Seven months after the American Civil War started Horace Greeley of the New York Herald proclaimed: “Everything the finger of war touches is revolutionized.”
One of the ways the Civil War affected civilian life was the manufacturing of clothing. When the Federal call for volunteers brought forth 75,000 men, the U.S. War Department realized they could only outfit 13,000 soldiers. Manufacturing was transformed within months. The production of woolen uniforms literally exploded. In Massachusetts, stockholders put 2.5 million dollars into constructing buildings and building machinery to enter the field of mass produced clothing.
Shoe construction also was changed as a result of the call to outfit so many soldiers with shoes. In 1860 shoes were made by skilled cobblers who handcrafted three pairs of shoes per day. The shoe industry was forced to abandon this standard. Large buildings with lofts and abandoned cotton mills were transformed into shoe factories, equipped with power stitching machines, invented by Lyman R. Blake in 1858. The machine had seen little use, though, before war broke out.
Blake’s invention was mass produced by Gordon McKay. Before long each worker turned out more than six or more pair of shoes a day.
According to Harper’s History of the Civil War “The bombardment of Fort Sumter touched off a revolution that affected every aspect of life in America.”
Source: More Civil War Curiosities by Webb Garrison