Category Archives: Shoes

Ad Campaign – I. Miller Shoes, 1930s

I. Miller gives you summer shoes in color taken from the new flower prints.

On to the American Summer scene of glamorous clothes walk  I. Miller shoes in vibrant flower colors.  Nature’s hues selected with the I. Miller genius for color…for costume relationship. 1937

Israel Miller was the son of a Polish (some sources say Prussian) shoemaker who immigrated to the USA in the 1890s.  He obtained work as a cobbler with John Azzimonti,  an Italian immigrant who was making shoes for the theater.  According to an issue of the Boot and Shoe Recorder, actress Sarah Bernhardt once ordered 244 pairs of boots at one time.  When Azzimonti closed the shoe making business in 1909, his customers put in orders for up to thirty pairs.

They need not have worried about obtaining quality shoes, as Azzimonti’s former employee, Israel Miller was already making shoes and would establish I. Miller by 1911.  His operation was moved to a building near the corner of Broadway and 46th Street, which is in the theater district.  He was soon leasing the two brownstone buildings on the corner, and business was so good that in 1926 he bought both buildings and began renovations that would unify them into a single unit.

The resulting building is seen above,  but in 1926 the statues in the niches were not yet in place.  The next year it was announced that statues of four show women would be chosen to represent the arts of drama, comedy, opera, and movies.  The public was even invited to vote for their favorites, the winners being Ethel Barrymore, Marilyn Miller, Rosa Ponselle, and Mary Pickford.  The statues were made by A. Stirling Calder, the father of Alexander Calder of mobile fame.

Unfortunately Israel Miller did not live to see the unveiling of the completed building.  He died in Paris of a heart attack several months before the October, 1929 unveiling.

 

The Broadway side of the building was quite different from the elegant 46th Street facade.  There were pre-existing billboard leases on that side, and so even in the early days of the store, much of the Broadway facade was given over to advertising.  Today, the main entrance is on Broadway, as that is where most of the traffic is, but when this was a store store to the stars, they entered through 46th Street.

I. Miller shoes closed sometime in the 1970s and the building was bought in 1978 by Riese Restaurants, who ran a TGIFriday restaurant there for several decades.  By the late 1990s Riese was saying the store front would be restored, and though they applied for and were granted landmark status, nothing ever came of it.  Eventually the TGIFriday restaurant was closed, and the building taken over by the Express clothing company.

When I visited New York City in August, 2013, I went by to see the building and was dismayed to see it scaffolded over. In New York that could mean anything from restoration to a complete redoing of the building.  To their great credit, as Express readied the interior of the building  for retail, the exterior was renovated to its former glory.

The four statues had to be removed and restored as they were in terrible condition.  Chunks of marble on the building had to be repaired, the bronze was polished, and the entire facade was given a good cleaning.  Today it is one of the best reminders of what shopping in New York City was like in the early and mid 20th century.

When I first read of the shoe store several years ago it struck me as odd that there would be such an elegant store in a part of the city that was not (at that time, anyway) a shopping district.  A little reading about the subject informed me that this was only one of I. Miller’s stores.  The main store was located on Fifth Avenue, and there were two other New York City branches.  Nationwide there were 228 branch stores and several factories.

The mode for black is charmingly met in.. Monograin silk by I. Miller

As all femininity fares forth in Black, Monograin becomes the overwhelming fashion favorite for wear with the new autumn hats, gloves and handbags of this subtly-woven silk.  1930

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Barney and Berry Ice Skates

There are times when I spot something and I know that considering buying it puts me in a place where I’d rather not be.  That place would be in over my head.  Such was the case with these Barney and Berry skates.  I spotted them at Metrolina earlier this month and was tempted, but was so intimidated by what I did not know that I walked away from them.

Note:  Walking away from an item of interest at a flea market is not recommended.  It can lead to heartache and disappointment.  I know this for a fact.

I assume that old ice skates must be pretty common in the northern states and in Canada, but I rarely see them here in the South.  But I did keep thinking about them, as I was pretty sure they were from the 1920s or maybe the 1930s.

After meeting Marge I mentioned to her that I’d seen a pair of older skates but that I knew nothing about them.  She, being a northern mid-westerner, gave me a crash course in skates.  I would have taken her over to see them, but I was afraid she would think I was crazy for wanting to buy them.  Truth is, they looked pretty rough.

As you can see, I did go back for them.  I’ve spent the past weeks cleaning them and I’m happy with the results.  I’m not a trained conservator, and I can’t always work up to the standards that a large institution might, but my rule for cleaning and preserving is that I do not make any changes that cannot be reversed.  Leather dye might have removed all the appearance of scratches, but dye is not reversible.  Instead I opted for a good leather conditioner.

The biggest problem was with the metal lace eyelets.  They were very tarnished and gunky.  I almost went crazy cleaning each one.  I removed the laces (which look to be original to the boots), washed them, and re-laced the boots after all the eyelets were cleaned.  Finally, I stuffed the boots with cotton fabric to give them shape.

They are not perfect, but that’s not what I want.  The skates were used but not so much that they were in poor condition.  They are nice and sturdy, and are actually still wearable.  Note the bit of rust on the blades.  I decided to leave it, as buffing would have also removed the silver finish that had been applied when the skates were made.

I also did not clean that little buckle you see.  I may go back and give it a light buff.

Thankfully the skates were marked by the maker, Barney and Berry of Springfield, Massachusetts.  After a bit of digging, I did turn up a bit about the company.  The manufacture of skates by Everett H Barney began in 1864. According to some sources, he invented the metal clamp-on skate, a product that was the mainstay of the business.  They also made roller skates and signal cannons for yachts.

EH Barney was a well-known figure around Springfield.  He was himself an accomplished skater, and he was often seen near his Forest Park home, skating on the Connecticut River and a skating pond he built in the park.   Unfortunately Barney was judged insane in 1913, and died in 1916.  He left the bulk of his assets to the city of Springfield, with directions that his property was to be added to Forest Park.   The Barney skating pond still exists and is open for skating,

From what I have read, skates with the boots attached were first manufactured around 1920.  That, of course, would put my skates after that date.  Another clue is that the  Barney and Berry company was acquired by Winchester, probably in 1919.  I’ve seen 1920s ads showing skates that were labeled with both names, but I’ve also seen post 1920 ads and catalogs with just the Barney and Berry name.  My guess is 1920s.  Any thoughts?

Correction:  1864 (not 1964) was the beginning date of the EH Barney skate manufacture.

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Filed under Collecting, Shoes, Winter Sports

Keds Hand-book for Girls, 1923

Sometimes I wonder how things like this little booklet survive.  Published in 1923, the girl who originally owned it would now be in her hundreds.  Was it put in a box, stored in an attic for people to find at an estate sale?  And why was such a trivial bit of paper not thrown out years ago?

I should be glad that many people have a tendency to save things.  If we all threw out everything that was not of use then a lot of our history would simply be lost.  Of course 91 years ago children did not have the massive amounts of things that children have today.  Even a little booklet, given free with the purchase of a pair of shoes, might be treasured.

The booklet is 48 pages of miscellaneous information, plus one page of advertising the sponsor’s goods.  The styles shown are interesting because of the variety of Keds available for girls.  I love the cross-strap Mary-Janes, and picture them in red canvas.  And the third pair down is identical to a style that was made for boys.  It’s good to know that they were also made for girls.

There is no rhyme or reason to the choice of entries in the booklet.  These pages have games alongside chores and recipes.

I had no idea that 161 “girls” died in World War I.

The tiny illustrations on the cover show girls doing activities from the booklet.  It looks like Keds are good for reading and cooking as well as for tennis and canoeing.

 

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B.F. Goodrich Velvet Shoe Twins – Updated

On a recent vintage outing  I found the brown shoes in the photo above.  Actually, it was the shoe box that caught my eye, and the brown shoes were the prize inside the box.  I immediately thought of the orange shoes which I bought about ten years ago, which I was pretty sure were the same style.  With the exception of the laces and the color, the shoes are identical.

I love that the colors of the box are the orange and brown of the shoes.

I’ve tried to find an ad for the B.F. Goodrich Velvetie, but so far I’ve not found one.  My guess is that these shoes date from the mid 1950s to the early 60s.  (See update below)

Many times I see vintage items advertised as “unique” or “one of a kind.”  But unless a garment is couture, or is made by a seamstress or a tailor, then chances are the item was made in great quantities, and chances are that more than one example of any given garment has survived to the present time.

A good example of this is the novelty border prints that were so popular in the 1950s and early 1960s.  These prints were commonly made into gathered or pleated skirts, and it is pretty easy to locate multiple examples of the same print made into similar skirts.

Another example is the 1940s figural sweater.  These have become quite popular in recent years, with people looking for specific sweaters that they know exist.  Many of these are well documented in ads by makers such as Jantzen and Catalina, and collectors even find vintage photos of the sweaters being worn.  There is a wonderful thread on the VFG forums where these sweaters and ads are shared.

When I first started buying on eBay in 1997, I’d be really distressed to lose out on an item to a higher bidder.  But as time went on, I realized that if an item surfaced once, chances are there were lots more of them out there.  In my early ebay days, I was the runner-up bidder on a Dalton Scottie doggie intarsia sweater.  I would have bid higher, but the sweater was green, a color I rarely wear.  Ten years later, the very same sweater finally resurfaced, this time in black.   I bought it and wore it a few times, but now it sits safely in the Vintage Traveler collection.

UPDATE:  My favorite vintage researcher, Lynne, has emailed an ad for these shoes dated 1968, though she also found them mentioned in 1967.  I think it was the box that threw me, along with the soles of the shoes, which are that ridged crepe one sees so often on late 50s and early 60s casual shoes.  The shoes also came in black.  Many thanks to Lynne!

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Bowl to Stay Slim, 1958

Growing up in the 1960s, I can remember bowling being a very big deal.  The leagues that met weekly to compete were an important social function for many people in my community.  My parents didn’t bowl, but the parents of a friend were in a league so I often went with them to the lanes.  I learned to bowl (badly) and was never any good at it, but as I said, the social part of it was really the point.

In 1958 Brunswick, a maker of bowling supplies, published this booklet that was aimed to encourage women to take up the sport.

Bowling is a graceful, rhythmical sport.  A fun sport that’s not strenuous yet so good for the figure.

Marion Ladewig really was a professional bowler.  Here she is on What’s My Line? where she actually stumped the panelists.

The booklet is full of photos of attractive – and slim – women bowling, intermingled with dieting tips and how to score the game.

Here we have Mrs. Ladewig helping a young woman pick out a ball.  One thing I did not realize is that “Shoes are made for both right and left-handed bowlers…”  I’m left-handed, and I can’t ever remember being offered left-handed shoes.  Not surprising since I always considered myself lucky if they actually had the right size for me.

Of course the booklet would not be complete without an ad for Brunswick equipment.  I was especially interested in the shoes, mainly because bowling shoes can be a bit of a problem to accurately date.  I’d sure like a pair of the Princess Brunswick, in red, please.

The back cover has one last reminder, that bowling is a fun activity for the entire family.

In my bowling file I found another booklet, which is less soft-sell, more sports-minded.  I only picked it up because it is labeled “Compliments of Misty Harbor.”  I thought that was an odd sponsor considering Misty Harbor was a maker of rain coats and jackets, not something one would wear while bowling.

And once again, here is the bowling team from 1956.  I find it interesting that all the advertising booklet women are wearing skirts and dresses, but the real bowlers are outfitted in slacks.

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Filed under Proper Clothing, Shoes, Winter Sports

Enna Jetticks Shoes for Women

I got this nifty little item in the mail a few days ago, a gift from Denise in Travelers Rest.  She was getting ready to move, and need to downsize a bit.  She had this fan which had belonged to her mother.  Denise found me after googling “Enna Jettick.”  Thank goodness an old blog post of mine came up in the search because she offered the fan to me.

I guess the advertising premise that if you give someone something with your business name on it, chances are they will keep it.  We just can’t resist free stuff, I suppose.  Anyway, it is amazing how many people did save these old ad gifts.  I’m sure glad they did!

I need no longer be told that I have an expensive foot for I’m an Enna Jettick Girl.

Many thanks to Denise!

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Ad Campaign – Kedettes, 1950

This Kedettes ad from 1950s is interesting because of what it does not say.  There is virtually no ad copy, only the styles, the prices, and a note that the shoes are washable.  But read the illustration, which says that Kedettes are just right for a casual date at the soda shop.

You might have noticed that colored rubber soles are pretty hot right now.  You see them quite a bit on athletic shoes, of course, but makers of street shoes, like Cole Haan have added them to oxfords  and loafers.  It rather nice seeing the same trend from 64 years ago.  There really isn’t much new under the fashion sun.

 

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