Manufacture and Materials

The footwear of this period varied more than can be seen in any preceding years. Boots and shoes were fashionable for both men and women and the shapes of toes and heels varied not only from year to year, but many basic styles were fashionable concurrently.

With the industrial revolution spreading from England to the continent and eventually to North America, shoe manufacture saw many new innovations throughout this period.

Metal eyelets for lacing were patented in 1823 by Thomas Rogers, though they were slowly adapted. It was not until the beginning of the next period, in 1874, that the eyelet setting machine came into use, increasing the popularity of metal eyelets.

In the 1830’s one can see the use of india rubber. 1837 saw J. Sparkes Hall patenting the elastic side boot. In the 1840’s women’s shoes discarded the ribbon ties for an elastic loop. These minor inventions led to new fashions in footwear throughout this entire period.

Perhaps the greatest invention in the fashion world, the sewing machine, became proficient for cloth by the 1850’s. The obvious step from machining cloth was to begin using these machines to sew leather for shoes. The machines for this purpose were in use by 1856, and were much the same as the domestic treadle machines pioneered by Singer. In the 1860’s, the Blake appears in the United States. This machine sewed soles onto shoes. Another machine was added for riveting, and yet another for turnshoes. All of these inventions, coupled with the new idea of ready made clothing, made shoes cheaper and more accessible than ever before.