shop was one of the largest factories in Binghamton.

The size of the female labor force, which had been declining in the 1860s and 1870s, also began to grow, reflecting the increasing demand for stitchers and low-paid operatives. In 1880, women had made up around 5% of the workforce (5 out of 95). In 1887, one year after New York State initiated factory inspections, about 15% of the firm's employees were women (41 out of 281). Their numbers fluctuated during the next three years and then suddenly took off. In 1890, only four years later, women made up approximately 26% of the total labor force (125 out of 475). Women generally took over low paying positions as stitching machine operators, lining makers, heel blackers and graders, and finishing room workers.[43] The influx of workers, both male and female, coincided with a rapid mechanization of production, beginning in the early 1880s. The 1880 federal Census of Manufactures listed only eight sewing machines in the firm's inventory of hardware, and no pegging or screwing machines--generally used in the manufacture of heavy boots. A small 6 horsepower steam-powered engine was sufficient to provide power for all of the firm's mechanical devices. A survey of the factory taken in November of 1882, however, disclosed a far larger power source, suggesting the introduction of new machinery as well as the adaptation of foot-powered devices to steam power.[44]  

The recollections of an old shoemaker in 1919 suggest something of the variety of the new devices that were introduced into the Lester factory and that were increasingly becoming typical of the shoe industry in the 1880s:      “While yet in the Henry street plant we had the Copeland lasting machine, a heeling machine, pegging machine, leveling machine, a foot-power heel breasting and hand-power heel trimming machine. Power was furnished by a 40 H.P. upright steam boiler, located on next to the top floor and leather trimmings formed a large portion of the fuel.[45] With expanding production, a growing inventory of machinery and a rapidly multiplying workforce, the firm found itself, once again, searching for more spacious quarters. It found them. But not in Binghamton.

In 1888, Lester decided to build a new factory two miles west of the city. Most likely, his decision was based on pragmatic considerations as avoidance of burdensome city taxes and expectations of profiting from land sales of inflated property--property inflated by the mere presence of his factory. But perhaps labor considerations also played a role. The model of a factory town was a familiar one at the time, though viewed with some skepticism by the general public. The single-industry boom towns scattered throughout the country, or Pullman's "ideal community," suggested the possibilities inherent in such schemes. The former represented repression, exploitation, class war, and tyranny; the latter, benevolence, enlightened capitalism, class harmony and uplift. The public perception of Lester's plan illustrate some of the class anxieties that were characteristic of the local citizenry, particularly the middle class, in the latter decades of the century. It suggests that the Pullman model was far more dominant in their imaginations than the less benign factory town. The reality, however, as with Pullman, was far less benevolent.

The Binghamton press, in both descriptive reports and promotional advertisements, praised the civic and moral qualities inherent in Lester's planned factory community. Here would be a modest population of workers, living, in a community controlled by a well-respected capitalist, determined to provide the benefits and guidance of a middle class life to his operatives. It would be "Real Philanthropy," as one paper headline suggested, a community where the harsher elements of modern urban and industrial life would be eliminated.

In laying out such a plan there are many things to be thought of. In case of women and children, there are no railroads to cross, no unpleasant parts of the city to pass over . . . . this tract was bought simply with a view to establish a place where all people or anyone desiring a good home with all that pertains to it, could have it at a very low price. No liquor will be sold on the premises, and no lots sold with that privilege.

A library building will be built with a free library, reading room and public above, school house, etc. In that no expense will be spared to make a pleasant home and furnish entertainment for all outside of business hours....Tea will be made and served at one penny a cup, and he [Lester] thinks he can furnish milk to all at two cents a quart. Coal will be shipped direct from the mines, and an effort will be made to furnish the necessities of life at the lowest possible cost.[46]

Themes of paternalism and security, civility and safety, a disdain for the worst qualities of urban living and the harsh realities of a market economy tended to characterize this and other descriptions of Lester's plans. These themes were continually repeated in the latter part of the nineteenth century in the writings of social critics and moralists. They reflected anxieties over the social cost of a rapidly expanding industrial order, anxieties that led many to formulate visions of alternative industrial communities, in the form of literary utopias, such as Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, or in the form of "ideal" communities, like Pullman's famed town. But more often than not, in practice, the anxieties over the expansion of industrialism and the growth of an uncontrollable working class led to the rise of factory towns--small, grey, lifeless communities, created and dominated by visions of wealth, power, or distorted fatherhood.[47]

Lester's community, though seemingly striving for high utopian ideals, in practice came to resemble the typical factory town.In 1888, Lester had his agent, superintendent Joseph Diment, buy several parcels of land in the vicinity of his planned community, and he himself acquired additional acreage. Whether this surreptitious purchase was accomplished to avoid arousing the suspicions of potential sellers who might inflate prices, or merely to get around the hostility of the local farmers to factories is uncertain. Whatever the reason, Lester quickly had the tract surveyed, parcelled, and laid out as a village. He began construction of a home for himself, a "spacious residence," and offered lots for sale to the general public.[48]

Lester arranged a number of well publicized land auctions, most of which were directed to "investors" rather than to workers. A typical advertisement for these auctions read as follows:


Parties having money to invest can find no better place to do it than Lester-Shire.
Property in the western part of Binghamton is rapidly increasing in value and houses
of moderate cost can find ready renters at good rates in Lester-Shire. This is no western boom, but a healthy growth with everything in the line of business to back it up

To attract merchants and professionals, and the well-to-do middle class in general, it was necessary to convince Binghamton's finest citizens that Lester-Shire would not go the way of many boom towns, with their rough and undisciplined working class. These fears were addressed in advertisements such as the following:

The employes of Lester and Co.'s boot and shoe factory are a steady, industrious, intelligent lot of men and women, many of whom have already erected handsome and comfortable homes near the factory and whose example has been followed by others, who are now preparing their plans or breaking grounds for dwellings. Such a class of men and women are a blessing in any community, and everyone in these parts thoroughly appreciates the energy and enterprise of Mr. G. Harry Lester, through whose efforts so many have been afforded employment and the comforts of tasteful homes.[50]

Lester's land sales were gala events, with music, refreshments, and a generally festive spirit. "The band would play a lively air and the sale wagon could be seen moving through the tall grass and brush, followed with a mixed crowd of men, women and children."[51] The festivities, with all the pleasure they may have given their audiences, also functioned to hide a malevolent feature of Lester's speculations. Lester was enterprising indeed. If investors failed to buy his lots, he found other ways to sell them, ways which soon put the lie to any idealistic features his schemes might have had.

Lestershire, NY (1895)
A view of Lestershire as it might have looked in 1895. Drawing by S. J. Kelley, E.J. Workers' Review Vol 1:8 (Oct., 1918): 47.

About the first thing that Harry Lester undertook to do, when he came to Lester-Shire and built the factory and wanted to sell lots, was to promise work to those who would come and buy lots of his real estate agent. He then undertook to compel working people to patronize stores and hire houses which had been built by those people who were induced to come there, under the promise that they would be protected in that way.[52]     

Indeed, the authoritarian aspects of Lester's community were soon demonstrated. In September of 1891, a number of men employed by the Lester-Shire factory were discharged. Local papers reported their number at anywhere from thirty-five to a hundred and noted that the men asserted that they were "discharged because they do not own property in Lester-Shire." The only explanation the firm offered, however, was that business was slack. Company officers never answered the charge of selective discharge.[53]

Work and community had thus become united under coercive auspices. Lester's town was going the way of countless other exploited industrial communities.

Lester's quest for profits and the immense expense of the construction project forced him to seek additional capital, and ultimately led to the transformation of what had been a family firm into a stock company. In March of 1890, local papers announced that Lester-Shire, land and factory, would be purchased by a syndicate and would be reorganized as the Lester-Shire Boot and Shoe Company, while Lester and Co. would retain control of the factory's jobbing trade.[54] On March 31, the new firm was incorporated, establishing a main office in Lester-Shire and a district office in New York City. G. Harry Lester became president as well as general supervisor of the New York office. The secretary and treasurer of the reorganized firm was W.D. Brewster, who had been connected with Lester's business for a decade. G.S. Ackley, who had earlier superintended the construction of the factory, took charge of the real estate interests of the new firm, which included approximately 170 acres of land in Lester-Shire. With the promise of new capital, plans were soon made to grade the streets around the factory and to add on a 300 foot extension, as well as additional office space. Local papers reported favorably on the progress of the company and community. As the Democratic Weekly Leader noted, “The recent incorporation of the company has given an impetus to the industries of Lester-Shire. The company proposes to make generous inducements to foreign interests to locate there. With influential and moneyed men at its head and a paid up capital of  $600,000 back of the concern and the knowledge that more can be easily obtained, it is safe to predict a phenomenal success for the company and for Lester-Shire.[55]

Lester-Shire indeed attracted its share of "influential and moneyed men." It had become, in the words of Grover Cleveland's private secretary, "just what the moneyed people want--a business of character and standing where they can invest their surplus."[56] Among the new firm's major stockholders were: ex-secretary of the Navy William Collins Whitney, who hobnobbed with the rich and mighty and whose sons married into the Vanderbilt and Hay families; Ohio senator Henry B. Payne, who had extensive connections with the Standard Oil Company and whose son, Oliver H. Payne, was the treasurer of Standard Oil; and Daniel Scott Lamont, private secretary and close confidant of Grover Cleveland, destined to serve as Secretary of War during Cleveland's second Presidential term. Serving on its Board of Directors was Charles S. Fairchild, ex-secretary of the Treasury and president of the New York Trust Company.[57]

Soon after its formation, the syndicate devised a scheme to attract new enterprises to the community, a plan which guaranteed that the corporation would both profit from and continue to control the economy of Lester-Shire. The scheme was described to a reporter by Daniel Lamont: “The company at first requires the assurance that the proposed industry has done an annual business, for several years, of  $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000. If this can be confirmed by the company's accountants, a stock company is at once formed and the Lester-Shire company takes $25,000 or  $50,000 worth of stock in the new concern, which thus is given an added capital to develop its business. All the management of this corporation wants is to be assured that their money is safely invested, an unlimited capital is at its command.[58] But a safe investment was not to be had in Lester-Shire. Almost immediately, the syndicate's fortunes were imperiled.

The Lester Boot and Shoe Company had looked forward to a period of rapid expansion. Instead, it confronted depression. The depression of 1893 came early to Lester-Shire. The anticipation of continuing rapid growth, one that the firm had grown accustomed to through the 1880s, was frustrated. Instead, orders decreased and workers were laid off. The firm’s labor force had reached an all-time high of around 475 in 1890, now began to decline. In 1891, the average size of the workforce shrank to 425. In 1892, it remained at that figure. And in 1893, it dipped to 400.[59] Lester’s growing neglect of the business also compounded the firm’s poor fortunes. In the fall of 1890 and through 1891, G. Harry Lester became increasingly involved in land speculation. After his initial, though short-lived, success with Lester-Shire property, he began to purchase land for a development in Yonkers, New York. But his shady financial dealings soon precipitated a law suit against him by one of his partners. Although Lester denied the charges of embezzlement, a subsequent court decision confirmed his partner's accusations. On February 17, 1893, a judgement was reached against Lester in the amount of  $67,525 for embezzlement of funds from the Nepera Land Co. of Yonkers.[60]

By the fall of 1891, the condition of the firm seems to have greatly worsened. Plans for a re-incorporation of the business were made. In December of 1891, the local papers announced that the "Lester boot and shoe factory of Lester-Shire and the Lester & Co. jobbing house of this city will cease to exist as two separate firms after January 1."[61] The papers explained that the reorganization was undertaken in order to "strengthen the financial resources" of the factory. On January 11, 1892, the Lestershire Manufacturing Company, the new name of the firm, assumed control of the jobbing trade, real estate, and factory of the two former firms. Financed by large western shoe manufacturers as well as by several Boston businessmen, the company was able to temporarily weather very lean times.[62] Nevertheless, in the summer of 1892, the company again faced a financial crisis. The business was on the verge of total collapse. In fact, papers reported that it had failed and that creditors were attempting to locate Lester in order to retrieve their investments.[63] The factory actually closed its doors for a few weeks. Only the hasty salvage operation of Henry B. Endicott of Boston, a major stockholder and head of the Commonwealth Shoe and Leather Company, was able to save the firm. Once again the firm was reorganized, with Endicott as treasurer. George F. Johnson, who had been the firm's assistant superintendent since 1887 and who had recently been chosen by Lester to replace his unsuccessful general manager, was retained by Endicott. Endicott's reorganization of 1892-3 created two companies, the Lestershire Manufacturing Company, which retained its predecessor's name, and the Lestershire Boot and Shoe Company. The latter corporation held ownership of the factory buildings and land while the former took over the manufacturing end of the business.[64]

Lester's place in all of these events and in subsequent developments is not at all clear. What is certain is that his connection with the business was soon severed. Throughout this period, both before and after the firm's reorganization, Endicott had been lending Lester money and buying up his notes from other creditors, in anticipation of taking over his remaining interest in the firm.[65] With Lester's monetary stake in the Lestershire Manufacturing Company declining, Endicott increased his involvement with the concern, dealing with its financial interests out of a Boston office, while Johnson took charge of the daily management of the factory in Lester-Shire. The two men, destined soon to be partners, thus began three decades of collaboration.


[1] H.P. Smith, ed. History of Broome County (Syracuse, N.Y., 1885), 216,244,255; George F. Johnson to the Morning Sun, September 7, 1922, Box 6, George F. Johnson Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University. Johnson recalls Lester's funeral in this letter.

[2] See, for example, the obituary in the Binghamton Daily Leader, October 2, 1882.

[3] William S. Lawyer, ed. Binghamton: Its Settlement, Growth and Development and the Factors in Its History, 1800-1900 (Binghamton,N.Y., 1900), 477, 909; Lester-Shire News, April 11, 1891. Another member of the firm was Henry A. Goff, a young man who had accompanied Horace Lester from Connecticut and who became the firm's primary salesman in the 1850s and through the 1870s. In 1877, he left the Lesters and became a partner in another local shoe firm, Stone, Goff _& Company.

[4] United States Population Census (Manuscript), 1880; Lawyer, Binghamton, 477-8, 909-910, 937.

[5] Edgar M. Hoover, Jr. Location Theory and the Shoe and Leather Industries (Cambridge, Mass., 1937), 180.

[6] Hoover, Jr., Location Theory, 268.

[7] Hoover, Jr., Location Theory, 269. Rochester was one of the first cities to benefit from the westward spread of shoe manufacturing. On the growth of the Rochester shoe industry, see Blake McKelvey, "A History of the Rochester Shoe Industry", Rochester History, XV(April 1953), 1-28.

[8] Lawyer, Binghamton, 937.

[9] On the establishment of the shoe industry in Binghamton see Lawyer, Binghamton, 477-478; H.P. Smith, ed., History of Broome County (Syracuse, N.Y., 1885), 255-256; William Foote Seward, Ed. Binghamton and Broome County New York: A History, Vol 2 (New York, 1924), 412; Dennis P. Kelly, "The Contrasting Industrial Structures of Johnstown, Pa., and Binghamton, N.Y., 1850-1880" (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 1977), 46-51, and passim.

[10] G. Ralph Smith, "Aspects of Economic Development of Broome County, New York, 1900-1951," (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Syracuse University, 1954), 61-70, 458-497; Binghamton Press\&, April 11, 1914; On the early industrial growth of Binghamton, see also Ross McGuire and Nancy Grey Osterud, Working Lives: Broome County, New York 1800-1930 (Binghamton, N.Y., 1980). Working Lives is a catalog produced by the Roberson Center for the Arts and Sciences, Binghamton, in conjunction with an exhibition devoted to Broome County's labor history.

[11] United States, Bureau of the Census, Eleventh Census of the United States, 1890:Population\&, I, 283; Eighth Census, Population of the United States in 1860, 329.

[12 An excellent portrait of that era can be found in John Philip Hall "The Gentle Craft: A Narrative of Yankee Shoemakers," (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1954).

[13] David N. Johnson, Sketches of Lynn or The Changes of Fifty Years (Lynn, Mass., 1880), 18-21. Information on the early technological developments in the shoe industry can be found in Frederick J. Allen, The Shoe Industry (New York, 1922) and in Blanche Evans Hazard, The Organization of the Boot and Shoe Industry in Massachusetts before 1875 (Cambridge, Mass., 1921).

[14] Edith Abbott, Women in Industry: A Study in American Economic History (New York, 1910), 167. "Binding" was the term employed in the nineteenth century to describe the process of stitching the uppers of shoes. "Uppers" referred to the portion of the shoe above the sole and included vamps, quarters, back stays and collars. A short shoe trade dictionary can be found in Allen, Shoe Industry, 380-396. See also The Shoe and Leather Lexicon published in various editions by the Boot and Shoe Recorder Publishing Co. (Boston, 1926).

[15] Abbott, Women in Industry, 166. The proportion continued to decline until the 1880s. The widespread adoption of the stitching machine in Lynn, Massachusetts, where women had traditionally been heavily represented in the shoe industry, was an important factor in provoking one of the largest strikes in the Nation's history, in 1860. On the strike see Alan Dawley, Class and Community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn (Cambridge, Mass., 1976), 77-89, and Paul G. Faler, Mechanics and Manufacturers in the Early Industrial Revolution: Lynn, Massachusetts, 1780-1860 (Albany, New York, 1981), 222-233.

[16] The name of the stitcher and process ("McKay stitching") came from its manufacturer and merchandizer rather than from its inventor. Lyman R. Blake, a Massachusetts shoemaker, actually invented the stitcher in 1858. It was further refined by Robert Mathias and finally marketed by Colonel Gordon McKay. McKay, rather than sell the machine outright, initiated a leasing arrangement whereby manufacturers paid on the basis of production, at a per-piece price. This royalty system was an important factor leading to the machine's widespread acceptance, as industrialists did not need to make any initial capital investments and took no financial risk in utilizing the new device. The practice of machine leasing became widespread in the shoe industry and continued well into the twentieth century, making the trade highly competitive. Entrepreneurs, with little capital, could easily set up shop. Allen, The Shoe Industry, 45, 60-61; Hazard, Organization of the Boot and Shoe Industry, 11, 245-6; Hoover, Jr., Location Theory, 163.

[17] Johnson, Sketches of Lynn, 343-344. This may have been an exaggeration, but not a large one. See United States Department of Labor, Thirteenth Annual Report of the Commissioner of Labor, "Hand and Machine Labor," Vol. 1 (Washington, D.C., 1899), 119.

[18] . "A Pair of Shoes", Harpers New Monthly Magazine 70(January 1885), 284.

[19] Dawley, Class and Community, 93-94.

[20] On the mechanization of lasting and the reaction of lasters, see Irwin Yellowitz, "Skilled Workers and Mechanization: The Lasters in the 1890s," Labor History 18(Spring, 1977), 197-213.

[21] Excellent surveys of boot and shoemaking machinery and techniques can be found in John Bedford Meno's The Art of Boot and Shoemaking: A Practical Handbook (London, 1887); in George A. Rich, "Manufacture of Boots and Shoes", Popular Science Monthly 41(August, 1892), 496-515; and in Allen, Shoe Industry, Chapter 2. Recent and not-so-recent treatments of the Lynn Shoe Industry in the nineteenth century deal with the impact of technology and factories on workers. See, for example, Alan Dawley, Class and Community, Chapter 3; William H. Mulligan, Jr. "Mechanization of Work in the American Shoe Industry: Lynn, Massachusetts, 1852-1883," Journal of Economic History, 41(March, 1981), 59-63; Johnson, Sketches of Lynn.

[22] Hazard, Organization of the Boot and Shoe Industry, 98.

[23] Lester-Shire News, April 11, 1891; Nancy Grey Osterud, "Mechanics, Operatives and Laborers: Factories in the Valley, 1870-1930," Working Lives, 63.

[24] Lester-Shire News, April 11, 1891; United States, Census of Manufactures (Manuscript), 1860; E.-J. Workers' Review 1(August, 1919), 53; "Lester Brothers Shoe Company," Broome County Historical Society library files.

[25] Binghamton Daily Democrat, September 6, 1869; E.-J. Workers' Review, 1(December, 1919), 16.

[26] Allen, Shoe Industry, 19

[27] Look this up.

[28] Don D. Lescohier, The Knights of St. Crispin, 1864-1874, Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, No. 355, (Madison, Wisc., 1910), 29. Lescohier's description of the Crispins followed closely that of his mentor, John R. Commons. See John R. Commons, "American Shoemakers, 1648-1895: A Sketch of Industrial Evolution," Quarterly Journal of Economics 24 (November, 1909), 39-83. For a somewhat different view of the importance of the "green hands" issue for the Knights of St. Crispin, see Dawley, Class and Community, 143-148, and John P. Hall, "The Knights of St. Crispin in Massachusetts, 1869-1878," Journal of Economic History 18 (June, 1958), 161-175.

[29] Lescohier, Knights of St. Crispin, 24.

[30] Binghamton Daily Republican, September 4, 1869.

[31] Binghamton Daily Democrat, September 6, 1869.

[32] Binghamton Daily Democrat, September 4, 1869.

[33] Binghamton Daily Democrat, September 6, 1869. A notice of the strike appeared in the Binghamton Daily Republican, September 3, 1869. The Daily Republican noted that "this time the strike is general and among the Knights employed there, but only a small portion of their hands were members of the order."

[34] Binghamton Daily Republican, September 4, 1869.

[35] Lescohier, Knights of St. Crispin, 48. On the subsequent demise of the Rochester Crispins, see McKelvey, "A History of the Rochester Shoe Industry," 11.

[36] “Constitution of New York State Lodge of the Knights of St. Crispin,” Art. XV, 20, cited in Lescohier, Knights of St. Crispin, 48. The International constitution did contain the following provision, inserted in 1872: "Your committee censure the system of a Crispin making a profit on the labor of a Brother Crispin,  as contrary to the spirit of Crispinism, but consider it impracticable for the I.G.L. [International Grand Lodge] to frame a law governing the case, we therefore recommend this I.G.L. to instruct subordinant Lodges to insert an article in their by-laws suitable to their different localities." Cited in Lescohier, 48.

[37] In the late 1870s, an attempt was made to revive it. The second Knights of St. Crispin was far smaller and more conservative than the first, and did not last very long. It was probably absorbed by the Knights of Labor in the 1880s. See Lescohier, Knights of St. Crispin, 56-59. The Shoe Workers' Journal 11 (May, 1910), 8-9.

[38] Although it is very difficult to prove (since membership lists are not available), many Binghamton Crispins, as was the case in Cincinnati, probably joined the local assembly of the Knights of Labor. Local Assembly 2186 was active in Binghamton throughout the 1880s and into the early 1890s. In 1883, an independent Assembly was formed, breaking away from Local Assembly 2186. See Terence V. Powderly, Thirty Years of Labor, 1859 to 1889 (Columbus, Ohio, 1890), 192, 568-573; Osterud, "Mechanics, Operatives and Laborers," Working Lives, 99. Binghamton papers periodically made mention of the activities of the local Knights of Labor, particularly during periods of labor strife.

[39] Augusta E. Galster, The Labor Movement in the Shoe Industry (New York, 1924), 54-55.

[40] New York State, First Annual Report of the Board of Mediation and Arbitration, 1887 (Albany, 1888), 22,28,42,73.

[41] Undated clipping in Frederick Wallace Putnam Document Collection, Vol. 77, p. 166, Binghamton Public Library; E-J Workers Review, 1(May, 1919), 24-25.

[42] Hoover, Jr., Location Theory, 178. United States, Census of Manufactures (Manuscript), 1880.

[42b] In my original dissertation chapter, I had written that Richard W. Lester "died soon after" Horace Lester died (1882). I was wrong. He died in January of 1895. See the following selection from an email sent to me July 22, 2007 from Patricia Sweeney, which corrects my original statement on Richard W. Lester's death: "I have one correction, which I may have made before.   Since you say you welcome additions & corrections, I'm offering it again.  Richard W. Lester (the son of George W. Lester) whom you say died shortly after his Uncle Horace Lester (d. 1882), did not die until Jan. 1895.  So he was still on the scene for 13 years while G. Harry Lester was creating "Lester-Shire" & generally making (& implementing) big plans.   During the last few days I've been trying to lay my hands on a copy of his obituary, which I know I have!  (Richard was my great-grandfather.)  As I recall, Richard worked for a subsidiary company, not for the shoe co. as such.  My impression is that he had a weak, melancholy character, thus was no match for his cousin G. Harry, & let G. Harry do what he wanted to.
Richard's melancholy was increased by the deaths of his first two children (sons) in the early 1870s.  He had another son, Herbert, b. 1874, who died in Nov. 1894--unexpectedly, as the result of a "cold" caught at a picnic.  It's possible that Richard's death 2 mos.' later was a suicide.  And also, the results of the depression of 1893 may have contributed to his sense of discouragement.   The fact that he had two lively & attractive little girls (one of whom became my grandmother) apparently didn't give him a reason to live.
Apropos of nothing (certainly not the shoe business), I have recently wondered if Herbert Lester's unexpected death was the result of adult-onset cystic fibrosis.  My niece turned up with this disease at the age of 22.  Until the CF gene was discovered a few years ago, no one realized one could escape the effects of CF throughout an apparently normal childhood, only to succumb to it in early adulthood.   Fortunately my niece has found competent medical help & still survives in relatively good health at age almost 39.   But in thinking about where my brother got the CF gene he passed on to her, I came up w/ Herbert Lester as a likely candidate.
The Lesters in general have been far from fecund.  Their children (when they bothered to marry & have any) tended to be sickly & to die young.  My niece's illness suggests one explanation for this.  Of course infant mortality, even among the wealthy, was much higher in those days, in general.
Another note which may be of interest:  after G. Harry Lester was drummed out of the shoe business, he invested his ill-gotten gains in IBM stock.  (His nephew Horace Lester Harkness was comptroller of the company.)  Since he was childless, this accumulated stock was inherited by his niece Sarah (Harkness) Kirby & her two daughters, one of whom left some of it to me when she died in 1996.  My husband & I used the legacy to pay for a cruise to Alaska after we retired in 1998.   So G. Harry's financial shenanigans did result in some good.   (My husband is a retired prof. from the PA. State System, comparable to SUNY.)"

[43] United States, Census of Manufactures (Manuscript), 1880; New York State, Report of the Factory Inspector, 2nd through 5th Annual Reports (Albany, 1888 through 1891). In all cases, figures cited are average number of employees.

[44] "Lot Surveys," Box 32, George F. Johnson Papers; United States Census of Manufactures (Manuscript), 1880.

[45] E.-J. Workers' Review, 1(May, 1919), 24-25.

[46] Binghamton Daily Republican, November 23, 1888.

[47] An excellent socio-psychological study of paternalism and the Pullman community can be found in Richard Sennett, Authority (New York, 1980). See also Almont Lindsey, The Pullman Strike (Chicago, 1942) and Stanley Buder, Pullman: An Experiment in Industrial Order and Community Planning, 1880-1930 (New York, 1967). John F. Kasson's Civilizing the Machine: Technology and Republican Values in America, 1776-1900 (New York, 1976) is a fine treatment of American anxieties over the growth of industrialization.

[48] Lawyer, Binghamton, 650-651. Binghamton Press, April 11, 1914.

[49] Binghamton Daily Republican, January 14, 1890. See also June 3, 1890, June 11, 1890 and August 31, 1891 for more examples.

[50] Binghamton Daily Republican, June 4, 1890.

[51] E.-J. Workers' Review, 1(June, 1919), 29.

[52] E-J Workers Magazine, 4 (September, 1925), np. This is George F. Johnson's recollection of Lester's activities.

[53] Binghamton Evening Herald, September 23, 1891. Democratic Weekly Leader, September 25, 1891.

[54] Democratic Daily Leader, March 15, 1890. Also Democratic Weekly Leader, March 21, 1890.

[55] Democratic Weekly Leader, April 4, 1890.

[56] Ibid., April 11, 1890.

[57] W. Lester, an original partner in the Lester Co. and a distinguished financier in his own right, had apparently been instrumental in bringing these men together and in arranging the transfer of the firm to a syndicate. Democratic Weekly Leader, April 11, 1890. Dumas Malone, Ed. Dictionary of American Biography (New York, 1933), XX, 165-166; XIV, 325-326; X, 563-564; VI, 251-252.

[58] Democratic Weekly Leader, April 11, 1890.

[59] From 1894 and well into the early years of the century, the workforce steadily increased, nearing 2000 at the turn of the century. New York State, Report of the Factory Inspector, 5th through 15th Annual Reports (Albany, 1891-1901).

[61] Democratic Weekly Leader, December 25, 1891.

[62] Lestershire Record, March 26, 1897. The only surviving copy of this issue available is in the Broome County Historical Society Library.

[63] Democratic Weekly Leader, July 22, 1892.

[64] George F. Johnson to G. Harry Lester, March 12, 1928, Box 9, George F. Johnson Papers; Biographical Review [Binghamton], (Boston, 1894), 91-92; Binghamton Sun, November 29, 1948; Binghamton Republican, March 17, 1897; Binghamton Evening Herald, March 17, 1897.

[65] Democratic Weekly Leader, February 24, 1893.