If the boot fits, wear it

My passion is anything and everything to do with archaeology. So when I was given the opportunity to be an intern at Underground Overground Archaeology Ltd., I jumped at this chance of a lifetime! My name is Jessica Hofacher and I am a year 13 student at Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery Secondary School. Next year I will be pursuing my passions by studying archaeology at the University of Otago. This year I was lucky enough to be accepted into the Gateway (work experience) program and be taken on by this remarkable company!

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An interesting perspective on archaeology. Image: Myer 2012.

Over the last 10 months I have been researching and compiling an information database for the types of shoes available in Christchurch in the 1800s. I did this by searching through old newspapers (available on Papers Past) for information on the styles of shoes available, the people selling them, the methods of manufacture used to make them and the amount of money they cost.

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Lace-up lady’s ankle boots, with a military stacked heel and machine stitching along the vamp, tip and back quarter of the upper, c.1900-1920. Photo: J. Garland.

I was asked to research using this method so I could get an understanding of the advantages of this process and also how time-consuming it can be. It was very effective at producing an enormous amount of data, but it also means that it takes a very long time to process and sort through all the information! And I mean a veeeeery long time! To research what shoes were available in Christchurch in the 1850s to the end of the 1870s, who sold them and for how much and what methods of manufacture were used, I had to sort through hundreds of advertisements from the Lyttelton Times, Press, Timaru Herald, Star and the Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsular Advertiser, which took me eight months of Wednesdays!

This topic is very important to archaeologists in Christchurch because not much information is known about shoes in this context.

Footwear remains a neglected artefact despite its common occurrence on … historical sites… when considering artefacts in historical archaeology we think immediately of tea cups, medicine bottles and clay pipes. It is important however to consider artefacts other than those that appear in abundance such as ceramic and glass… one category which has received scant consideration by archaeologists is leather footwear… footwear is only occasionally referred to in site reports and typically only in a brief and non-analytical manner.” (Veres 2005:89)

My research is important to the team working here because when a shoe is found in a Christchurch site, they can look at my information database and deduce “Okay, this style of shoe was not available in Christchurch before this date so this shoe (and assemblage) must date to a point after this date” or “This style of shoe was sold in Christchurch for this amount of money in 1864 which shows the inhabitants of this site could have been fairly well off.”

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Image: Lyttelton Times 13/8/1853: 11.

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Lyttelton Times 13/08/1853: 11

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Image: Lyttelton Times 17/1/1852: 2.

An interesting trend I found in the data was how many shoe businesses were in Lyttelton in the 1850s. In the years 1852, 1853, 1854 and 1856, there were seven shoe businesses in Lyttelton! Three, possibly four were on London Street, two were on Canterbury Street and the other one was on Oxford Street. This means that within five years of European settlement, Lyttelton had seven potential places you could go to purchase shoes. This is a lot considering most shopping precincts these days (excluding malls) have only one -maybe two – shops that sell shoes.

It makes me ask the question, ‘how many people were living in Lyttelton and the surrounding area at that time, that it warranted having so many businesses to manufacture shoes?’ Lyttelton was the main port for import and export in Christchurch so in one way the abundance of businesses makes sense. But if you consider that nearly all of these businesses were manufacturing their own shoes, then the port doesn’t really play much of a role in supplying them with imported stock. These little insights into the urban layout of Canterbury regions are very special because it allows us to imagine what it was like to be a part of the community at that time. It also allows us to speculate on the type of people who owned these businesses and why, and the kinds of people who were buying from them (based on what types of shoes were being sold).

One such business was ‘West End House’ on London Street, Lyttelton, owned by Thomas and Robert Shalders. This is completely my speculation and personal opinion (based on what I’ve read so far) but I’m sure if more research was done much information such as this could be found out. Thomas and Robert Shalders were brothers who in 1853 opened a business where they could sell their wares, called West End House (Lyttelton Times 13/8/1853:11). This business may have been the beginning of their adult life as shoe manufacturers, which I’m sure they hoped would turn into a successful career, perhaps one that would support their wives and young families. They were not restricted to making and selling shoes for only one demographic, so patrons of all ages could satisfy their soles’ with strong and stolid shoes.

My time spent at UOA has been immensely enjoyable and very informative. I’ve found things out about what it’s like to have a career as an archaeologist that I could not have discovered any other way. The team here has given me insights and advice about studying at Otago, what courses will be useful for me and about how to get where I want to be in my future career. Not only have I found things out about what it’s like to be an archaeologist, I have been able to experience what it’s like working as one! My research project has given me an insight into information about Christchurch’s past that I never would have thought to look at on my own. Completing my research was like being transported back in time 164 years and personally speaking with the residents of Christchurch. It was the experience of a lifetime.

Jessica Hofacher

References

Lyttelton Times. [online] Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Myer.G-C, 2012. The Lascaux Review. [online] Available at: http://redtreetimes.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/9911-262-archaeology-rainbows-end-small.jpg [Accessed 7 November 2014].

Veres, M., 2005. Introduction to the analysis of archaeological footwear. Australasian Historical Archaeology 23: 89-96.

These boots are made for walking… in 19th century Christchurch.

In present-day Christchurch we might be finding the road a little uneven at the moment with our potholes and repair patches, but what was the situation like for our early settlers? The terrain was different for one thing: envision dirty, dusty unpaved roads, attempting to balance in the mud whilst holding one’s skirts and wearing a shoe with a 30 mm sole waist (sounds uncomfortable!).

Figure 1. Straight last shoe with 30 mm sole waist. Image: C. Dickson.

Straight last shoe with 30 mm sole waist. Image: C. Dickson.

Unsurprisingly, the footwear that we are uncovering from this time seems to be suitable for dealing with the harsher terrain of colonial living – our assemblages usually contain more sturdily manufactured shoes, such as those with added hobnails for grip, or heel rands and metal plates to aid stability and strength.

Figure 2. Footwear with hob nailing, and heel with rand (bottom right). Image: C. Dickson; Jessie Garland.

Footwear with hob nailing, and heel with rand (bottom right). Image: C. Dickson, J. Garland.

More delicate (as well as the hard-wearing) examples are advertised for sale in local 19th century newspaper advertisements, so the comparative abundance of sturdy shoes in our assemblages could indicate that more fragile shoes were either a less popular choice for the perils of colonial living, were repaired lots, or simply did not survive as well in the archaeological record.

For an artefact made from a relatively soft material, we have actually recovered a surprisingly large number of leather shoes, particularly underneath the floorboards of 19th century houses. We have also unearthed possible sites of footwear manufacture or repair.

 

Figure 3. Feature containing leather shoe cut outs. Image: H. Williams.

Feature containing leather shoe cut outs. Image: H. Williams.

So what information can we derive from these shoes? We know that some methods of constructing shoes were more labour intensive and produced better quality products than others, thus making those shoes more expensive to manufacture. So we can make some judgements about the possible status of the wearer and the kinds of occasions for which they may have worn them. Also, more generally, different sizes and shapes can simply indicate the presence of women or children, who are often less visible in the archaeological and historical records.

But, as is generally the case with many artefacts, extracting precise dating evidence from footwear can be difficult. There have been some suggestions that it’s possible to date footwear based on stylistic trends. For example, square toed shoes became more rounded after the 1870s and the introduction of automatic shoe manufacture lead to the return of high heels to woman’s fashion in the late 1880s (Anderson 1968: 59, Stevens 2005: 17; Anderson 1968: 59). However, many archaeologists argue that style and changing fashions alone do not provide enough evidence to date footwear (Anderson 1986: 64).

Figure 4. High heeled shoe. Image: C. Dickson.

High heeled shoe. Image: C. Dickson.

 

Goodyear welted shoe. Image: C. Dickson.

Goodyear welted shoe. Image: C. Dickson.

Though not without its own pitfalls, the analysis of footwear construction techniques can provide a better indication of age than style can. For instance, a shoe manufactured with the Goodyear welt technique tells us that this shoe could not have been manufactured before 1875, following the development of Charles Goodyear Jr’s revolutionary technique. This technique was an automatic sewing method using a curved needle to attach the upper shoe leather to a unique ridge on the bottom of the insole. This new method prevented the usual wear and tear of stitches on the top of the insole typically made by the wearer’s foot (Anderson 1968: 61). The introduction of adhesives for sole attachment in the early 20th century and the use of rubber for waterproofing on shoe soles can also provide us with a terminus post quem date, after Charles Goodyear Jr’s father discovered the vulcanisation of rubber (perhaps Goodyear was the Victorian equivalent of Jimmy Choo?). Rubber began to be utilised in the waterproofing of footwear in the mid 19th century, though complete rubber heels did not appear before 1895.

Other useful dating indicators are the peak popularities of footwear manufacture techniques, the standardisation of shoe sizing and the use of straight lasts (for shoes with indistinguishable lefts and rights) until 1860 (Anderson 1968: 59). But as dating by style or technique is related largely to manufacturer choice, it’s preferable to date shoes in relation to their context, and other artefacts with more definitive manufacture or deposition dates.

Explaining the history and our interpretation of shoe construction techniques is (hopefully) interesting, but how do we as archaeologists identify them? Of all of the common artefact types that we examine, shoe analysis is fraught with the most peril. This is largely because the identification of manufacture techniques is so subjective. For instance, what appears to be a diamond hole to one person (which is often all that remains of a shoe that has been attached with wooden pegs) can look like a stitch hole to someone else.

We won’t bore you with all of the details, but at a basic level, we are distinguishing between handmade and machine made shoes by analysing the stitches or nails on the sole. Handmade shoes tend to have nail or stitch holes that are more irregularly sized and spaced than their machine made counterparts. Other features we look out for are the tell-tale ridge on the underside of an insole (characteristic of the Goodyear welt technique mentioned above) and identifying any residue of nails, stitches, pegs (or the shape of the holes that they have left), in order to determine how the shoe soles have been attached to the upper leather. We compare this with the location of these holes to distinguish between various techniques such as welting, the turn shoe method and the blake technique (Anderson 1968).

Blucher boot with repair patch on toe (the pair to this boot did not have a patch). Image: C. Dickson.

Blucher boot with repair patch on toe (the pair to this boot did not have a patch). Image: C. Dickson.

So if they’re inaccurate to date and subjective to identify, then what’s so great about shoes as artefacts? In my opinion, they’re often more visually impressive, and arguably more interesting than the usual fragment of transfer printed ceramic or black beer bottle. But most importantly, they are a more personal item that can provide additional information about the individual wearer. Potential examples of this are wear patterns on heels, from which we can ascertain that a wearer may have had an unusual walking style, or from a repaired shoe we could speculate that someone could have fixed a shoe, out of personal attachment to a much loved, well-worn favourite, or merely because of economic necessity.

Chelsea Dickson

References

Anderson, A., 1968. The archaeology of mass-produced footwear. Historical Archaeology 2: 56-65.

Press. [online] Available at: www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. Accessed August 2014.

Stevens, S. and Ordonez, M., 2005. Fashionable and work shoes from a nineteenth century Boston Privy. Historical Archaeology 39 (4): 9-25.

A few of our favourite things…

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been excavating a site in the CBD that’s yielded some of the most interesting artefacts we’ve see for a while. So, today on the blog, we’ve selected a few of these fascinating things for your viewing pleasure. Clay pipes, candlesticks, pepper shakers and bowler hats: scroll down for a veritable feast of pictorial splendour! Or something along those lines.

A bowler hat! This hat is made of felt and may have been worn by either a man or a woman (women used to wear hats like these with riding outfits in the lat 19th century). If you look very closely at the rim of the hat, you can see the remnants of the ribbon trim that once decorated it. Image: J. Garland.

First up, a bowler hat! This hat is made of felt and may have been worn by either a man or a woman (women used to wear hats like these with riding outfits in the late 19th century). If you look very closely at the rim of the hat, you can see the remnants of the ribbon trim that once decorated it. Image: J. Garland.

A lovely brass candlestick (used by Colonel mustard in the library, perhaps...). We think that the pieces of fabric stuck to the metal are just the remnants of the wrapping it was thrown out in, rather than a functional or decorative part of the candlestick itself. There's even a candle stub still visible inside the holder, near the base. Image: J. Garland

A lovely brass candlestick (used by Colonel Mustard in the library, perhaps…).The pieces of fabric stuck to the metal are  probably just the remnants of the wrapping it was thrown out in, rather than a functional or decorative part of the candlestick itself. There’s even a candle stub still visible inside the holder, near the base. Image: J. Garland

This lovely little saucer is decorated with a Chinese motif, known as 'Chang'. It appears to show one man cooking, while another stands around smoking a pipe. Not such an unfamiliar scene, is it? Image: J. Garland.

This lovely little saucer is decorated with a Chinese motif, known as ‘Chang’. It appears to show one man cooking, while another stands around smoking a pipe. Not such an unfamiliar scene, is it? Image: J. Garland.

This is really, really cool. This clay tobacco pipe appears to have been made locally, here in Christchurch, by or for the Trent Brothers. The Trent brothers were coffee, flax and chicory merchants based in Christchurch in the second half of the 19th century. The lovely people over at the Lost Christchurch blog have an excellent series of posts on the brothers and their business.  As far as we're aware, no other pipes like this one have been found before in New Zealand.  Image: J. Garland.

This is really, really cool. This clay tobacco pipe has a local connection, being made by or for the Trent Brothers, Christchurch. The Trent brothers (Frederick and James) were coffee, flax and chicory merchants based in Christchurch in the second half of the 19th century. The lovely people over at the Lost Christchurch blog have an excellent series of posts on the brothers and their business. As far as we’re aware, no other pipes like this one have been found before in New Zealand. Image: J. Garland.

We found another New Zealand branded pipe at this site, this time stamped with the mark of Twentyman & Cousins. Messrs Twentyman & Cousins (wonderful names!) were Christchurch retailers

Surprisngly, we found another New Zealand branded pipe at this site, this time stamped with the mark of Twentyman & Cousin. Messrs Twentyman & Cousin (wonderful names!) were Christchurch retailers originally based in Cathedral Square. In the 1880s they moved to new premises at what is now 93 Cashel Street, into a building designed by renowned architect B. W. Mountfort (Press 17/06/1882:1). Image: J. Garland.

This Willow patterned salt/pepper shaker is a surprisingly unusual find: they're not often found in Christchurch's archaeological sites. It's one of my personal favourites from this assemblage. Image: J. Garland

This transfer printed salt/pepper shaker is a surprisingly unusual find: they’re not often found in Christchurch’s archaeological sites. It’s one of my personal favourites from this assemblage. Image: J. Garland

A pig snout gin bottle with a prunt or blob seal on the shoulder.

A pig snout gin bottle with an anchor decorated prunt or blob seal on the shoulder. Seals like these were most common in the first half of the 1800s, although they were still being added to bottles at the end of the century (usually to gin bottles like this one). This particular prunt is embossed with ‘Van Dulken Weiland & Co/ Rotterdam’, well-known 19th century Dutch gin manufacturers. Image: J. Garland.

A child's plate! We've featured plates like this before on the blog, although none quite like this one. It reads "...in passing along they beheld on the ground/ ... man stretch'd along in a sleep most profound". Image:  J. Garland

A child’s plate! We’ve featured plates like this before on the blog, although none quite like this one. It reads “…in passing along they beheld on the ground / … man stretch’d along in a sleep most profound”. Image: J. Garland

And to finish….

These gorgeous shoes are in excellent condition. The adult size one (top)

Shoes! We’ve found a surprisingly large number of shoes (adult and child size) and fabric artefacts from this site, all in fairly good condition. Both the child sized shoe (bottom) and adult lace up shoe shown here (top) are among the only examples we’ve found with the complete upper portion of the shoe intact. Usually, we’re only recovering heels and soles. Aren’t they gorgeous!  Images: J. Garland.

Jessie Garland