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Hi there!

Welcome to the third update of our June campaign. I’m sure you’re dying for some information about your Beckett Simonon products. Let me give you some updates first!

As you read this, your shoes are being lasted, and we’re also stitching the soles to the uppers. And you know what? I have a fascinating story to tell you about this. Have you ever heard about the McKay machine? Does the name Gordon McKay ring a bell?

We use a McKay machine to attach the soles of our shoes. It is a critical process. I will tell you about how this machine revolutionized shoemaking!

Shoes during the Civil War

McKay Shoe-Sewing Machine, 1884. From the New York Public Library 

To understand the power of the McKay machine, we will have to go back to the United States, at the end of the 19th century. When the Civil War started, shoes became scarce as many shoemakers went as volunteers to war.

Also, the government was in much need of shoes and boots for the soldiers. The ones they could buy were very poorly made by suspicious contractors and would fall apart.

Other soldiers simply went to war with bandages on their feet. Not a very practical thing to win a war!

The few shoemakers who didn’t go to war went through the process of pegging small wood pegs to attach soles to uppers. This took quite a while, and still, shoes wouldn’t be too resistant. What to do?

Fortunately, a cobbler named Lyman Blake invented a machine to stitch soles in 1858.

Colonel Gordon Mckay, an astute businessman from Massachusetts, decided to purchase Blake’s patent. He definitely foresaw the future of shoemaking!

As you can infer, the machine was named after its supporter, Gordon McKay. But its system is also known as Blake stitching, after his original inventor.

By 1862, McKay had improved the model for making the oh-so-needed shoes for war. He had already started a massive company out of his appliance.

After supplying the military with shoes during the war, he had another bright idea. Since selling the machine upfront was hard, he started leasing it. He would also get revenue from every pair of shoes made.

It was the first time this leasing model was applied to the industry, and it is still in practice today. The McKay machine became a handy tool for shoemakers, customers and for Colonel McKay himself.

For shoemakers, this meant a more reliable method of stitching. For customers, this meant a higher quality product. And for McKay?

Well, a considerable sum of money! By 1876 he was getting a total of 500.000 dollars per year, which is about 10 million dollars in our currency. Not bad, uh?

As you can see, McKay really revolutionized shoemaking with his invention. But his legacy didn’t end there. Gordon McKay, a neighbor of Harvard University, became friends with an eminent geologist from the institution.

Thanks to this friendship, McKay got interested in the university. McKay himself was a self-taught entrepreneur and never went to Harvard. But when he passed away, he decided to leave part of his fortune to the university.

If you ever visit Harvard’s campus, you will see a building and laboratory from the Applied Sciences department named after him.

There are also several fellowships in McKay’s name that remind us how Harvard also cares about shoes.

Why the McKay machine and the Blake stitching method?

As we mentioned before, in our studio we use the McKay machine to stitch our soles.

Actually, when the artisans are using the McKay they say they’re “maquiando”, so they have adapted the name to Spanish :)

So why use the McKay instead of other methods? For us, this construction works pretty well.

It provides a sturdy shoe, built to last. Still, your shoes will be comfortable from day one and they will have a sleeker look. Additionally, your shoes will be easy to resole.

A thing is formed by the sum of its components, and we know how to use the proper materials and steps to have great shoes constructed with the McKay machine.


I hope this information has been useful! Please make sure all of your contact information is up-to-date before we start shipping in September.

To update your info, don’t hesitate to send an email to, use the live chat on our website, or call us at 1-844-423-2538 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5:30pm EST).

That’s it for now. Remember I am here to answer all of your questions. If you think someone you know might be interested in these updates, don’t forget to share them!

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