The last is the starting point of every shoe design. It's a solid mold that dictates the shape and volume of the shoe along with key attributes such as toe shape, instep height and heel shape. The last sets the size and unique shape of the shoe to determine how that shoe will fit and feel. Matzeliger’s invention of the shoe lasting system made it possible to mass produce shoes, making them more affordable and accessible to consumers.
Born in 1852 in Paramaribo, Suriname, South America, Jan Ernst Matzeliger was the son of a Dutch German man and enslaved woman, according to an article on biography.com. At a very young age, Matzeliger took an interest in machine shops supervised by his father, specifically Colonial Shipworks where he apprenticed and took an interest in mechanics and machinery. At the age of 19, Matzeliger decided to venture out of his home and travel to the United States. Landing in Pennsylvania, he spent six years learning the English language and studying the shoe trade. He then pursued his interest in Lynn, Massachusetts where he began working at the Harney Brother shoe factory.