I find it most fitting to take you back to my younger days in Brockton in the 1870’s and 1880’s. The city was, in many ways, different from the Brockton of today. In my early days, the city was called North Bridgewater. It was in 1874 that the city was renamed Brockton after the British general, Isaac Brock, who defeated the Americans in the first battle of the War of 1812. Great opportunity was on the horizon for both the glorious city and me.
During this time, the shoe industry experienced its own renaissance following explosive growth from the Civil War. Can you believe it? Our dear city of Brockton was the largest manufacturer of shoes in all of America. It was an exciting period, indeed, filled with many firsts, as the city became electrifying in more ways than one. Brockton soon became the first place in the world to have three wire underground electricity. The great innovator Thomas Edison showed up to turn it on himself.
Fueled by all of the excitement with the prospects of progress, there were bountiful opportunities to be taken advantage of. It was in this climate of vast innovation that I began my profession as a counter trimmer, cutting stone and wood to fit in kitchens and workshops around the city. As the saying goes, “a production line works on the speed of its stomach” and dear reader, I was famished.
From my craft as a counter trimmer, I learned to be diligent and precise, but more importantly I learned that to make a name for oneself in Brockton, I was going to have to get closer to the booming shoe industry. An opportunity presented itself in 1896 to work for a man named S. W. Howard, at his shoe company bearing that same name. I learned two valuable things from Mr. Howard. First, how to make the best rubber stamps and stencils, which could be used in the manufacturing of shoe tags. Second, if you are going to own a company you want to be proud of, put your name on it.
It is in this way dear readers that I, William Betts Mason, went from being an immigrant boy in North Bridgewater, to a young American tradesman ready to make my mark on the American Dream.
Time to close up shop! As promised before, I will be in touch again next week.
William Betts Mason