The piece of January is a group of eight manuals from the late 1930s to the early 1970s, most of them written by the British subsidiary of the United Shoe Machinery Company (Massachusetts, 1899). They provide information on the operation of the machines manufactured by the company. The manuals used to belong to the former mechanic Antonio Mateu Coll (1942-1999), known as “Toni from the United” and were donated to the Museum by his son Pedro Mateu Torres.
Machine repair is a task that people tend to forget when they think of the footwear ancillary industries. Despite not being part of any shoe production stage in particular, the truth is that footwear could not have been produced without the maintenance and repair of machines. In fact, machine breakdowns would incredibly slow down or even interrupt the production chain, so factories would try to keep faulty machines partially running and repair them during breaks. This task required many specialists with great technical and mechanical skills that they mainly learned through experience and catalogues, as back then there was no mechanics training available on Majorca.
These manuals or catalogues look very similar, but they bear different titles: “List of parts and instructions”, “Parts catalogue” or “Catalogue of Replacement Parts”. Besides the title, the cover also features the name of the machine described therein (sometimes with a sticker with the Spanish translation), the year and month of publication and the name and address of the company. The first page features a picture of the machine, followed by drawings of the parts and corresponding reference numbers. The mechanics would consult the manuals in case of doubt regarding the operation or some of the parts. Also, everything had to be ordered from England, since neither the parts nor the repair tools were universal.
According to the records available on shoe production, machine repair was always carried out by men. Large factories used to have their in-house mechanics, although they also occasionally required the services of the mechanics working for the companies that manufactured and/or distributed the machines, such as the global firm USMC or the local business Curtidos Fluxá (1963-2000).