Sunday, January 18, 2015

If These Shoes Could Talk….New England Shoe Stories, 1750-1850

I greet you with excitement on this wintery morning: Presenting the invitation for "Cosmopolitan Consumption: New England Shoe Stories, 1750-1850," co-curated with Sandra Rux, curator emerita of the Portsmouth Historical Society and independent museum professional.  We have selected over 35 pairs of historic shoes from over a dozen museums and private lenders. The exhibit will display wedding shoes, dancing slippers, boots, everyday and remade shoes, as well as some rare garments and accessories. Visitors will see dazzling brocades and damasks, silks, leather, and calamancoes—from New England, Great Britain, and France. Many of the pieces in the exhibition have never before been viewed by the public.

Through the lives and letters of clever apprentices, skilled cordwainers, wealthy merchants and elegant brides, Cosmopolitan Consumption will take us on a journey from bustling London streets, to ship cargo holds, to New England shops and, ultimately, to the feet of eager consumers throughout the region. The “shoe stories” recount a young bride dancing with George Washington during his visit to Portsmouth or a pair of shoes remade from a 1730s wedding dress to a pair of 1773 wedding shoes. They trace the fortunes and misfortunes of wearers as shoes were altered to accommodate poor health and changing styles, and finally, they provide glimpse into the shoemaking business of artisans like Sam Lane of Stratham, who sold his shoes at Market Square in Portsmouth. This rich shoemaking heritage continues today. We ask our viewers to consider how these fashionable shoes reveal the hopes and dreams of New Englanders.
Invitation design by Phineas Graphics
Visitors will also be treated to lectures, gallery talks, a workshop, and a unique shoe-shopping event! Of particular interest, we will hold a mini-shoe symposium 29th-30th May. Susan Holloway Scott, bestselling novelist of historical fiction and well-known history blogger (, will present a talk entitled "For the Love of Shoes." The symposium will be held at the Discover Portsmouth Center. (More information to follow.)

So, mark your calendars: February 14-June 5 2015 at the Portsmouth Athenaeum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire!

For updates, you can follow us at twitter using #Shoes2015, at or Portsmouth Athenaeum on Facebook

We extend our appreciation to the many lenders and sponsors who have made this endeavor possible.

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