Among my collection of antique postcards is this one of a good looking old shoe factory. The postmark on the back is dated 1912 but the building itself was constructed in the 1890’s It was built of wood with a brick facade.
|Postcard: Doug Peabody|
The Dodge Brothers it turns out was a dynasty of shoe makers from the 1800’s. They owned several large factories in Newburyport around the downtown area. They have been described as “sweat shops” by local historians and the Dodge brothers themselves as “tyrants.” I gather the brothers had a bad reputation throughout the workforce.
Perhaps the woman that wrote of “lawn parties” on the back of the postcard purchased a pair of shoes from the Dodge Brothers right here in this building. It does look like there was a showroom on the bottom floor where the awnings are located. She must have been from Providence, Rhode Island as it is both postmarked from there and sent to a Providence location. Was she on vacation in the Newburyport area? Lots of questions come to my mind.
As it is difficult to read, this is her message:
Dear Jeanette, Glad you let me know about the lawn party. I’ll be out if it don’t rain, I’ll see you up there. I can not get out very early. A great thing happened to me tonight, will tell you about it when I see you . Tell Elizabeth, Nora Gilligan has been very sick with rheumatism but is better now. Hope Sat. will be a good day. I went to a Lawn Party last night, a classy one, down to Austin’s. Maude
Lawn parties must have been the rage back then. I would have liked to have seen one with the ladies all dressed up in their long victorian skirts sipping tea.
This Dodge brothers factory burned to the ground in 1934. It took 15 fire companies from Newburyport, and surrounding towns to extinguish the inferno. It was rumored to be a case of arson but no one was ever charged. As the building was uninsured it was never rebuilt. By the bottom Google Streetview photo you can see a former gas station turned kayak rental shop sits on the same site.
|Photo: Google Streetview|