Originally, the making of boots and shoes was a craft requiring great skill and training. Like blacksmiths shoemakers had to go through an apprentice system. Shoemakers cut and stitched the leather - usually obtained from a tannery, in their shops often their homes or an attached small shed/shop. A basic wooden form, called a last, helped to mould the shoe or boot into the proper shape.
Everyone in town would have known where to find a shoe or boot maker. In 1851, a directory lists around 8 boot/shoe makers in Guelph. In 1867, the number had grown to at least 24. This number of independent boot and shoemakers was to shrink as technology reduced the need for their skills.