Who wore these vibrant red pumps in the later years of the 18th century? The shoes are in the collection of the Moffatt-Ladd House, Portsmouth, NH (http://www.moffattladd.org). Although the original owner of these bright beauties is not currently known, it is likely that they were worn in New Hampshire. They are similar to stylish shoes being produced by the London cordwainers, Chamberlain and Son at roughly the same time. While they may have been made in Great Britain, they certainly could have come from a Boston or Lynn shoemaker as well. They feature a white leather-clad heel of about two inches and are lined in linen. Buckles were needed for fastening the lachets.
|Chamberlain & Sons, silk shoes from the collection of the Portsmouth Historical Society|
These shoes are on the large side (about a size 9 US) and wide, indicating perhaps a bespoke (custom) order. The heels exhibit some wear and the shoes have losses to the white trim bindings. The architectonic, balanced color scheme and smooth surface is indicative of the growing Neoclassical influence. Women's shoes moved away from the heavy embroidery and richly decorated silk brocades found earlier in the 18th century, associated with the Rococo style.
The curatorial team at Moffatt-Ladd may well come up with additional information, as these shoes were recently donated (winter 2015). They are currently on view (through June 5, 2015) at “Cosmopolitan Consumption: New England Shoe Stories, 1750-1850” at the Portsmouth Athenaeum.
The author thanks Barbara McLean Ward, Ph.D., Director & Curator and Cheryl Cullimore, of the Moffatt-Ladd House, and Astrida Schaeffer, of SchaefferArts, for their generous assistance.