tofore has been the scarcity of upper leather. This difficulty I have obviated by procuring, after great labor and many disappointments, a splitting machine by which any kind of leather can be rapidly and economically converted into upper leather, and, in case of thick leather, two sides can be made out of one. This machine, in connection with the labor of five men, will supply upper leather sufficient to make 500 pairs shoes per day. Indeed, no part of this shoe factory is more deserving of consideration than this, as without it I should find it simply impossible to keep the establishment supplied with upper leather, and, in addition, I find it a great economy. The sole leather to be used in making shoes is first cut into strips the width of which is the exact length of the shoe sole; these strips are cut in a machine called the "stripper," where a long knife severs the leather at one blow. This strips are then passed to the rolling machine, where they are passed through strong rollers, which compresses the leather and saves the labor of hammering out the leather on the last.
After being rolled, the strips of leather are passed to another machine,called the sole-cutter, a small machine worked by one man, which will easily cut 900 pairs soles per day, and that also at a great saving of leather when compared with the old plan of cutting by hand. The soles are all cut the exact size needed, and are paired off ready for issue to the shoemakers.
The uppers are cut by hand, but are closed or sewed by sewing-machines, which also saves the employment of a number of hands, and hence assists to reduce the cost of the shoe. The soles and uppers are then issued to the shoemakers to put together and finish.
This factory with its machinery can employ 100 shoemakers, in addition to the leather finishers and men attending the machines. At present I have only 33 shoemakers, and the machines are not kept at work more than one-third the time.
I find great difficulty in doing efficient work with the class of men detailed to me from the army. Under the orders of the Secretary of War, only such men can be detailed who are unfit for field duty, and, in their anxiety to be detached, many represent themselves as shoemakers who are really only cobblers, and thus much valuable and scarce material is wasted.
I take great interest in this shoe factory, and know that valuable service can be rendered by it to the Government if once filled with competent mechanics.
If the President will issue a special order allowing me to have detailed from the Army of Tennessee 60 shoemakers and 2 leather finishers, such as may select without regard to their physical condition, I will pledge myself to make 500 pairs shoes per day at less cost and of equal quality with any produced in the Confederacy.
As you have seen the establishment, may I ask, colonel, that you lay this matter before the President at such time as you deem fit. I am anxious to serve the Government to the best of my ability in whatever position it deems best to place me, and feel assured that I am acting to the best of my ability in the present instance, and ask the above solely from a sense of duty.
I omitted to remark above that in the shoe factory I employ only 1 man as superintendent, 1 as clerk, and 1 as inspector, in addition to the mechanics.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. W. CUNNINGHAM.
Major and Quartermaster.