Sepia Saturday 586. Twelfth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.
In these days of low-priced, mass produced shoes — often made with synthetic components — it’s hard to imagine how important cobbler shops and shoe parlors were during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
However, in the 1800s and early 1900s, occupations like cobbler, shoemaker, shoe shiner and bootblack were significant, long-lasting careers that were integral to the creation, repair and maintenance of leather footwear — especially in the era of dusty, unpaved streets.
Nowhere was this truer than in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. — the U.S. home of my maternal Italian ancestors, many of whom were employed in tanning, glove making and other leather trades.
Which explains how the brothers of my second grand-grandmother Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio — Michael and Vincenzo “Jimmy” Del Negro — were able to earn a living working as bootblacks in various Gloversville locations.
A decade of shoe parlor work
To investigate where my second great-granduncles Mike and Jimmy lived and worked, I turned to previous research in the Gloversville and Johnstown Business Directories from 1906-1917 — both on microfilm at the NYS Archives and online. The table below summarizes what I found.
|Michael and Jimmy DelNegro in Gloversville and Johnstown Business Directories – 1906-1917; Sources: NYS Archives & Ancestry
|1906||Michael Del Negro||h. 128 E. Fulton St.||12 N. Main St.||Bootblack|
|1906||James Del Negro||r. 128 E. Fulton St.||2 S. Main St.||Bootblack|
|1909||Michael Del Negro||h. 72 1/2 E. Fulton St.||Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor at 12 N. Main St.||Bootblack
|1909||James Del Negro||41 Church St.||The Hotel Kingsborough & 10 S. Main||Bootblack|
|1910 & 1911||Michael Del Negro||h. 72 1/2 E. Fulton St.||12 N. Main St.||Bootblack|
|1910 & 1911||James Del Negro||41 Church St.||The Hotel Kingsborough||Bootblack|
|1914 – 1916||Michael Del Negro||h. 72 1/2 E. Fulton St.||12 N. Main St.||Bootblack|
|1914- 1917||James Del Negro||h. 72 1/2 E. Fulton St.||—||Bootblack|
|1917||Michael Del Negro||h. 72 1/2 E. Fulton St.||7 S. Main St.||Bootblack|
A bustling glove manufacturing town
Gloversville was a bustling glove manufacturing town when the Del Negro brothers were pursuing their service careers.
Hundreds of glove factories all over town — and in neighboring Johnstown — brought prosperity, as evidenced by the stately buildings that remain from that period.
There were busy hotels for visiting glove buyers, department stores with all manner of goods, cultural venues like the Kasson Opera House and a splendid Carnegie Free Library, which is still open and active.
In this environment, a shoe shine parlor could prosper. And my second great-granduncles Mike and Jimmy appear to have done well in their occupations.
The city directories show that Mike had his own parlor by 1909 — and he also bought a house at 72 1/2 E. Fulton St. (see map and photo).
His home was located down the street from his sister Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio and her family at 128 E. Fulton St. And their brother Jimmy eventually came to live with Mike and his family.
This made me curious about the Del Negro brothers’ various work locations. So I turned once more to Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for the next phase of their story.
Up next: Mapping the Del Negro Brothers Gloversville, N.Y., workplaces. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.
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