1873 Patent Model for a Last for Boots and Shoes by Wm. H. Rounds

How wonderful to see the actual model submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on April 15, 1873 for an improvement on boot and shoe lasts. Which basically amounts to a wooden last with provenance pegging (pun intended) the exact date of a specific last.

Whenever I’m adding to the collection I wonder whether or not to pick up specific lasts – because it’s so difficult to tell what decade it was made. This one is unquestionably 1880s!


1873-patent-model-for-last-for-boots-and-shoes-no-137799-Wm-H-Rounds2And for those of you wondering why the last is drawn upside down in the second photo:

It isn’t  – that’s what a last looks like when it’s right side up. In fact, the very, very bottom of a shoe… the piece at the very, very bottom of the heel… it’s called the “top piece”. ‘Cuz if you are a shoe maker that’s the thing that’s at the very top, isn’t it?

From ShoeGuide.org:

Top Piece: The part of the heel that comes in contact with the ground. Made of a durable material that helps maintain friction with the ground.”

And below – an illustration of women’s 1873 heeled slippers (what they called shoes that you didn’t wear outside – since; why would a lady need to go outside?) from the April 12, 1883 issue of Harper’s Bazar magazine. Every wonder why Cinderella wore a “glass slipper”? Because that’s what they called most ladies footwear.

1873-April-12-1873-HARPERS-BAZAR-Magazine-picturing-womens-shoes-and-slippers copy

1927 Booklet of Shoe Knowledge with Diagrams of Shoe Manufacture

This is a great little booklet – probably made so salesmen could explain to customers what they were buying back in a time when people actually cared about what their shoes were made of.

In the 1920s – unlike today – people cared about saving money – everything in the world wasn’t disposable. In fact, I recall that almost nothing was disposable unless it was obviously made to be so (maybe advertising circulars and cupcake wrappers). Nothing like today when shirts, toasters, phones, even things like cars, are thought of as something to be owned for a few months or years, then discarded or swapped out for new ones. Pretty much everything in my grandmother’s day was meant to last. Ergo: when purchasing shoes one actually gave a damn about the process by which they were made as some lasted much longer than others.

Advertising of the day reflects this. Terms that I, as a footwear designer, am familiar with such as “vamp”, “combination last”, “Goodyear Welt”, “perforations”, “throat”, etc. appear in magazine ads and consumer catalogs. So many catalogs offer the customer choices between pegged shoes and welted.

So here’s the entire booklet for yer edification 🙂


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