Tag Archives: canvas shoes

At Hood Rubber Company, Circa 1905

click to enlarge

Back in the winter I wrote about Hood Rubber. The company made all sorts of products that incorporated rubber, but the most interesting to me were the canvas and rubber leisure shoes.  After making the post, my friend Lynn of AmericanAgeFashion wrote to remind me that she had also written about the company because she had a wonderful old photo that showed some workers in one of the Hood factories. When I met Lynn in Charlotte a few weeks ago, she gave the photo to me to add to my archive.

The only person identified in the photo is the older woman who is standing between two men. She was identified as Grandmother King. In another pen was added “Hood Rubber Watertown”, and in pencil someone wrote “c 1910”. These identifications were added much later, as the pens used were ballpoints, which did not come into common use until the 1940s. My point is that the circa 1910 seems to be a bit off, as I’d put this at least five years earlier.

My guess is this is a cutting room. At the time, athletic shoes were either black or white, and that’s what we can see in the bolts stacked behind the workers. Even though this area has electric lights, the factory still makes use of the natural light by placing the work tables near the windows. And look carefully at the tables. They appear to be spread with the canvas, and you can see the bolts on the floor on the backs of the tables.

Old industrial photos of this sort provide a lot of information about everything from the types of clothing workers wore to the way factories were set up. They are hard to find, so I’m really happy to have this one and to add it to my records. Thanks Lynn!

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Filed under Collecting, Made in the USA, manufacturing, Shoes, Vintage Photographs

Hood Leisure Shoes and PF Flyers

One of the sad facts about collecting sportswear is that the clothes and accessories were usually subjected to hard use. For that reason there seems to be at least a dozen pairs of 1920s fancy dress shoes on the market for every pair of canvas sporty ones.  So even though the circa 1918 shoes pictured above are not particularly pretty or stylish, they are in really great shape to be sport shoes that are one hundred years old.

Hood is not a well-known brand name today, but at the time these shoes were made, Hood Rubber Products was a major player in the rubber products industry. The company was located in Watertown, MA, and was founded by Frederic and Arthur Hood in 1896. By 1920 they made a variety of rubber products and had a work force of over 10,000 people. At peak production, Hood turned out close to 90,000 pairs of shoes a day.

Click to see entire ad

This ad from 1918 shows my shoes, the Classic Oxford, though they have the lower heel shown on the Vassar Pump. I’ve seen many photos from the late 1910s and the 1920s showing women in tennis attire wearing this style shoe.

I found an interesting tidbit about how Hood wear-tested their new products. They used the children of employees, giving them shoes to wear for a year. After that time the shoes were turned in to the company where the wear was analyzed. Then new shoes were given out for the next test period.

In 1929, Hood was bought by a competitor, B.F. Goodrich. Shoes under the Hood name continued to be made, along with Goodrich’s own brand. In 1933, Hyman Whitman was granted a patent for an arch supporter, which was obtained by B.F. Goodrich and became the basis of their “Posture Foundation” sole.  This became the famous PF Flyer tennis shoe.

Above is part of a B.F. Goodrich ad from 1947. PF Flyers were initially a shoe for children, but the PF arch supporter was used in adult shoes as well starting in 1937.

What I did not know was that shoes manufactured under the Hood name also used the PF arch supporter. This is the insole of a pair of circa 1948 tennis shoes from the Jane Hefner estate. It has the PF name, along with the patent number of the arch support owned by B.F. Goodrich. I would have thought these were the Goodrich brand if not for the Hood trademark right above the “PF”.

Here are Jane’s tennis shoes. They are in quite a poor state, not because Jane wore them to death, but because of improper storage. The canvas is not worn at all, and the soles show no signs of wear either. I suspect these were bought because of a requirement for gym class. Jane was not an athlete! Her casual shoes were a pair of well-worn saddle oxfords.

In 2001 the PF Flyer name was bought by New Balance, which still makes the shoes. Hood stopped production in 1969, but the brand has been relaunched as a maker of men’s rubber-soled boots.

 

 

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Filed under Collecting, Shoes