Matzelinger was a Black inventor who was born in Guyana to a Dutch Engineer and an enslaved woman from Surinam. As a child, he had an interest in mechanics and when he moved to Massachusetts, he finally had a chance to indulge his interest. In the 19th century, people often had difficult attaching the sole of the shoe to the shoe itself. It took skilled craftsmen and many hours to perfect this process. The average shoemaker who specialized in attaching the soles to the shoe could create 70 shoes a day. Matzelinger saw the need for improved manufacturing of shoes. When he started working at Harney Brother’s shoe factory, he developed a mechanical sole attacher. He was able to manufacture up to 700 pairs of shoes a day.
His machine not only increased the output of shoes, but it brought the price of shoes down so that the average person could afford to purchase multiple pairs of shoes.
Unfortunately, Matzelinger was frequently sick and after developing, what started as a minor cold, he developed tuberculosis and died at the age of 37. He is a Black man who came up with an invention that altered the way people lived at that time.