Albert Kraker's Spoons
Albert Kraker (Krake) emigrated to Graafschap, Michigan in 1873. In the fall of 1881, he walked from Graafschap to Allendale, bought a farm, and walked home—all in one day. This was a round–trip distance of approximately 50 miles.
In the winter of 1875–76, Albert Kraker worked for four months making wooden shoes. During this time, he made over $400. At the same time, he was paying $2 a week for room and board—and he also paid that amount for his brother Lambert and sister–in–law, Aleida Wiefering.
To make wooden shoes, Albert needed specialized tools called “spoons” or drill knives to hollow out the inside of the shoe. This part of the process is critical for a well–fitting shoe, and also because one small mistake could mean that the wood splits or the spoon digs through the wood completely.
A five–minute video showing how wooden shoes are made. After two minutes, the shoemaker begins to use spoons to carve out the inside of the shoe. Working 12 to 14 hours a day, a shoemaker could make up to three pairs of wooden shoes per day.
In spring, 1876, Albert married Hermina Knoper in the parsonage of the Graafschap church. Their first home was southeast of Graafschap, where Albert built a barn. According to Allendale Township: 150 Years, 1848–1998 (page 204), Albert paid for the barn by making wooden shoes.
In a letter dated February 25, 1880, to his sister in Grafschaft Bentheim, Albert writes about this:
“I did not make wooden shoes this winter. I wore myself out working on the barn. We built a new barn, 24′ wide by 48′ long…. I contracted out the barn–building for $40. On top of it, I will have to buy wooden shingles, nails, and other hardware and some boards, so you see that I can use some money….
“Will you tell Father he should send me some tools for wooden shoe making along with Albert Genzink from Achterhorn. Two small spoons and one middle [medium] spoon from Hannebrook. I broke some last winter, and at present have none in reserve. When the days get longer, I can make $1.50 daily with wooden shoe making. Let Father supply me with those tools because if I break some, I will have a great loss.”
If Albert Kraker worked 12–14 hours a day making wooden shoes during the winter, and he made three pairs a day, he was charging 50 cents a pair.
Albert Kraker’s spoons can be seen in the Knowlton House Museum in Allendale.
[Note: Albert Genzink emigrated in 1875. Perhaps he returned to Grafschaft Bentheim for a visit, or there was an error made when the letter was translated.]
Albert Kraker’s spoons used for carving wooden shoes.
Close–up view of the “spoon” part of a drill knife.
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Thanks for putting this article together, Heather!