The End of an Era

A page from one of Abdiel Kent’s account books with a listing for Curtis Mower, one of his employees.

When Kent first opened his shop he was selling his shoes not only in Calais, but also in Montpelier. But local artisans began facing increased competition in the 1830s when cheaper imports from southern New England became available. Prices dropped in the 1840s as shoe making became more mechanized, allowing mass production. Many small shops went out of business because they couldn’t compete with the lower prices or offer the variety of styles. Abdiel Kent adapted by closing his shoe shop and expanding his general store.
Rural communities formerly crowded with shops, mills, and stables changed as population loss accelerated by the 1850s. Sons and daughters who couldn’t afford farms moved west where land was cheaper, or into Vermont’s growing urban centers where work was available.Interior of shoe shop with workers from the mid-nineteenth century.

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