Home Collections Women at Work: Manual Labor Outwork J. A. Frye Shoe Company Collection
J. A. Frye Shoe Company Collection
Catalog Record
Mss 641 1867-1903
Volumes 1-13

The collection consists of thirteen ledgers of a shoe manufacturing firm in Marlboro, Massachusetts, which began operations in 1863. The ledgers, which span the period 1867-1903, contain payment records of women shoe workers. Perhaps as much as one third of the Frye workforce was made up of women.

In a local context of a rapidly but unevenly mechanizing industry, Frye seems to have remained relatively committed to manual production. The ledgers, which run consecutively, cover all aspects of the operation. They include a complete run of piecework accounts with individual workers, running balances of the company, accounts with suppliers, and accounts with shoe retailers.

The ledgers of the 1860s and early 1870s separate accounts with cutters, lasters, and stitchers, some of which give evidence of exchange of goods for labor. One part of each ledger primarily contains accounts with single and married women, most likely home stitchers, who received needles as part of their pay.

Later, when a larger proportion of the hands worked in the shop or factory, the exchanges became cash for labor. Men and women appear throughout the later ledgers, and the honorific "Mrs." largely disappears from the account headings.

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