This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Boots And Shoes, From the earliest times a comfortable covering for the feet has been one of man's first necessities upon emerging from savagery. As he advanced toward civilization he began to give more and more attention to his footgear, making it not only comfortable, but ornamental. Where climate demanded more protection for the foot than the original sandal, the primitive races shaped a rude shoe out of a single piece of untanned hide; this was laced with a thong and so made a complete covering. Out of these two varieties - sole without upper, and upper without sole - arose the perfect shoe and boot, which consists of a combination of both. The characteristics of a nation can often be traced in its shoes. The high, stiff boot of the uncompromising Dutchman is as truly an index to his character as is the gaily-colored, up-curving slipper worn by the luxurious Turk. The manufacture of American shoes is no less characteristic. Our factories turn out their product in such quantities that no man. woman or child is too poor to wear them, and a barefoot peasantry is an unknown condition on this side of the water. One workman can peg 600 pairs per day. In China, on the other hand, where customs never change, the cobbler still goes from house to house, announcing his approach with a rattle, and taking up his abode with the family while he accomplishes the necessary working and mending. In certain parts of Asia Minor it is nothing unusual for a pair of shoes to be handed down from generation to generation, being worn only upon state occasions, and carried in the hand by the proud possessor on holidays.
The word "shoe" occurs thirty-one times in the English version of the Bible. "A man plucked off his shoe and gave it to his neighbor; and this was a testimony in Israel."-Ruth 4:7. "Over Eden will I cast my shoe"— Psalm 9:8. These passages evidently refer to an established symbolical use of the shoe in transferring property. "Loosening the latchets of shoes," and "bearing the shoes" are alluded to as works of inferiority. In the far East the shoes are removed as a mark of respect, and all Orientals take off their shoes when entering a church, but keep on their headgear. The Hebrews took great interest in the ornamentation of their shoes. Solomon exclaims, "How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, Oh, princes daughter!" An old writer - Bend Boudoin - maintains that God, when giving Adam skins of beasts for clothing, gave him also shoes of the same material. Xenophon tells us that the ten thousand Greeks who were with him in the great retreat, were compelled for the "want of shoes" to cover their feet with skins which caused them great inconvenience. During the dark days of the Revolution in our own country, shoes and leather were so scarce that the heroes of Valley Forge were driven to tying the bark of trees to their feet, and it was no uncommon thing in the winter of 1779 for stains of blood to mark the footsteps of patriots.
The earliest form of shoe was, of course, the sandal, which allowed the foot full freedom of motion. It was secured to the foot by means of thongs passing over the instep and between the great and second toes, so that it was held firmly whichever way the foot moved, and yet could be cast off at pleasure. The Egyptian priests wore sandals of palm leaves and papyrus, while those of the common people were made of leather. The papyrus shoe was interwoven like a mat. The Hebrew shoe was similar to that of the Egyptian, the military sandals being made of brass or iron. The Roman soldier, when obliged to fight in a hill country, placed his feet in sandals with soles heavily spiked, and with thongs extending far up the ankle. While he marched in these, the luxurious citizens at the capital employed the security he gave them by inventing fanciful boots formed of animals' skins dyed purple, covered with gilded ornaments, and further enriched by the head and claws of the animal, which were left to hang down from the top of the boot.
One of the most curious form of shoes ever known was the "chopine," which originated in Turkey, and spread through Europe, being worn even in England; inexplicably enough, for nothing more clumsy and difficult could have been invented. They increased the height of a lady by half a yard, and it was impossible to walk a step in them unless supported by a maid servant on either side.
This is certainly about equal in folly to the much condemned Chinese custom of deforming ladies' feet; though it did not cause so much pain, it interfered much more with freedom of locomotion. The inconvenience of the Chinese custom is all thrown upon the weaker sex, for the China men wear shoes that can not be excelled for ease and comfort; but Fashion thousands of years ago decreed that all ladies of any rank should have their feet so bound in childhood that they can not grow longer than three or four inches from toe to heel. The Chinese affectionately term these distorted pedal extremities "little golden lilies." They cause a growing girl the greatest torment, and cripple her for life; but she is taught to endure willingly in order to insure rank and position, much after the fashion of the fair sex in our own land.
Our English forefathers, much as they plumed themselves upon sturdy common sense in dress, indulged in occasional vagaries in the way of foot -wear which no giddy Frenchman could surpass. One of their greatest extravagances in this line was the pointed toe. It began with an simple point, "only this and nothing more," but the point grew and curved and curved and grew until it attained a length of 15 inches, and was aptly compared to devil's claws. In order to overcome their inconvenience they were sometimes secured by a chain or cord to the knee, many specimens being still in existence having rings attached for fastening the chain. The reaction against this extreme came in the form of broad-toed shoes. These were made gradually shorter and wider until they caused the fashionable foot to appear like a hoof, and it was found necessary in 1480 to restrict them in breadth. Having attained a width of twelve inches, and were still widening, sensible Queen Mary issued a proclamation prohibiting a wider shoe than six inches at the toe. The next freak of fashion came in the form of wide topped boots. These came into vogue with the courtiers of the second Charles. They were of soft, pliable Spanish leather, which doubled over the top like a cuff; and this boot-cuff was further adorned with ruffles of costly lace. The extreme width of these boot tops with their frail ornamentation, made it necessary for the wearer to take wide spraddling steps in walking.
In the ninth and tenth centuries the greatest kings and princes in Europe all wore wooden shoes, not wooden boots like those worn by the Hollanders, but wooden soles fastened to the feet with leather thongs. The wooden boot coming up to the ankle is, at present, worn by the peasants throughout all Europe, The towns of Mende and Fillefort are the head-quarters for the wooden shoe trade in France, about 1 700 persons there finding employment in the manufacture. These shoes (or boots) are made from a single piece of wood roughly cut and hollowed out into shoe form. Analogous to this industry is the clog-making trade of England. Clogs are heavy wooden shoes to which, shoe or boot, uppers are attached. Sole and heel are made of one piece, from a block of maple or ash two inches thick. These clogs are of great advantage to all who work in damp, sloppy places, keeping the feet dry and comfortable in a manner impossible with either leather or india-rubber. They are, consequently, largely used on the Continent and in the United States by ditchers, dyers, bleachers, tanners, etc. There is also a considerable demand for expensive clogs, with fancy uppers, for use by clog dancers and others on the stage.
Probably as curious an adaptation of shoes to the requirements of climate as ever known, is the Canadian snow-shoe. This is formed of a wooden frame work, strongly interlaced with thongs of leather. Its use was learned from the Indians by travellers and hunters; and it is exceedingly difficult to acquire the pace. The inhabitants of British America travel rapidly on the broad surfaces of these shoes. Both men and women wear them, and the number of miles gotten over in a day by able-bodied experts sound extravagant to people not aware of the facility with which they can be managed. They are from eight to fourteen inches in breath at the widest part, and sometimes as much as seven feet long, though generally about four feet.
The present form of leather boots and shoes was adopted early in the 17th century. The general styles have not varied much for many years; the narrow sole, the broad sole, the box toe and the high and the low heel being the principal differences between one pair and another. It has been but a few years since the best trade would not think of buying ready-made footwear, but their manufacture by large establishments, however, has reached such perfection that it is doubtful if there is one out of ten thousand well-to-do people who have their shoes made to order by hand. Manufacturing has been reduced to such a science that it is possible to do work as well by machinery as by hand, and at the same time shoes are made much cheaper now than they were twenty years ago. This is on account of the reduced cost of tanning leather, more economical production and better freight facilities. There was a time when the person whose feet were not the shape that nature may have intended, or who were particularly sensitive or fastidious, was justified in having shoes made by exact and special measurement. But to-day the factory-made shoes are of every conceivable shape, size, style and finish. The finest shoes are made in seven widths, A, B, C, D, E, EE, F; and in length varying in size from a third to a sixth of an inch. A full "size" of a shoe or boot means one-third of an inch in length; half "sizes " mean one-sixth of an inch; expressed 6, 61/2, 7, 71/2, etc. These figures do not represent the actual length of the shoe (as do sizes of hosiery) but start from an arbitrary base.
It is a matter of fact that the shoemaker (compared with his vocation once) is now only a repairer and vender of factory-made goods. His shelves are loaded down with goods purchased from the jobbers and all the manufacturing he does takes up but a very small portion of his time. He is really a merchant with the ability to halfsole, cobble and straighten-up heels. The consumer is the gainer by all this, for the amount demanded for a pair of boots prior to the war would now purchase four pairs of well-made and neatly-fashioned shoes.
It is a fact very noticable and one also that has been commented freely upon, that among the urban population of the United States, boots have long been en passe. Ever since they went out of fashion many years ago, there have been occasional and fitful attempts to revive the use of them. Men's predilections are variable. In respect of shoes, every conceivable taste has been thoroughly ministered to, but it is doubtful whether the use of boots will ever again become general. Here and there is encountered an elderly man whose partiality for them cannot be changed. He began to wear them in his youth and has clung to them ever since. Some physicians maintain that the wearing of boots acts as a preventative of rheumatism. They not only repel extraneous moisture, but being loose at the top permit the free escape of the natural perspiration of the feet. Years ago they were the acknowledged badge of a gentleman; now they are worn by coachman and grooms, and are regarded as the insignia of servitude. A century back there was a saying "every gentleman wears boots;" now we have the terse tale of a hanging in the phrase, " he died with his boots on." The decline of the boot is another illustration of how the practical has driven out the picturesque. When courtiers wore powdered wigs and lace ruffles, boots were indispensable, but in this unpoetical age the male portion of humanity has no time to expend upon useless furbelows and trappings. The army officer, of course, wears boots just as he always did; and the bugle-call to "boots and saddle" in a cavalry camp is as potent as of yore. But we are a nation of peace and army officers are few. Foreigners marvel that they can travel from Maine to Mexico and from Hatteras to to the Golden Gate without seeing a solitary soldier.
But the soldiers of the soil, the industrial army of our country, still continue to wear a certain amount of boots, and the trade in them is by no means inconsiderable. The names of the lines made by the various factories tell the story. There are " driving,' "ditcher "and "freighters " boots, and there are " mining " and "lumbermen's " and " cowboys'" boots. Cow-boys wear fine calf boots with high heels and fancy tops. They job at $3 to $3.50 a pair. A line with Goodyear welt bring $4.25. A heavy calf mountaineer boot jobs at $3.75. For lumbermen and out door laborers in the northern latitudes, leather has given way to the felt and wool boots, worn in conjunction with a buckled rubber overshoe. Wool boots without leather stays sell for $8 to $9.50 per dozen.
Certain philosophers have contended, with a great deal of force, that boots are an index of character. That eminent authority, Kirtley, has long adhered to this view. " Men who wear boots" he tells us, " are superior for many reasons. They manifest, in the first place, decent reverence for the example of their forefathers. Boots, they know, were worn by the men of the olden time - the men who expelled the British invaders from our shores, and founded this mighty Republic. They are not unaware that George Washington, when asked by a Virginia cobbler to don a pair of patent leather pumps, nailed the ear of the offender to the town pump. Then, too, they recall the preference for boots of every man who has made his mark in the commercial, professional or the political world. Allegiance to boots has invariably been synonymous with uninterrupted and marvelous success. Disloyalty to boots has provoked certain and ignominious failure."
In the manufacture of shoes there are two main divisions. The minor division - the making of "turn" shoes - embraces all work in which there is only one thin, flexible sole, which is sewed to the upper while outside in, and turned over when completed. Slippers and ladies' thin kid shoes, are examples of this class of work.
In the other division the upper is united to an insole, and at least one outsole. In this are comprised all classes, shapes and qualities of goods, from shoes up to long-top boots, with all their variations of lacing, buttoning, congress, etc. Till within recent times, shoemaking was a pure handicraft, but now machinery effects almost every operation in the art. In the beginning of shoemaking inventions the principal difficulties to overcome were encountered in the operation of fastening together the soles and 3 uppers. The first success in this important operation was effected when means other than sewing were devised. In 1809 David M. Randolph obtained a patent for fastening the outer sole to the inner sole by means of little nails. This invention may be said to have laid the foundation of machine boot-making. In 1810 M. J. Brunnel patented machinery for fastening the soles to uppers by means of metal pins or nails.
Apart from sewing by machine or hand, three principal methods of attaching soles to uppers are in use at present. The first is "pegging;" the second is "riveting," or "clinching," with iron or brass nails, the points of the nails being turned by coming in contact with the iron last used. The third method, "screwing," has come into extensive use since the standard screwing machine was introduced. The standard screw machine, which is an American invention, is provided with a reel of stout, screw-threaded brass wire, which is inserted into and screwed through outsole, upper edge and insole. Inside the upper a head presses against the insole directly opposite the point of the screw, and the instant that the screw and head touch the wire is cut level with the outsole. The screw, making its own hole, fits tightly in the leather, and the two soles, being both compressed and screwed firmly together, make a perfectly water-tight and solid shoe. The principal disadvantage in the use of standard-screwed soles is the great difficulty met with in removing and levelling down the remains of an old sole when re. pairs are necessary.
The various forms of sewing-machines by which uppers are closed, and their important modifications for uniting soles and uppers, are also principally of American origin. The first important step in the difficult problem of sewing together soles and uppers by a machine was taken by L. R. Blake, tn 1858. Blake's machine was ultimately perfected as the MacKay sole-sewing machine - one of the most successful and money-making inventions of modern times. Blake's original machine was very imperfect and was incapable of sewing round the toe of a shoe; but a half-interest of it coming into the hands of Gordon MacKay, he with Blake effected most important improvements in the mechanism, and they jointly in 1860 procured patents which secured to them the monopoly of making machine-sewed boots for twenty-one years. On the outbreak of the Civil War, a great demand arose for boots, and there being at the same time much labor withdrawn from the market, a profitable field was opened up for the use of the machine, which was now capable of sewing a sole right around. Machines were leased out by the MacKay Company to other manufacturers at a royalty of from 1/2 to 3 cents on every pair of soles sewed, the machines themselves registering the work done. The income of the Company from royalties increased from $38,000 in 1863 to $589,000 in 1873, and continued to rise till the main patents expired in 1881, when there was in use in the United States nearly two thousand Blake-Mac Kay machines, sewing yearly 50,000,000 pairs of boots and shoes.
The range of machinery for making and finishing other parts of a shoe used in a well-equipped factory, is very extensive, embracing machines for cutting leather, pressing-rollers for sole-leather, and cutting-dies for stamping out soles and heel pieces. For finishing there are scouring, sand papering and burnishing machines for the soles, and stamping machines for marks and monograms. In short there is not a single operation necessary in shoemaking, however insignificent, for which machinery has not been devised.
This country consumes more than 200,000,000 pairs of boots, shoes and slippers annually. It is safe to place the figures at 17,000,000 pairs a month of all kinds. When some circumstance occurs which forces the people of this great country to wear their shoes a week or a fortnight longer than they are accustomed to doing, it produces a perceptible effect upon the shoe and leather trade. The entire trade is very quick to feel the effect of unseasonable weather. This sensitiveness is accounted for by the fact that the shoe business is comprised of but one class of goods alone, while all other branches of merchandising and manufacturing are composed of scores of different lines.
The manufacture of shoe "lasts" is to-day a fine art. Makers of statues and sculpture may commit errors that the ordinary observer will not perceive. But manufacturers of lasts are without this immunity. They must build well and truly, and their dumb models, inanimate as they are, must have the curves and grace and anatomical peculiarities of the human foot. The beauty of the foot depends upon the elasticity, symmetrical aliveness of each toe and muscle, and upon the length of the toes relatively to the contour of the whole foot, and upon the curve of the outer side of the sole. There never was a handsome foot in the classic sense that had short toes, and there never was a foot that fully satisfied the sense of beauty but was arched or curved on the outside. The inner curve is far more common, and exists frequently when the outer side is as flat as a negro's.
Lasts are made of the trunks of maple and persimmon trees. A last factory is an interesting sight. Rugged tree trunks, redolent with forest life, are hauled by a fatal chain to a vicious circular saw. The big clumsy slices of wood are rapidly cut, roughed, and placed in the silent drying room. In another part of the building are lathing machines busily trimming the homely blocks into shape. Then comes the paring of heels and toes. Next the shaving and finishing, which is followed by plating the heels and toes of the lasts with iron. Sandpapering wheels smooth irregularities on the grain, and finally it is coated with shellac. In all these operations, conducted so skillfully and rapidly, the eye and hand of an artist is constantly employed, for if the slightest imperfection occurs the last has to be cast aside. [See Leather].