Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Josiah Green and Co. Records
Early in the nineteenth century, Worcester County, Massachusetts, became on the of the first regions in the state to experience rapid industrialization, and the small town of Spencer become a center for the manufacture of wire, boots, and shoes. The development of the shoe and boot industry began as a cottage industry in 1809 when the inauspicious Charles Watson produced a few dozen pairs for which he never received payment. In nearby Leicester, however, Josiah Green (1792-1876) and his brother Nathaniel found greater success when they began making shoes and boots in about 1811. Working from the garret of their mother's house, 19 year-old Josiah began producing boots at $1.25 per pair. The scant profits he made from the sale of his boots in Boston encouraged him to continue, and the start of the War in 1812 added further impetus. In 1812, the brothers turned to Albany to market their goods, selling to military contractors at a profitable $2.25 per pair.
After dissolving his partnership with his brother at the end of the war, Josiah relocated to Spencer in 1816 or 1817, where he became the first of several large-scale manufacturers of shoes and boots. Early in his career, Green began to use pegging to attach heels and soles, producing a harder wearing product while driving down cost and increasing the rate of production. Widely known for the quality of his work, Green's trade to the wholesale market grew rapidly, and by 1834, he erected a four story factory on the Boston Post Road, over which sat a sign reading "Josiah Green's boot manufactory, established 1812." Although Green was the largest of Spencer's six major shoe- and boot-manufacturers in 1850, by the eve of the Civil War his firm had begun to lose market share to local competitors such Isaac Prouty, C. and G. Watson, and A.T. and E. Jones.
Green was married twice, first in 1816 to Tamer Watson (d.1820) and then to Sybil Underwood in 1821. In addition to two children by his first marriage, Josiah had eight children with Sybil. He continued in the boot trade until retiring in 1867, when his sons assumed control of the company. Green died on Dec. 28, 1876, and the company continued in operation into the twentieth century.