Sunday, July 27, 2014

Museum Mystery Boxes: Straight Last Child's Leather Boots

These straight-lasted leather button-up child's boots were found in the same box as the Silver 1920's Dancing Shoes. Though my area of research doesn't focus much on children's fashions, I believe these shoes are from the late19th century or the early 20th century. I've seen similar examples that date as early as 1860.

The shoes fasten with 5 buttons that feel plastic but are very likely glass as most period shoes had. The shoe is decorated with cut scallops along the buttoned edge. The upper back of the shoe has a slightly upward, elegant curve.

The shoes are in very poor condition. The leather has crumbled; a dark, powdery substance easily falls from the shoe. I would love to restore these but am uncertain if leather dyes and restoratives would work on leather that is this far gone. Additionally, the shoes were stored without internal support, such as a stuffed fabric "sausage" to maintain the shape of the shoe. The shoes are creased above the ankle.

The soles of the shoes show very little signs of wear.

The shoes are lined with a printed cotton. I tried not to touch them too much because of how easily the leather "dust" was flaking off.

These button up boots have now been wrapped in and stuffed with acid free tissue paper to prevent any further creasing and flaking of the delicate leather.

Stay tuned for more goodies from the Kearny History Museum!


  1. These shoes could be as late as the 1920s too. We have pix of my mom and twin brother, born in 1920, in shoes like these when they started to walk. Their younger sisters pair was saved and bronzed as bookends.
    Nancy N

  2. The powdery residue dusting off of them is red rot. It's the result of certain tanning processes. There's little to be done to reverse it, but there is a product called Cellugel which I have used to stabilize leather book bindings affected by red rot. It won't "heal" the leather, but it will stop the flaking. You might be able to gently apply a leather softener to make the shoes more pliable and carefully stuff the shoes before applying the cellugel if you want to display or store them. I've never used cellugel on a "3D" (as opposed to a flat cover board) object, but a big jar of the stuff is about $32 from most archival supply shops and is more than enough for these tiny boots. You can see it applied to a book here: