Each week, we’ll take a closer look at the historic stories and scenes depicted in Richard Gibney’s mural, “Stoneham, Yesterday and Today.”
The first vignette depicts a cordwainer, also known as a shoemaker, making shoes from new leather in his “ten-footer” shoe shop. The shoemaker is dressed in a heavy apron, using tools at his bench, surrounded by boots and shoes. With him in his shop is presumably a family – a man, a woman, and a young boy – dressed in typical colonial garb, waiting for their shoes. The woman is looking down at the boy, who appears to beckon her into the next vignette of the mural.
While artist Richard Gibney uses trees to separate the other scenes of the mural, Gibney uses the young boy to bridge the indoor scene with the outdoor scene and beckon viewers to continue along the mural.
The first European settlers came to Stoneham around 1670, and the town was incorporated in 1725. This mural depicts scenes of Stoneham after the town was incorporated by settlers.
Those first settlers were primarily farmers and itinerant shoemakers, who traveled around making shoes for settlers with the tools they carried. Eventually, the farmers learned to make their own shoes with the hides from their cattle and tan their own leather. Shoemaking eventually grew into the main industry that was associated with the town until the 1920s.