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Boot Shop Sign

Probably 1870-1890
Origin: America
Overall: 26 x 13 1/4 x 6in. (66 x 33.7 x 15.2cm)
Paint over gilded metal
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1976.806.1
The hollow metal form of a boot cast in two sections with a center seam and a ring in the top, the object's original gilded layer now overlaid with a coat of bronze paint.
Label:Cast metal boots were widely used to advertise shops that sold and repaired boots and shoes in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Likely the signs were made by several different companies, judging by the numbers that survive and subtle distinctions in, for instance, the arc of the instep and length of the toe. Gilding was the usual final step in the fabrication process. Once that primary surface began to deteriorate, however, many proprietors simply covered it with paint, as was done here. Wooden boot signs were also common, some of them, particularly flat examples, being crafted by individuals rather than mass produced in factories.
Tall boots cut higher in the front than the back were popular over a long period of time, but the softly swelling calf of the museum's sign reflects styles of 1870-1890. (Earlier versions were cut on a sharper, raking angle). Boots of this overall form were sometimes called "Napoleon Boots" (or "Napoleons") in the period.
Retailers Parker & Gannett of Boston, Massachusetts, showed a similar boot near the lower right corner of their broadside of 1868-1874 (acc. no. 1957.1008.1). Their model was available with or without an eagle on the top.
Provenance:No pre-CWF history is known for the object. It was found in the attic of CWF's Craft House in 1964, then moved to the second floor of the Palace's East Advance, where it remained until 1975, when it was moved to AARFAM.