Mysteries involving faces from Haverhill’s shoe-making past are beginning to unfold.
The city’s Historical Commission kicked off a project 11 months ago to identify people in old photos taken around factories that made Haverhill a shoe-making giant for generations.
The Haverhill Gazette has supported the project by publishing photos of shoe workers for readers to identify.
Instead of focusing on the shoe industry’s history, the commission directed the project toward the workers who made the shoes, as well as people who sold the footwear and performed related jobs.
”As the result of reading the articles in the paper, people are contacting us with stories not just about the workers in the factories, but about people who played other roles in the city’s shoe industry,” said Kathy Kimball, researcher for the city’s Historical Commission.
The Gazette has regularly published decades-old photos of workers in factories and asked readers to help identify the workers and tell their stories.
”Our hopes were that people would identify some of the people in the photos that were published, but as time went on we found that most of the families of the people in the pictures were gone,” Kimball said. “But (some Gazette readers) did send us photos of themselves or family members who worked in the shoe industry.”
Seven people contacted the Historical Commission in response to the photos that ran in the Gazette since January, including Shirley Campbell, who was a shoe worker for the Laird Schober Shoe Company on Duncan Street from 1941 to 1944. After that, she gave birth to a son, but returned to the factory from 1947 to 1955 as a roving worker, filling in wherever she was needed.
A recent interview with Campbell, who still lives in Haverhill, brought the commission a treasure trove of historical information about Haverhill’s shoe industry in the 1940s. Campbell gave the commission a photo of her operating a stamping machine for Laird-Schober Shoe Company taken Jan. 23, 1943. A second photo, taken in 1943, shows employees of the same company who worked in the “making room.’’