History Nebraska Blog

William G Marshall - Deaf Shoe Maker

William G. Marshall (standing, third from left) arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1879 to set up one of Lincoln’s earliest shoemaking shops. He was born on November 1, 1854 in New York, NY to George B. and Olive (Berg) Marshall. He, like both his parents, was born deaf. He attended the Illinois School for the Deaf in Jacksonville, Illinois from 1863-1869. While living in Union, Iowa, he married Julia Ann McCoy on October 26, 1875. Their three daughters Rebecca, Julia Starr, and Maude Diamond were also born deaf like their father and grandparents.

William’s father George (possibly the older man seated second from left) joined him in the shoemaking trade in Lincoln by the 1880 U.S. census. The Lincoln Journal Star called William an “artist in the profession” and said that there was “no more honorable gentleman in the land deserving of your patronage.” Sadly, William died at the young age of 29 on August 4, 1884 of an obstructed bowl.

William G Marshall

This photograph was taken shortly after he opened his shoemaking shop in 1879 by early Lincoln photographer Ephraim Clements. The photo was likely taken in Clements’ studio on S. 11th Street where a skylight would have provided proper lighting for the photograph. Marshall and his worker likely transported the tools of their trade including bundles of leather, a sewing machine, and samples of boots.

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