By Polly Wilbert
Sidney Wilmot Winslow was born in Brewster, on Cape Cod, on September 20, 1854. Soon after, his father, Freeman, moved the family to Salem, where he established a shoe factory. After graduating from Salem High School, the younger Winslow worked for his father for 14 years, rising to foreman. It was while working in the family shoe factory that Winslow came to understand the disadvantage to small manufacturers from the challenges of using machines from different companies for separate operations in shoemaking. In those days, every time there was an innovation in shoe manufacturing, a special company was formed to exploit the invention. As a consequence, Sidney Winslow determined to attempt the broader manufacture of shoe machinery, and his first venture was in connection with the Naumkeag Buffing Machine and later with a hand-method lasting machine.
Other lasting machines for use in making different types of shoes were invented at this time and the patents came to be owned by the Consolidated & McKay Lasting Machine Company. Through Winslow’s initiative, three companies came together: the Eppler, Goodyear and two McKay companies and their subsidiaries, and were consolidated in 1899 as the United Shoe Machinery Company. The successful formula for their ongoing endeavors included leasing, not selling, machinery, providing excellent equipment and service, and requiring the purchase of manufacturing supplies by the equipment leasees. In 1903, the 3-year long construction on 200 acres in Beverly of an immense reinforced concrete, three-building factory complex began (known locally as “The Shoe” and now the Cummings Center commercial complex) backed financially by New York and New England businessmen. This group selected Winslow as the first president of the new company to manufacture a complete line of shoe manufacturing equipment, and he shortly became known, through what became both an industry innovator and a virtual shoe machinery monopoly, as a “New England financial Colossus”.
Winslow had grown up at 15 Dean Street (Dean St. was added onto Flint St.), later razed for the construction of St. James Catholic Church (built 1891-1900). In 1877, he married Georgiana (called Georgie) Buxton of Peabody and they bought the house at 140 Federal Street (built 1794) as their first home. (140 Federal St., today owned and being restored by Michael and Stacia Kraft, was featured on HSI’s 2019 Christmas in Salem tour). The young Winslow couple had four children here, two girls and two boys.
Not quite ten years later in October 1886, Winslow split the Federal St. property into two parcels, selling the Federal St. house and its lot for $5,000 to Mary Ann (Ropes) Bertram, the widow of Capt. John Bertram, (whose own home on Essex Street was gifted to the City of Salem and is now the Salem Public Library), who would use it for rental income. He sold the second parcel running back to the newly extended Bridge Street to John Redmond for $1,000. In line with Winslow’s increasing business success, he and his family would go on to live in a large art-filled mansion on a Beverly estate on upper Cabot Street that remains today as the Winslow Building at Shore Country Day School.
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