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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 48

Leather and Leather Goods

Leather and Leather Goods.

It has been carefully computed that at the present time there are in this city from 1300 to 1400 souls who are dependent tor their daily bread upon the boot and shoo trade. The fact shows in a marked manner the extent and importance of the industry; and it also shows how successfully this Colony can produce for itself when enterprise and energy are brought into play. It is an admitted fact that the exhibits of boots and shoes now in the Drill-shed include not only such "lines" as are in every day demand, but also such examples of handwork as could not be excelled in the best West-End establishments of London.

Locally made leathers are shown by Mr A. M'Kinnon. There is the "kip," which, being interpreted, is cow-hide tanned and prepared specially for boot uppers. There is harness leather, which is also of cow-hide, but made harder and stiffer by a different process of tanning, and there is ox-hide sole leather. The last mentioned presents the best quality in Mr M'Kinnon's exhibits. Speaking generally, he is excelled by Messrs Taylor and Co., of Wellington, the only other exhibitors.

Messrs Lightband, Allan and Co. may be regarded as representative exhibitors of the wholesale manufacture of boots and shoes. In a large and very neat case, the kauri framework of which was made by Mr Jewell, they show over 70 kinds of their productions. Most of these boots and shoes have had the soles put on by the Blake sole-sewing machine, which is working in the machinery-room. That machine, which is absolutely marvellous in its perfection, was fully described in these columns some time ago; and it may now be said that despite the prejudice which exists in favour of hand-sewn boots, its work is at least equal to any that can be done by human agency. The fact is demonstrated by a number of the boots and shoes in the show case. They were made nearly a year ago; they have been "on view" at the Sydney Exhibition, and though they have not been redressed in any way since they were made, not a crack can be found in any of them, nor any departure from the appearance of freshness. It is noticeable, too, that nearly all the 70 sorts are very plain, and on enquiry it was ascertained that they had been simply taken from the stock which fairly represented the mes in daily demand; in other words, just those varieties which sold most readily. The whole of the sole leather used in their production is of New Zealand manufacture, and so is all the upper leather used for the stronger kinds. For the lighter boob uppers French calf and kid are used, and sealskin or "Levant" is employed. This last mentioned leather is comparable in appearance to a strongly-grained Morocco. Very tasteful little things are the ladies' "brogues," and these really pretty shoes may be commended to the notice of our fair readers, because, while they are prettily shaped, they are sufficiently broad to escape the designation of instruments of torture. Dr Richardson and other eminent authorities have written strongly upon the worse than; absurd fashion of using high-heeled and page 19 narrow-soled boots, which cripple the feet of the wearer, and often work disastrous evils by the induced strain upon the muscles of the legs and body. Let visitors carefully examine those boots which have soles projecting beyond the uppers and say whether they do not more nearly conform to the natural shape of the foot than the "fashionable" shapes so extensively used and misused. Messrs Toomer Brothers also represent the wholesale manufacture, though in a modified degree. They show many of the lines which have been referred to, their other goods being more of an exhibition nature, and having the pegged work elaborated into neat patterns. Their collection as a whole may in all fairness be described as a grand lot of well-finished goods; and in their case also it is noticeable that the wider soles predominate. Mr Harris, Cashel street, has a very neat show case, in which there are some 18 pairs of ladies' and gentlemen's boots and shoes; and some of the more ornamental kinds are of really elaborate design and finish. A pair of Scotch grain shooting boots is worth looking at; and such an exhibit will no doubt attract very general attention. Mr George Hyde shows the exhibition case which he had at Sydney; and Mr E. George shows some useful well made lines, such as are no doubt fairly representative of his everyday work. The stitching is all hand work. The highest class of hand-made work in the Exhibition is that shown by Mr W. Nicholls, who was formerly connected with one of the first West End establishments of London, and now presents his patrons—if they desire it—with shapes in the latest fashion. As has been intimated, Mr Nicholls has shown himself to be an artist in boots; and this qualification extends itself to all the varieties he makes. Some of them are roomy and comfortable, and they afford an extraordinary contrast to "the latest thing" in pointed toes. This notice would be incomplete without special mention of the pair of gentlemen's boots, which are of hand-work throughout, The uppers are of black satin, and are most beautifully stitched.