From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

African American Shoe Makers, Repairers, Shiners - Frankfort, KY [B. F. Spencer] [B. F. Sayre]

(born: 1880  -  died: 1952) 

Frankfort, KY, had two shoe care business owners of note from the late 1880s to the mid-1900s. The first was probably one of the longest African American-owned shoemaking and repair shops in Frankfort and in the state of Kentucky, it was started by Benjamin Franklin Spencer, Sr. He was a native of Kentucky, born around 1854 in Scott County, the son of Caroline and Frank Spencer. He is often referred to as B. F. Spencer, Sr. in written sources. 

Benjamin F. Spencer is first listed as a shoemaker in the 1880 Census, though he was not the only one at that time (see table below). According to the 1900 Census, B. F. Spencer, Sr. owned his own business, was married to Sue Thompson Spencer, and the couple had at least six children. In 1910, he was the only African American shoemaker and repairer listed in the business section of Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort for 1910-11-12, p303. Spencer's shop was located at 102 W. Broadway.

Also in 1910, the city's second longest African American-owned shoemaking and repairer business was in operation, the owner was Benjamin F. Sayre, Jr. [source: 1910 U.S. Federal Census]. Benjamin F. Sayre, Jr. was listed as a shoemaker and repairer at 324 Ann Street on p.325 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort for 1912-13-14. Sayre, a native of Kentucky, was born around 1868 and he is listed as a mulatto in the 1910 Census. He was the son of Benjamin F. Sr. and Maria Sayre [source: Kentucky Certificate of Death File No.12150, Registrar's No.109]. His wife was Julia Hockersmith Sayre and the couple lived on Main Street in Frankfort. Their shoe shop is listed in the 1924 city directory along with B. F. Spencer, and Henry Clelland. 

These were the three prominent African American  men in the shoe making and shoe care business in Frankfort, KY. Benjamin F. Sayre Jr.'s shop was located at 316 Elks Place; Benjamin F. Spencer and Son, the new business name since 1921, was located at 104 W. Broadway; and Henry Clelland did business on Versailles Pike [source: p.321 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1924-1925-1926].

In addition, the sons, Benjamin F. Spencer Jr. and Louis H. Spencer, were in business with their father B. F. Spencer Sr. Louis Spencer died in 1925 [source: Find A Grave]. Benjamin F. Spencer, Jr. became a porter at the state capitol, and his son Bennie E. Spencer, became an apprentice in the shoe shop with B. F. Spencer, Sr. [source: 1930 U.S. Census].

In 1928, Henry Clelland was no longer listed as a shoe repairer, he was a stonemason [1930 U.S. Census]. With Clelland's exit from the shoe business, B. F. Sayre and B. F. Spencer, Sr. remained and were joined by African American shoe shiner Anthony Haynes whose business was on Main Street in Frankfort [source: p.322 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1928-1929-1930]. All three businesses were listed in the 1932 city directory, but not the men's race; race was not indicated for persons or businesses in this particular directory [source: p.332 in Caron's Frankfort, KY. City Directory for 1932-1933].

In 1934, Benjamin F. Spencer, Sr. died [source: FamilySearch], his wife Sue had died in 1931 [source: Find A Grave]. Benjamin F. Spencer's name remained with the shoe business and his son Benjamin F. Spencer, Jr. became the new owner. A few years later, B. F. Spencer, Jr.'s son, Bennie E. Spencer, left the shoe business and left Kentucky between 1936 and 1940; he and his wife and son moved to Detroit, MI [source: 1940 U.S. Census].

Also around 1936, Anthony Haynes had given up his shoe shine business in Frankfort and moved to Cleveland, OH, where he worked as an elevator operator in a department store [source: Ohio Death Index]. Meanwhile, back in Kentucky, by 1940 there were several African American shoe shiners in Frankfort, KY, according to the U.S. Census (see table below); however, these men were not listed in the business section of the city directory.

In 1942, the Frankfort city directory noted race again, and B. F. Sayre, B. F. Spencer, Jr. and son, and William H. Clelland were the three African American men noted as being in the shoe repair business [source: p.317 in Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1942]. Bennie E. Spencer and his family had returned to Kentucky by 1942, and Bennie was in the shoe business with his father Benjamin F. Spencer, Jr. [source: p.202 in Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1942]. William H. Clelland was a new listing, he was the son of former shoe repairer Henry Clelland [source: 1910 U.S. Census]. William Clelland's business was located on Versailles Pike, the same location as his father's business in 1924.

Notations were not always consistent in the city directory; in 1942, Benjamin F. Sayre's business was not noted with the letter "c" for colored. His shop had moved to 216 Lewis Street which was mistakenly printed as "316 Lewis" in the city directory. Three years later, the African American business owners were Benjamin F. Spencer, Jr., William H. Clelland, and the Benjamin F. Sayre Estate [source: p.278 in Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1945-46]. Benjamin F. Sayre had died in 1945 [source: Kentucky Certificate of Death File No.12150, Registrar's No.109]. 

In 1948, once again, race was not indicated for individuals or businesses. The Benjamin F. Spencer and Son shoe repair business was still in place at 104 W. Broadway; the William H. Clelland shoe repair business was still on Versailles Pike; and the Benjamin F. Sayre business was owned and managed by his son Junius H. Sayre at 216 Lewis Street [source: p.25 in Polk's Frankfort Classified Business Directory, 1948-49 that is within Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1948-49].

Benjamin F. Spencer, Jr. died in 1950 and his son Bennie continued to manage the shoe store [source: p.210 in Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1951-52]. The competitor, Junius H. Sayre, was in ill health and he was not able to maintain his business but a few years befoe closing the doors; he died April 8, 1953 [source: Kentucky Certificate of Death File No.116-53 7342, Registrar's No.75]. The Benjamin F. Sayre shoe business had been in operation for about 40 years, 1910-1950. By 1952, the only African American-owned shoe business listed in the business section of the city directory was Benjamin F. Spencer and Son [p.368 in Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1951-52], the shop was managed by Bennie E. Spencer who died in 1952 [source: FamilySearch].

It was the end of era. Benjamin F. Spencer, Sr. had started making shoes as early as 1880 and the family had kept the shoe business on W. Broadway open for about 42 years, 1910-1952. No African American-owned shoe business was noted in the city directory after 1952. 

*This entry does not include the names of shoemakers in the Kentucky State Penitentiary between 1890-1920.

  See photo image of Sue and Benjamin F. Spencer Sr. Part of Spencer Family Papers at UK Special Collections Research Center.

  See photo image of Benjamin F. Spencer, Jr. Part of Spencer Family Papers at UK Special Collections Research Center. 

  See photo image of Bennie Edgar Spencer. Part of Spencer Family Papers at UK Special Collections Research Center.

NAME BUSINESS LOCATION YEAR SOURCES NOTES
Ewing Atkins Shoe Shiner Anthony S. Haynes Shop 1928 p.47 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1928-1929-1930  
William Burk (b.1905) Shoe Shiner Frankfort 1940 U.S. Census  
William Burley (b.1907) Shoe Shiner Frankfort 1940 U.S. Census  
Harding Clay (b.1921) Shoe Shiner Frankfort 1940 U.S. Census  
Baker Clark (b.1828) Shoemaker Wilkerson Street 1880 U.S. Census  
Henry Clelland (1880-1963) Shoe Repairer Versailles Pike 1917 p.326 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1917-1918-1919 Find A Grave
William H. Clelland (1908-2002) Shoe Repairer Versailles Pike 1942 p.317 in Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1942 Find A Grave
Harrison Coleman (1906-1953) Shoe Shiner 117 Logan Street 1924 p.73 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1924-1925-1926 Find A Grave
James Franklin (b.1862) Shoemaker Kentucky Penitentiary 1880 U.S. Census  
Augusta Garrett (1905-1962) Shoe Shiner Capitol Shoe Shine Parlor 1921 p.100 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1921-1922-1923 Find A Grave
Robert E. Grant (1910-1941) Shoe Shiner Capitol Shoe Shine Parlor 1928 p.111 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1928-1929-1930  
Robert E. Grant (1910-1941) Shoe Shiner Frankfort 1940 U.S. Census / Kentucky Death Certificate, State File #26162, Registrar's #941 Find A Grave
Anthony S. Haynes (1904-1994) Shoe Shiner 221 Murray Street 1928 p.122 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1928-1929-1930 FamilySearch
James Miller (b.1908) Shoe Shiner Frankfort 1940 U.S. Census  
Charles T. Morton (1891-1967) Shoemaker B. F. Sayer Jr. Shop 1921 p.166 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1921-1922-1923 Find A Grave
Henry Rodman (b.1851) Shoemaker Clinton Street 1880 U.S. Census  
William Saunders Jr. (b.1901) Shoe Shiner Capitol Shoe Shine Parlor 1921 p.197 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1921-1922-1923  
Benjamin F. Sayre, Jr. (1868-1945) Shoemaker and Repairer Frankfort, KY 1910 U.S. Census  

Benjamin F. Sayre, Jr. (1868-1945)

Shoemaker and Repairer 324 Ann Street 1912 p.325 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1912-13-14  
Benjamin F. Sayre Estate (1868-1945) Shoe Repairer 216 Lewis Street 1945 p.278 in Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1945-46 FamilySearch
Junius H. Sayre (1892-1953) Shoe Repairer 216 Lewis Street 1948 p.25 in Polk's Frankfort Classified Business Directory, 1948-49 FamilySearch
Harry H. Speaker II Shoe Repairer B. F. Spencer & Son Shop 1924 p.206 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1924-1925-1926  
Benjamin F. Spencer, Sr. (1854-1934) Shoemaker and Repairer Frankfort, KY 1880 U.S. Census  
Benjamin F. Spencer, Sr. (1854-1934) Shoemaker and Repairer 102 W. Broadway 1910 p.303 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1910-1911-1912  

Benjamin F. Spencer and Son

B. F. Spencer, Sr. (1854-1934)

B. F. Spencer, Jr. (1887-1950)

Louis  H. Spencer (1886-1925)

Shoemaker and Repairer 104 W. Broadway 1921 p.323 in Caron's Directory of the City of Frankfort, Ky. for 1921-1922-1923

L. H. Spencer-FamilySearch



B. F. Spencer, Sr.-FamilySearch

Benjamin F. Spencer and Son

Benjamin F. Spencer, Jr. (1887-1950)

Bennie E. Spencer (1914-1952)

Shoe Repairer 104 W. Broadway 1942

p.202 in Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1942



1940 Census

B. F. Spencer Jr.-FamilySearch 

Benjamin F. Spencer and Son

Bennie E. Spencer (1914-1952)

Shoe Repairer 104 W. Broadway 1952

p.368 in Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1951-52

B. E. Spencer-FamilySearch

John Stanley (b.1840)

Shoemaker Kentucky Penitentiary 1880 U.S. Census  

Underwood Taylor (1901-1967)

Shoemaker Frankfort 1920 U.S. Census Find A Grave

Underwood Taylor (1901-1967)

Shoemaker Frankfort 1942 p.209 in Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, KY.) City Directory, 1942  

Henry Thompson (b.1848)

Shoemaker Kentucky Penitentiary 1880 U.S. Census  

Chandler Wood (b.1851)

Shoemaker Kentucky Penitentiary  1880 U.S. Census  



* See also NKAA entry African American Shoemakers in Kentucky Prisons (A Leading U.S. Industry)

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Franklin County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Scott County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Frankfort, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

References

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: African American Shoemakers in Kentucky Prisons (A Leading U.S. Industry)
NKAA Source: Caron's directory of the city of Frankfort...
NKAA Source: Caron's directory of the city of Frankfort...
NKAA Source: Caron's directory of the city of Frankfort, Ky. for ...
NKAA Source: Caron's Frankfort, KY. city directory for 1932-1933
NKAA Source: Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, Ky.) city directory
NKAA Source: Polk's Frankfort (Franklin County, Ky.) city directory

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  African American Shoe Makers in Kentucky [not Lexington]

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“African AmericanShoe Makers, Repairers, Shiners - Frankfort, KY [B. F. Spencer] [B. F. Sayre],” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed September 20, 2017, http://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/3112.

Last modified: 2017-09-01 08:55:34