Ferragamo was now a successful small businessman even before he reached his teens, employing six people in his shop. He was still not satisfied. In 1914, he joined the wave of emigration from Italy to the United States.
One of his older brothers, Alfonso, had written glowing reports of his life in America. He was working in Boston for one among the biggest shoe factories within the country. Salvatore’s high expectations were dashed, however, upon his arrival. He later wrote that American shoes were “heavy, clumsy, and brutal.A factory was no place for a craftsman.
He moved to the West Coast, where additional siblings had settled. He came to Santa Barbara where an older brother, Giralamo (Jerome), was working in a tailoring shop. Salvatore and Girolamo were soon joined by their eldest brother, Secondino.
Girolamo secured a position as a suit presser for the Flying A Studio, one in all the most important movie-making concerns in the country. He knew that the studio’s demand for shoes and boots was immense and saw a chance for his brothers. He arranged a tour and, soon after, Salvatore and Secondino opened Ferragamo Bros. at 1033 State Street. Another brother, Eliodoro, arrived from Italy in 1917.
It was a tiny shop, however the business flourished. The brothers received many orders from the studio, as well as general repair work and even some custom manufacturing orders. The Ferragamos ended up buying a home at 719 California Street, up near St. Francis Hospital in 1919.
Salvatore undertook a rigorous education program to higher himself. He enrolled in night school to improve his English. He drove to USC to take evening classes in anatomy. He took correspondence courses in chemical engineering and math all to present him the skills and knowledge needed to make fine, custom footwear.
Ferragamo with the shoe lasts of the stars in 1955
The closure of the Flying A Studio within the summer of 1920 forced Ferragamo Bros. to re-emphasize shoe repair at the expense of manufacture. Dissatisfied, Salvatore once again decided to maneuver on. In the spring of 1923, the family opened a shop in Hollywood. Salvatore Ferragamo’s career as “shoemaker to the starswas about to start in earnest.
Michael Redmon, director of research on the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, will answer your questions on Santa Barbara’s history. Write him c/o The Santa Barbara Independent, 12 East Figueroa Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101.