Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Nathan Holden Daybook
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The daybook of Nathan Holden documents the secondary occupation of a farmer who also repaired shoes for people in his community of New Salem, Massachusetts.
This daybook provides insight into local economies prior to the Industrial Revolution, before factory shoebinding replaced small-scale, handwork production. In the eastern region of Massachusetts at this time, factories were active, piecework was being mechanized by the Singer sewing machine, and labor unions had already formed. With this in mind, Nathan Holden, his son Edwin, and brother Augustus, who were also shoemakers and shoe repairmen, persisted in their craft as a result of community interdependence and a localized economy.
In the daybook, the transactions list Nathan's skills that were often traded or bartered for customers' services or wares: butchering pigs or cows, chopping or gathering wood, travelling by buggy to a different town, using a neighbor's oxen, and a variety of food and tools, among other tradable goods. Some customers traded their work for mending shoes, while others paid in cash. Given the change in penmanship and materials used to list transactions, Edwin or Augustus may have taken over Nathan's accounts in 1871, after a ten-year gap of time in the book.