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My $32 U.S.-made shoe haul (Many pics)

DocHolliday

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I mentioned in the thrift thread that I had found two pairs of vintage, U.S.-made shoes still in box for $4 each. Well, I went back and found six more pairs. Judging from the boxes and a bit of research, I would guess most of these date from the early to mid-1960s, and some could go back even before that. I figured some other folks would find these interesting, so I thought I'd share some pics. (Also, it might be the only time I can rival Aportnoy in bulk shoe purchases.)

Here's the haul:


Found these in storage at a former men's clothing store that opened in 1952. There were many pairs of shoes left, and it made for an interesting trip through time. Going through the boxes was like watching the downfall of the American shoemaking industry. The best stuff tended to be the oldest, and the newest (late '70s) tended to be terrible. One pair made of "all manmade materials" had literally started to melt. The heel had peeled off and the shoes left a black oil all over my hands.

Curiously, all the decent shoes were in my size, or close enough to it. I don't think I left a single pair of nice shoes, except maybe for a pair of loafers in an 11. Not sure if others had been there before me or what.

Here's a pic of what the better-quality shoes looked like after several decades in storage. Cleanup took several hours and a bottle of leather conditioner.


As I was sorting at the store, it became increasingly difficult to differentiate good from bad. Mold, mildew and age made it hard to judge the leather. (I had one bit of help: The plastic shoes didn't have fuzz growing on them.) But eventually I unearthed three black captoe bals, a brown pebble grain blucher, two black monkstraps, an oxblood blucher and an old-school wingtip gunboat. It was quite the excavation.

My favorite of the captoes has an unusual stitching design:


The captoe also has contrast stitching, as do three of the other pairs, including the pebble-grain bluchers. Was this a big fad at some point? If so, when?


Thought the Florsheim fans might like the longwing, though it's not Florsheim. It's built like a brick and was priced at $99.99 at one point:


Finally, the pair of monkstraps pictured above, after being cleaned up:


Many of the shoes in storage were made by Endicott-Johnson, which was once one of the world's largest shoe manufacturers. It was one of the top four U.S. shoemakers in the 1950s; together the four firms were responsible for roughly a quarter of domestic shoe production. Amazingly, the top 24 makers produced only 35 percent of the country's shoes. Just think of how many domestic shoemakers there must have been. It seems almost boggling today.

Here's a link to some interesting photos and info on Endicott-Johnson:
http://iarchives.nysed.gov/Gallery/gallery.jsp?id=43

Wikipedia says the demise of the company started in the 1950s, and that matches up with my experience digging through three decades of E-J's shoes. The company closed its tannery in 1968, which might help explain why there were so many plastic monstrosties from the '70s. Endicott limped along for years, and only announced plans to close its last plant in 1998. A sad end for one of the U.S. shoemaking giants. But at least some of their wares have found a home at last. Now if only I can bring myself to wear them!

I'd love to hear any thoughts on these shoes, or recollections from forum members who can recall the heyday of the American shoe industry.
 

skalogre

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Holy crap that's a lot of shoes. Good haul! I assume the leather conditioner helped the leather.
 

lawyerdad

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Seriously nice rescue job, doc. Congrats!
 

kali77

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Outstanding! Great finds
 

jmatt

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Wow! What a great find and a great story. I love those cap toe bals. Like a time warp just to wear a pair. I shall assume you are very pleased indeed!
 

Jovan

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... what sizes are they? How much do you want for a pair?
 

DocHolliday

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Originally Posted by skalogre
Holy crap that's a lot of shoes. Good haul! I assume the leather conditioner helped the leather.

Made a huge difference. Most of the shoes now feel like new, and the newspaper I stuffed inside has helped restore their shape. The straps on the monks are still a bit stiffer than I'd like, after being locked in the same position for so many years, so I'll try a second round of conditioner tonight or tomorrow. (Found this conditioner called "Blackrock" and tried a bit of that on the straps too. Was told it was heavy-duty, and it seemed to do the job. But it's greasy, so I'd be hesitant to use it regularly.)

Originally Posted by chorse123
Are they in your size? Did you get all the pairs they had?

Yes, all my size. The longwings are wides, but I'm probably going to try an insert or some such. Oddly, most of the shoes are 10s, yet fit remarkably well even though I'm normally a 9 or 9.5.
 

AlanC

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You should certainly wear them, perhaps keep back a pair or two.

Congratulations. It's good they found a home where they'll be appreciated and cared for.
 

Dakota rube

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Doc, I'm a little fuzzy on where you found all these great shoes. You mentioned being at a former men's clothing store. What is there now, and how did you get access to the place? This sounds like the first chapter of what will surely become SF folklore. What a treasure trove!
 

Soph

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The black cap toes look quite nice.
 

jml90

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Did they have any 13s?
 

DocHolliday

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Originally Posted by Dakota rube
Doc, I'm a little fuzzy on where you found all these great shoes. You mentioned being at a former men's clothing store. What is there now, and how did you get access to the place? This sounds like the first chapter of what will surely become SF folklore. What a treasure trove!

It now sells Western wear and Carhartt. The guy who runs it inherited the store from his father, who operated the clothing store until shortly before his death. Now the old stuff is boxed up and in storage. There's a ton of clothes, but nearly all of it is made of that 20th-century miracle fabric, polyester (or its other manmade kin). I had hoped for some vintage suits, but no dice. I did snag a small selection of skinny vintage silk ties.

I actually thought of you guys while looking through the shoes. I was going to pick up some other sizes and offer them here, but I didn't find anything of interest. The only two possibilities were the loafers I mentioned earlier, which looked rather ordinary, and a pair of monks that I ultimately decided were of insufficient quality to be of interest. Everything else was plastic or extremely dated. (Think '70s monks with gaudy golden buckles the size of saucers.)
 

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