1920s Wandering Shoemaker
I liked this photo as soon as I saw it, so I bought it without any story in mind. Let's see what we can find out about it.
When: No help from the back in this case:
It was printed by a commercial photographer, but there isn't any stamp box to show us which manufacturer's paper they used. There is a clue from the shape of the photo though. We've seen this format, short & wide, in other photos that came from the 1920s . Not a lot to go on but I'll guess the 1920s as its date.
Who: The photo was sold with the text "Shoemaker" written on the front. Here he is:
What: If you look between his feet, you'll see one of the main tools of his trade, the shoemaker's "last", a roughly foot-shaped piece of metal that he uses when making and repairing shoes:
A shoemaker is also known as a cobbler, which leads us to the old saying:
"Let the cobbler stick to his last"
It's used to tell someone not to give advice about things they don't understand, and is based on an even older, Latin saying:
"Sutor, ne ultra crepidam" 
Shoemakers pop up in other sayings too, such as:
"Him that makes shoes go barefoot himself" 
If you look at the photo of the last again, you'll see that it certainly applies here.
The idea behind the saying is that people often fail to receive the benefits of their own expertise. It applies to their family too, giving us the more common saying:
"The shoemaker's children always go barefoot"
This isn't quite so old as the Latin one above, but it was already in use by 1546 , so it's old enough!
There's a child in this photo:
They're out of focus though, so it is difficult to see if they're wearing shoes or not. In any case, I doubt they're related to the shoemaker. The child looks as though he lives locally, with his stool and table. But the shoemaker is just visiting, as we can see from his equipment:
He uses the shoulder pole to carry everything he needs, setting up shop wherever there is business. He'll carry his tool cabinet on one end of the pole:
And balance it with a basket full of leather on the other:
I wonder when this type of traveling craftsman disappeared from Hong Kong's streets? I asked my wife, who remembers growing up in Sham Shui Po in the 1960s and 70s. She says at that time people like this already had permanent stalls to work from. There were still lots of hawkers on the streets, but mainly selling snacks and other foodstuffs.
Do any of our older readers remember seeing wandering shoemakers like these?
Gwulo photo ID: EC014
Also on Gwulo.com this week...
We've finished transcribing the 1923 Jurors List, and it is now available to view online. If you can spare 30 minutes, please could you help us by typing a page of the 1924 list?
New posts, pictures & comments:
Answers to previous weeks' questions: