Friday, December 21, 2012

John Hose, London Cordwainer, c.1770

Courtesy, Historic New England
These fashionable but restrained cream silk brocade shoes, with earth-tone, stylized flowers on a patterned ground, were made by a London family of cordwainers. The Hose family shop was located on Lombard Street "at the boot." Several generations of the Hose family practiced skilled shoemaking and their shoes are some of the more elegant ones seen in North American collections.  The upper features an attractive floral silk in browns and greens on off white with green binding and oval toe. A well-proportioned 2.5 inch Louis heel and period buckles (owned by Prudence Jenkins for her wedding in 1778) complete this tasteful ensemble. 

This post is a work in progress as recent correspondence with Hose family descendants and information supplied by the Cordwainers archives is adding exciting new detail and dimension. The author is indebted to Colin Michael Hose, Linda Pardoe and Judith Millidge, of the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, for sharing their research and perspectives.

The Historic New England catalog information for the shoes notes:    Many eighteenth-century shoes are called buckle shoes because a removable metal buckle was used to fasten the straps along the top. The high heel, round toe, angled side seams, and exuberant floral pattern of this buckle shoe are characteristic of shoes made in the third quarter of the eighteenth century. In eighteenth-century Boston, Massachusetts, as in Philadelphia, PA, Newport, RI and Portsmouth, NH, the latest London fashions were readily available to those who could afford them. These brocade shoes were made in the section of London called Cheapside, known for its textile merchants and shoemakers. Like most shoes of the period, they have no right or left but were made to be interchangeable. The long tabs were intended to be fastened by buckles, which were worn like jewelry and could be transferred from one pair of shoes to another. Buckles could be set with diamonds for the wealthiest wearers, or, like these, made of paste.

The shoe buckles themselves were worn by Prudence Jenkins (b. 1759) at her 1778 wedding to Dr. John Chace in Providence RI. Historic New England also has fragments of Prudence’s brocaded silk wedding dress, which, according to tradition, was purchased in London for a guinea a yard as well as one of her high heeled wedding shoes covered in a green and purple floral brocade. These related objects illustrate that eighteenth century brides either wore their best dress or had wedding clothes specially made for the occasion and did not universally wear white, which was considered a more appropriate color for mourning.

Acc. # 1919.140AB Gift of Miss Mary C. Wheelwright 
Information and photograph courtesy, Historic New England 

For additional examples of work by the Hose family, see collections at Historic Deerfield (left) and the Charleston Museum, discussed in previous posts.

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