Would anyone want shoes from 1909?
July 26, 2017 3:07 PM   Subscribe

I am pulling out the insulation in the attic of my house and I have found seven men's shoes in the paper fluff insulation. (I assume that I'll find at least one more...) They are smooshed and dry, but I was just wondering if I should offer them on craigslist, try to make a million dollars on them on ebay, or trash them.

They are probably garbage, but they're 100+ years old (the newspapers and receipts I've found in there are all from 1909) and they seem somewhat inherently valuable for that reason.

Also, if anyone knows why there are so many shoes under the floorboards of my attic, do share.

posted by MsDaniB to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak to whether they would sell, but it's a good luck charm: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concealed_shoes
posted by haruspicina at 3:18 PM on July 26 [22 favorites]

Your local museum might want them depending on what their collection policies are. I would give them a call to gauge interest before heading over there though.
posted by Threadcookie at 3:55 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

A person interested in plain/historical dress might want them--if you do put them on eBay, I recommend using those keywords (unless they're fancy shoes, of course). :)
posted by epj at 4:10 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

A podiatrist in our local area collects (and displays in his office) all sorts of antiques but most particularly antique shoes in pretty much pristine condition. I vote for eBay.
posted by DrGail at 4:16 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

Maybe contact the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto? (Surprisingly cool place to visit, too, if you're ever in the area)
posted by DingoMutt at 5:19 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]

Ceri Houlbrook would want to at least know about them. (Did a post about her recently)
posted by jessamyn at 5:40 PM on July 26 [3 favorites]

The newspapers and receipts might be the real find! If the paper still exists they might be interested, or contact your local historical society. As for the shoes, depending on where they were manufactured they may have cultural or monetary value. I'd examine them carefully for trademarks, etc, and go from there. Groovy find!
posted by vrakatar at 5:53 PM on July 26 [4 favorites]

Talk to a shoe repair shop about how to best clean and revitalize them (if at all possible), and hock them for an eyewatering markup at any midsized or larger steampunk convention (include the newspaper!). No joke.
posted by FatherDagon at 6:48 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

jessamyn may have your answer there, or it may be someone else, but I know for certain there are folks who are researching and cataloging this phenomenon. Oh, shoot! Sorry I can't remember who was doing this work. Ceri may/may not be the only one. I suggest taking some pics and forwarding all relevant info to as many researchers as you can find. This sort of thing really means a lot to some people. Thanks for not just chucking them out!!
posted by jbenben at 6:54 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

Your local historic preservation society or commission might want the shoes as well as the newspapers and receipts. I am a member of my municipality's historic preservation commission and we actually keep a pair of "good luck" shoes found in the walls of a local historic building in archival storage, along with a collection of other artifacts that we hope to eventually use in an educational display about local historic buildings (whenever we actually get the funds for the display, that is). In the meantime they are available for local scholars or historians to look at if they request access to our archives.
posted by BlueJae at 8:16 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

This is super cool, and you have some potential for a profit and a public good here. Definitely clean them up as best you can (no abrasive cleaners or any serious alterations!) and put them on eBay, or take them to an antiques/vintage dealer who will consign them for you. I work for a historic house museum and we routinely buy prop objects authentic to the era, often from eBay, for display when our own stuff is too fragile to bring out of storage.
posted by witchen at 10:39 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

Are they pairs? (Or a pair and a spare?) Your question isn't clear. If it's pairs it might not be ritual, as it's usually a single shoes that are used. Seven seems a lot, which might well be interesting in itself.

I don't know who's working on it in North America, but I'm sure there are people, it's a popular area of research in archaeology at the moment. As well as Ceri Holbrook, Brian Hoggard has been working in this for a long time and you can report finds on his website. They'll be able to point you in the right direction.
posted by Helga-woo at 11:09 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

The ladies over at American Duchess might also be interested in these. They make very historically accurate reproduction footwear. Currently they don't make men's shoes, but they may eventually do so.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 11:39 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]

Thank you so much, you guys!

I had been joking that we were going to find bodies buried in the attic, so when I initially hit something hard with my shovel, then looked under the floorboards and saw the bottom of a shoe, I freaked myself right out.

The newspaper crumbles to bits, but the first scrap I picked up had the date (September 1909) on it, something that totally annoys me when it happens in movies, but is apparently completely realistic. I also found a course catalog that is missing the cover, but appears to be from the 1920s. I have saved that and the receipts and the world's cutest tiny whiskey bottle. I plan to make a little shadow box to go inside the entrance of the attic to commemorate our labors and cool finds (unless someone turns out to want them for something more official).

I will photograph the shoes and contact the people you suggested. If they are good luck, they'll just have to go back where I found them, though. :)
posted by MsDaniB at 8:02 AM on July 27 [8 favorites]

The bottle also may have historic/collector value. Antique glass bottles are a thing.
posted by vrakatar at 7:39 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]

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