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Title: A Short Treatise on Boots and Shoes, Ancient and Modern
Author: Goater, Walter H
Language: English
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  Walter H. Goater.

  Presented by

  J. & J. Slater,

  1185 Broadway,

  N. W. COR. OF 28TH STREET.      New York.

Boots and Shoes, Ancient and Modern.

As far back as we can trace the early history of man, under civilized
conditions of life, we find that shoes of some kind have been worn.

At first they were very crude and simple, being nothing more than
soles fastened to the foot by means of thongs or straps, which passed
between the toes and around the ankle, like Figs. 1, 2, 3. Shoes of
this description were called sandals, and were worn by the ancient
Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.

It has been discovered, by means of paintings on the walls of Thebes,
that shoemaking formed a distinct and quite lucrative trade away back
in the reign of Thothmes III., some fifteen hundred years before
Christ, so that followers of the awl and last can truthfully boast of
the great antiquity of their profession.

The material chiefly employed in the manufacture of shoes, from
the earliest times to the present, has been leather, though stuffs
of various kinds and colors have entered into their composition at
different periods.

The sandals worn by the priests of ancient Egypt were generally made
of palm and papyrus leaves fastened together. Some well-preserved
specimens of these sandals, obtained from tombs, can now be seen at the
British Museum, in London.


_Fig. 1._

_Fig. 2._

_Fig. 3._]

Such were the shoes probably worn by Rhodope, the Cinderella of the
Nile. Rhodope was said to have the loveliest foot in all Egypt. One
day, as she was taking her bath, an eagle stooped from Heaven and
carried off her sandal. She watched him as he soared on high, until he
finally disappeared in the distance.

When, after a time, he let the sandal drop, it fell at the feet of
the King, who was so charmed with its beauty that he commanded that a
search be made immediately for its owner. Rhodope was soon discovered,
and shortly afterwards became the Queen of Egypt.

       *       *       *       *       *

In both ancient Greece and Rome we find that, while it was common
for the women to wear some kind of a foot covering, shoes were not
generally worn by the men or youth, the latter always being taught to
go barefooted. But later on, on ceremonial occasions, the magistrates
began to wear a red shoe, while the soldiers took to a boot reaching
almost to the knee, very elaborate in design, and in a short time the
custom of wearing a covering for the feet was adopted by all classes.
The shoes of the women were always white in color, the senators black,
while the magistrates kept to themselves red.

       *       *       *       *       *


_Fig. 4._

_Fig. 5._ _Fig. 6._ _Fig. 7._

_Fig. 8._]

In eastern countries we find the Japanese wearing a shoe of rice
and straw woven together (Fig. 5). This material is very light and
soon wears out; so, when starting on a journey of any length, it is
customary to take a number of pairs of shoes with one, leaving the old
ones along the roadside as they become unfit for use.

The Japanese, on entering a house, observe the same rule as the Turk on
going into his mosque, always taking off their shoes and leaving them
at the threshold, lest they might soil the door-mats, for which they
have a peculiar and marked respect. The military in Japan wear a kind
of clog, covered with movable metallic plaques (Fig. 4). To this is
attached a sole of wood or plaited straw, which is held on the foot by
means of a roll passing between the toes.

The Chinese, we all know, have, for ages past, religiously devoted
themselves to dwarfing the feet of their women of the higher classes,
so that it is not at all uncommon to find a full-grown woman with a
foot as small as a child’s of four or five with us.

Of late years this barbarous custom has been gradually dying out, and
now one can occasionally come across a woman whose feet have not been
distorted; still, when they are allowed to wear shoes of natural size
and form, they are usually fixed on high, conical soles, like Figure
8, which renders walking very difficult. But the Chinese women are
not expected to walk much, as their lives are passed in seclusion and


_Fig. 9._

_Fig. 10._

_Fig. 11._]

Some of the shoes worn by the ladies are very beautiful, indeed (Figs.
6 & 7), being made of delicate pink and blue satin embroidered with
birds and flowers.

The men generally wear black satin boots with white soles, which they
lay off in summer for shoes made of plaited bamboo, with cork soles.

In India, shoes are worn only by the higher classes, and a few of the
lower castes. This habit of going shoeless seems to render the toes of
the Hindoo almost as lissom as fingers. Sitting at his work, if his
hands are employed he can use his feet to pick up any article he may
require, as the big toe becomes quite prehensile.

Among the Persians we find that in ancient times one of low stature
was generally looked upon with dishonor; hence arose high heels to
repair the deficiency of nature. At first they were worn only by
actors and actresses on the stage, but were afterwards adopted by all
classes, even those whose stature required no additional height blindly
conforming to the prevailing fashion, as many people do at the present

Some of the shoes worn in Eastern countries, at different times, have
been very interesting (Figs. 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14).


_Fig. 12._

_Fig. 13._

_Fig. 14._]

Figure 11 shows a lady’s shoe richly painted with small flowers. In
front is a knob of brilliant color, divided into segments to imitate
the petals of a flower, and at every step the wearer takes she
presses a spring concealed under the sole, which causes the petals
to alternately open and close. One can easily imagine the sensation
such a shoe would cause, seen promenading along any of our prominent
thoroughfares for the first time.

The shoes worn by the wealthy are of the richest description, being
overlaid with gold and silver, and embroidered with precious stones.
Others, like Figure 14, are adorned with inlaid work of pearls or
delicate shells set in gold, closely resembling _cloissonne_ enamel,
while many employ the wings of gorgeous insects in their decoration.

The color of shoes in the East seems to be a matter of importance,
indicating the rank or caste of the wearer, red and yellow being the
favorite shades.

In olden times the Mohammedans were very jealous that none should wear
yellow but themselves, wishing it to be preserved as their distinctive
mark; and there is an old story which tells how some charitable person
gave a Christian beggar an old pair of yellow slippers, and the Sultan
happening to see them had the old man thrown into prison, and despite
his explanations and protestations of innocence would not spare his

       *       *       *       *       *


_Fig. 15._

_Fig. 16._ _Fig. 17._ _Fig. 18._

_Fig. 19._]

Leaving the East, and coming back to Europe, we find that in the early
days of the Church at Rome there lived a pious man named Crispin, and
his brother, who became converted to Christianity, and leaving their
native village traveled into France and Britain.

While on their travels they supported themselves by making shoes, which
they sold to the poor at very low prices.

(There is a legend which says that an angel supplied them with all the
leather, which probably accounts for their moderate charges.) At any
rate, they are said to have done a great deal of good among the poor,
but were finally martyred for their faith, in the third century. Ever
since their memory has been celebrated by the faithful of their craft
with great rejoicing and merriment on the 25th of October, which is
known as St. Crispin’s Day, while he is considered the patron saint of
all shoemakers.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the ninth and tenth centuries, we find the use of wooden shoes,
or _sabots_, very general throughout Europe, princes of all degrees
wearing them. Their reign was of short duration, however, as they were
soon relegated to the poorer classes, by whom they have been worn ever


_Fig. 20._

_Fig. 21._

_Fig. 22._ _Fig. 23._

_Fig. 24._]

One would think, from their clumsy appearance (Fig. 16), that it
must be rather awkward work to walk in them, but the peasants do not
seem to find it so, and even indulge in the “light fantastic” with
considerable grace and freedom of motion.

Their chief objection, however, is the noise they make. Having lived
for some time in the close vicinity of a public school in Brittany,
where some one or two hundred children were in daily attendance,
wearing these wooden sabots, I have a very distinct recollection of
the din and clatter these little ones would make, as they raced each
other down the hill on their release from school. Not many years ago
an attempt was made to introduce wooden shoes into the United States,
but it met with so little success that its projectors were forced to
abandon the scheme.

       *       *       *       *       *

In Venice we find that the custom in olden times was to have the shoes
of the women mounted very high, so as to make walking as difficult as
possible. By this means jealous husbands thought they would be able to
keep their wives at home; but the plan did not succeed very well, I

Figs. 17 and 18 show the Venetian shoes of this period, the sixteenth
century. The first one, of white leather, is cut out in a delicate
lace-work pattern, furnished with a broad sole, and would have been
comfortable enough, were it not for its high support.


_Fig. 25._

_Fig. 26._

_Fig. 27._]

These supports, or _chapineys_, as they were called by the Venetians,
were made of wood and covered with leather of different colors. Many
were curiously painted, while the richest were of gilt. The height of
these _chapineys_ was determined by the rank of the wearer, the noblest
ladies often having them one-half yard or more high. Of course no woman
could walk easily, hampered with such appendages, so all that could
at all afford it would have one or two attendants to support them on
either side when they walked abroad; and even thus supported, walking
was extremely difficult.

Finally, the daughters of one of the Doges came to the conclusion that
the fashion was abominable, and they would stand it no longer. It was
not long before their suffering sisters became of the same mind, and
the fashion gradually died out.

When Charles I. first met his future wife at Dover, he seemed surprised
to find her so tall, and, having made some remark to that effect, she
answered him as follows: “Sire, I stand upon my own feet. I have no
help of art. Thus high I am; I am neither higher or lower,” wishing
him to understand, it seems, that her fine stature was not due to
artificial means.

Fig. 15 represents a highly ornamented clog of this period, while
Figure 19 shows another style of Venetian pattern.


_Fig. 28._

_Fig. 29._

_Fig. 30._]

On page 13 we have two shoes from Africa, Figs. 21 and 22. The first,
of yellow leather, is quite simple in design, but the latter is more
elaborate in decoration. Fig. 24 shows an Indian shoe, while Fig. 23 is
a Persian boot, whose pointed front is supposed to have been designed
for the purpose of preventing the wearer from kicking up the dust, so
unpleasant in hot countries.

       *       *       *       *       *

In France the clothing of the foot has always been a subject of special
consideration, and many have been the styles that have emanated from
there. Among the first was the long pointed shoe, called the _poulaine_
(Fig. 25), in England named _crakowes_. (This name, _poulaine_, seems
to indicate that the fashion came from Poland, though the pointed shoe
is supposed to be of Eastern origin.) These shoes grew both in favor
and length, for a number of years, until the _poulaine_ had reached
such proportions that it was necessary to fasten it to the knee by
means of a chain of gold or silver, while in order to keep it in shape
it had to be stuffed with hay, straw, or fine moss. The length of the
_poulaine_ was determined in the same manner as the height of the
_chapineys_, by the rank of the wearer, and it was no uncommon sight
to find a nobleman with his _poulaine_ some twelve inches or more in
extent, while the upper part of his shoes would be cut out to imitate
the windows of a church.


_Fig. 31._

_Fig. 32._

_Fig. 33._]

When the crusading army was before Nicopolis, these _poulaines_
astonished the Turks very much, who probably wondered how fighting was
to be done in them. When it came to decisive action, however, it was
found that the _poulaines_ impeded the movements of the knights so much
that an order was given to cut them off.

There was also made, at this time, in order to avoid trailing the
_poulaines_ in the mud of the narrow streets, a kind of wooden clog
(Fig. 27), with cross-bars edged with iron; this was fastened to the
foot by an embroidered leather strap. By means of this contrivance the
_poulaines_ were kept from contact with the ground.

This fashion flourished for a long time despite the anathemas of the
bishops, who stigmatized them as immoral, and the denunciations of

By an act of Parliament, in 1463 shoemakers were prohibited from
making, for the lower classes, shoes with points more than two inches
long; and afterwards excommunication was pronounced on any person found
wearing them; so they were forced to retire, after a vigorous reign of
almost three centuries.

From the _poulaine_, fashion ran into the opposite extreme, and in the
sixteenth century people wore shoes with square toes as broad, and
sometimes broader, than they were long (Fig. 26). They had no straps,
and were only held on the foot by the narrow piece rising above the
heel. It was shoes of this kind that were worn by Francis I. of France,
and Henry VIII. of England.


_Fig. 34._

_Fig. 35._

_Fig. 36._]

In the latter country they were abolished during the reign of Mary
Tudor. The examples given are believed to be German, and must have
belonged to a person of high rank, from their decoration.

Another early example of a French shoe is Fig. 29. It is of white stuff
ornamented on the instep with a large rosette of silver lace and a long
metal point. The heel is so high that the wearer must have literally
walked on her toes. Another female shoe of interest is from the
wardrobe of Catherine de Medicis, Fig. 28. The shoe, of white leather,
no longer has the toe pointed but is square in shape, covered to the
instep with silk, on which are worked figures in silver lace, giving
to it the appearance of a metal surface. This shoe is peculiar, in
having a sole which connects the toe and heel together in the form of a

Fig. 30 shows a shoe of this period, of delicate workmanship. The toe
has now become quite round, while the leather is slashed to show the
stocking underneath.

Fig. 31 represents an Italian shoe of the seventeenth century; Fig.
33 is another style of the peaked shoe, of the same date. Fig. 32 is
thought to be Flemish in origin, and of the eighteenth century. The
heel and back are not unlike in shape the shoe worn during the Regency
in France, but the peculiar front-piece makes us think that this shoe
could never have been very popular for every-day wear.


_Fig. 37._

_Fig. 38._

_Fig. 39._]

During the Revolution in France, there was quite a mania for classic
styles in shoes, and many ladies in high society adopted the Greek and
Roman sandals, which were fastened on the foot by gay-colored ribbons.
Mme. Tallien once appeared at a ball in such sandals, with her toes
decorated with diamond rings.

Fig. 34 shows the shoe of the unfortunate Duke de Montmorency, a victim
of the relentless animosity of Richelieu. It is of black leather, with
a large red heel, and entirely covered with ornaments; tradition says
it was gathered on the scaffold. Fig. 35 represents a highly ornamented
lady’s shoe of this period, while Fig. 36 is a shoe worn during the
Regency. The heel is very high and not unlike a barber’s wig-stand; the
front, however, is rather graceful in shape.

Figs. 37 and 38 are samples of the curiously carved wooden shoes which
were worn by ladies at the end of the sixteenth century. Fig. 39
represents a black leather shoe of Louis XIV., with red heel; these
were in high favor at court at this time.

       *       *       *       *       *


_Fig. 40._

_Fig. 41._

_Fig. 42._]

The use of boots marks a conquering race. In Germany, during the Middle
Ages, serfs were forbidden to wear them; and this probably explains
why, when they rose for justice, after ages of oppression, they chose
for their standard a great peasant’s shoe. The samples of boots given
are from the time of Louis XIV. and XV. Fig. 40 was called the cauldron
boot; this had a peculiar appendage around the ankle. Fig. 41, the
bellows boot, has an enormous top, so that a man could hardly wear a
pair without straddling. Fig. 42, the postillion’s boot; these were
generally made of very heavy material, so if the postillion, by chance,
should fall from his horse, the wheels of the carriage might pass over
his legs without doing him any injury.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have now followed the various changes that shoes have undergone
from the earliest times to the present, and would bring our remarks to
a close with a notice of some of the shoes of to-day furnished by J.
& J. Slater, which, if not as fantastic in shape as some that we have
treated, cannot be excelled for grace or durability.

Fig. 43 is a Ladies’ Riding Boot, made of morocco and patent-leather.
This style is the only correct one at present, and no riding costume is
complete without them.

Fig. 44 represents Ladies’ Button Boot. The material employed is kid
top, with patent-leather foxing. This makes not only a very stylish but
comfortable walking boot.

Fig. 45 shows Ladies’ Toilet Slipper. It is made of Suéde kid lined
with silk. This material is now the latest style for dress or toilet


_Fig. 43._

_Fig. 44._]

Fig. 46 shows Ladies’ Oxfords, made of French kid, with patent-leather
tips. This is a delightful summer walking shoe, either for city or
country wear.

Fig. 47 is a Gentleman’s Riding Boot, the only proper boot for park

Fig. 48, Gentleman’s Button Boot, made with kid top, calf foxing, with
tips, for walking, or cloth tops and patent-leather foxing, for dress

Fig. 49, Gentleman’s Oxfords, or summer walking shoe; very easy and
comfortable for every-day wear.

The above are but a few of the various styles introduced by them, and a
visit to their establishment will convince all of the high reputation
their goods have achieved in the last twenty-five years.

       *       *       *       *       *

Shoes have not only been used for their natural purpose of covering the
feet, but from remote time have played a part in many of the important
actions of life. Years ago it was the custom in Ireland to elect a
person to a certain office by throwing an old shoe over his head. But
on one occasion an excited elector, whose place it was to throw the
shoe, aimed too low, so that the shoe hit the candidate on the head,
instantly killing him. After this occurrence the practice fell into


_Fig. 45._

_Fig. 46._]

In England it was once customary to bind contracts by the exchange of
old shoes, while we are all familiar with the practice of throwing an
old shoe after a bride for good luck; but I wonder how many know what
it originally signified. It is a custom that has come to us from the
Saxons, and with them denoted that the authority under which the bride
lived while in her father’s home was now delivered over to the husband,
who was privileged to exact implicit obedience from his wife.

       *       *       *       *       *

Shoes have also had their share of superstition attached to them, it
being considered to portend great evil, if by chance one should put the
right shoe on the left foot, or _vice versa_. Even one of the Roman
Emperors is said to have run the greatest risk from just this cause

    “Augustus having by o’ersight,
    Put on his left shoe for his right,
    Had like to have been slain that day,
    By soldiers mutinying for their pay.”

But in this day of button shoes the dangers to be incurred from this
cause are very slight.


_Fig. 47._

_Fig. 48._

_Fig. 49._]

  J. & J. SLATER,

  1185 Broadway.

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