Thursday, April 30, 2015

Join us for a “shoes and shopping” event!

Looking for something fun to do with friends this weekend? Join us for “Shoes & Shopping,” Saturday, May 2nd from 10-4:00, in the lovely New England seacoast city of Portsmouth, NH.

Bring a few friends and tour the exhibition “Cosmopolitan Consumption: New England Shoe Stories, 1750-1850.” The exhibit is free and the curators, Kimberly Alexander and Sandra Rux, will be on site offering tours for those who are interested. The program is one of the series offered by the Portsmouth Athenaeum (Information here: in conjunction with the exhibition.

After your tour, pick up a ‘coupon’ in the gallery to redeem for discounts at participating merchants. (They will let you know the discount amount and the items included. You may also pick up a map in the gallery.)

Come out, shop local and enjoy the Seacoast!  Many thanks to these generous merchants:

City Shoes

Club Boutique


Ireland on the Square

Pickwick’s Mercantile

Puttin' On the Glitz

Twice a Lady

Friday, April 24, 2015

Eliza Lucas Pinckney's Very Special London Shoes, 1760s-1770s

A diminutive pair of pale blue silk shoes adorned with a profusion of costly metallic braid or lace clad the feet of Eliza Pinckney (1722-1793) sometime in the 1760s or 1770s. (They are 6.75 inches in length with a heel a smidge over 2 inches in height.) It is certainly fair to note that these light blue silk satin shoes are distinctive. The fact that we have the name of the wearer of these elegant pumps, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, places them into the category of rare and significant clothing survivals.
Made in London, they bear the label of the Cordwainer Thomas Hose, whose shop was located in the heart of the Cordwainer's Ward on Lombard Street. A well-articled geometrical pattern was created by the careful placement of metallic braid. (This is especially striking in the outline of the heel and culminates in a stylized floral motif at the vamp.) The design is intriguing – for example, the slender Louis heel is made to appear even more slender by the placement of the braid.

In an unusual treatment, and offering further evidence that the shoes were a costly item, much of the interior was lined with two separate striped silks of a salmon pink and white, and an olive and tan. Silk also lines the underside of the tongue, though this detail is found more frequently in high-end shoes of the time. It often goes unnoticed due to damage of this delicate area. The treatment of the inside of Eliza's shoes offer an instant visual 'pop' and in this case, the like of which I have yet to see so fully treated. It is of interest because she (and perhaps one or two intimates, such as her husband) would be the only one to notice this inside detailing.

Eliza was married to Charles Pinckney, lawyer, judge and member of the House of Commons. Eliza is best known for her perseverance and success with her father’s indigo crop, ultimately making it a prosperous crop in the Lowcountry (South Carolina) until the war.

Of particular interest is the use and placement of the metallic braid, which was a treatment seen several decades earlier but the heel shape places the shoe in the 1760s-1770s range. The cordwainer Thomas Hose moved the family business from Rose Street, Cheapside, to Lombard Street at the “sign of the boot” in 1769-70.[1] These are almost certainly bespoke shoes, designed for specially for Eliza. One suspects that perhaps the pale blue silk was a nod to her indigo crop – although that is merely speculation at this point. It is interesting to note that Eliza spent five years in England from 1753-1758 for the education of her children, while her husband served as a colonial agent. Could they date from that time – when she was in her 30s and enjoying the London social life and high profile entertaining? [2]
I ended a nearly five year pilgrimage to view these shoes in person on April 21, 2015. My appreciation to Jan Hiester, the Charleston Museum Curator of Textiles, for her generous assistance. Continued thanks to Colin Hose and Linda Pardoe for so generously sharing information on the Hose family.

All illustrations are courtesy of the Charleston Museum.


An abundance of material regarding Eliza Lucas Pinckney is available online and in print, including readily available copies of The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762. Ed. Elise Pinckney
1 Thomas Hose (b. abt. 1734 – d. December 12, 1787), apprenticed to his father, John. In 1769, he inherited the business in his father’s will. He was in his mid-30s. Shortly thereafter, he moves the business to Lombard Street. By c. 1770-1787, trade directories show that Thomas senior was in business with his son Thomas junior at 33 Lombard Street, “The Sign of the Boot.” For more, see my Portsmouth Athenaeum Journal article here:

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Symposium on Shoes, Planned in Conjunction With "Cosmopolitan Consumption…"

Are you fascinated by historic shoes? Do you want to learn more about the roles footwear has played in people's lives and the styles they wore and why? Do you want the inside scoop on some of the latest museum projects involving cataloging & accessibility of collections? Then join us for a symposium on shoes, planned in conjunction with "Cosmopolitan Consumption: New England Shoe Stories, 1750" May 29th-30th, 2015. Sponsored by the Portsmouth Athenaeum and UNH History Department Exhibit Curators and Symposium Organizers: Kimberly Alexander, Ph.D., and Sandra Rux, with assistance from Jeffrey Hopper. Design by Phineas Graphics.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Silk Brocade Shoes Worn by a Bride Who Was Lame, 1764

According to Ipswich Museum files, these silk brocade shoes were worn at wedding of Miss Mary Wise of Chebacco (Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts). She married Nathaniel Farley in 1764 or early 1765 (their intention to marry was  dated 17 November 1764).  She was in her early twenties and 
this was her first marriage, while it was Nathaniel's second.

Even at first glance, it is clear the shoes are unusual in their composition. One shoe has been built up at the sole and heel to accommodate the difference in the length of the bride's legs--she was lame. Therefore, the height of one of the heels is 1.25" and the other is 2.75”. How was this accomplished? A special wood “platform”  was added to one shoe. Using the same quality materials which comprise the shoe textile, special care was taken to match the front portion of the "addition." It is neatly, even meticulously sewn. More study is needed of the wooden super structure, its method of construction and attachment, and any interior details. The style, quality of material and work would indicate a London manufacture, special order, or an especially highly skilled British American cordwainer.

Rather than hide her "infirmity" by wearing less attractive, but practical, heavy leather shoes built up on the inside or outside, Mary appears to have made the decision to celebrate her wedding in the elegant style of the times. The silk of her brocade shoes would have caught glints of light as she walked, as would the glittering buckles. Her shoes were not meant to be hidden. She may also have been bowing to familial wishes, but I like to think that she expressed her intentionality through a conscious decision. Then as now, most brides want to look their best on their wedding day.

Mary was born in Chebacco in 1741 and died in Ipswich in 1792.  Her first child was a son named Daniel, born 26 September 1765.  Her husband Nathaniel Farley had a son named Nathaniel by his first wife Elizabeth Cogswell. The shoes were passed down through the family and are now in the care of the Ipswich Museum. They are currently on view (2015) in the exhibition "Cosmopolitan Consumption: New England Shoe Stories, 1750-1850" at the Portsmouth Athenaeum (

Ph.D. candidate Nicole Belolan is examining this topic via her dissertation: “Navigating the World: The Material Culture of Physical Mobility Impairment in the Early American North, 1700-1861,” is about material culture and disability in early America. If you have information to share, she may be reached at