Horseshoers: Farriers and Blacksmiths of Michigan, 1880-1919
What do you call a person who shoes horses?
If you thought “blacksmith”…you’re wrong...sort of.
The correct term is “farrier”. It’s understandable why there’s misidentification, since so many blacksmiths used to shoe horses…even though most of them did not.
According to American Equus, during the Civil War there was a demand for farriers to shoe horses for the Union army. The northern armies had acquired a horseshoe producing machine; horses with hoofwear performed better, and proved to give the north an advantage over the many shoeless horses of the southern armies.
In the mid-to-late 1800s, a good number of blacksmiths and farriers teamed up and began opening their own shops. According to History of Blacksmiths and Farriers, “There were no trade guilds in the frontier to regulate tradesmen and their apprentices...to shoe horses, blacksmiths or farriers needed an iron stand to support the horse’s foot while preparing the horses hooves for shoes. They also used a special hammer and nails to fasten the shoes to the horse.”
Blacksmiths spent less time on shoeing than other tasks; approximately one quarter of their work was shoeing; the rest was repairing tools and farming equipment – and making new tools.
The earliest forms of horseshoes can be found as early as 400 BC. Made from plants, rawhide and leather straps. They were invented to combat the damage done to the hooves due to the daily harsh conditions. A large variety of materials have been used since then, in the search for the perfect horseshoe. The majority are now made of aluminum or steel.
The gallery below shows some old Michigan blacksmiths, who dabbled in horseshoeing…
Michigan Horseshoers: 1880-1919