Jan Ernst Matzeliger (1852-1889), was born in Paramaribo, Surinam, formerly known as Dutch Guiana in South America. As a young child, he was good at repairing complex machines and often went to work with his father, an engineer. At the age of 19, he left his home to explore the world, settling in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
One of his first jobs was making shoes. Speaking little English, Matzeliger had a hard time finding work, but eventually worked as an apprentice in a shoe factory in Lynn, Massachusetts. He operated a sole-sewing machine which attached different parts of a shoe together. However, there were no machines that could put the upper part of a shoe to the sole and as a result, the job had to be done by hand. The people who sewed the parts of the shoe together, "hand lasters, " could produce about 50 pairs in 10 hours. Matzeliger invented a machine that could produce 700 shoes a day, the auto shoe lasting machine!