Photograph: Cabinet Card
Shoe Factory, Assembly Floor. c1885.
When I found this image, it was in even worse shape. Lots of gentle cleaning and the image came up to snuff. This is one of those great 'spur of the moment' images that contains a wealth of information. If you know about 19th Century shoe factories. Which I don't. What catches my attention are the tools in use by the group in the forefront. Burners, usually associated with plumbers, are in use to warm up what look like burnishers. The fellow in the left front foreground seems to be using a short shave to trim a shoe piece. Look at how he is using it - as a scraper, not a shave. I'm sure that anyone who knows of the shoe industry of this period could add a lot to my sparse review. In addition to the image, there is a PDF for Hi Res enjoyment
Update: I did some research and turned up the answer to just what these guys are up to. The shoe industry, by F. J. Allen, 1916:
"Finishing: Ironing: When the surface of the upper has been fully restored the shoe is ironed upon the tree to give it perfect and permanent form. Rubbing all over with the warm or hot iron is a very important and careful process, and is regularly done by men."