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Treasures Afoot

Shoe Stories from the Georgian Era

Kimberly S. Alexander

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Shoes reveal the hopes, dreams, and disappointments of the early Americans who wore them.

Honorable Mention of the Historic New England Book Prize by Historic New England

In Treasures Afoot, Kimberly S. Alexander introduces readers to the history of the Georgian shoe. Presenting a series of stories that reveal how shoes were made, sold, and worn during the long eighteenth century, Alexander traces the fortunes and misfortunes of wearers as their footwear was altered to accommodate poor health, flagging finances, and changing styles. She explores the lives and letters of clever apprentices...

Shoes reveal the hopes, dreams, and disappointments of the early Americans who wore them.

Honorable Mention of the Historic New England Book Prize by Historic New England

In Treasures Afoot, Kimberly S. Alexander introduces readers to the history of the Georgian shoe. Presenting a series of stories that reveal how shoes were made, sold, and worn during the long eighteenth century, Alexander traces the fortunes and misfortunes of wearers as their footwear was altered to accommodate poor health, flagging finances, and changing styles. She explores the lives and letters of clever apprentices, skilled cordwainers, wealthy merchants, and elegant brides, taking readers on a colorful journey from bustling London streets into ship cargo holds, New England shops, and, ultimately, to the homes of eager consumers.

We trek to the rugged Maine frontier in the 1740s, where an aspiring lady promenades in her London-made silk brocade pumps; sail to London in 1765 to listen in as Benjamin Franklin and John Hose caution Parliament on the catastrophic effects of British taxes on the shoe trade; move to Philadelphia in 1775 as John Hancock presides over the Second Continental Congress while still finding time to order shoes and stockings for his fiancée’s trousseau; and travel to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1789 to peer in on Sally Brewster Gerrish as she accompanies President George Washington to a dance wearing a brocaded silk buckle shoe featuring a cream ground and metallic threads.

Interweaving biography and material culture with full-color photographs, this fascinating book raises a number of fresh questions about everyday life in early America: What did eighteenth-century British Americans value? How did they present themselves? And how did these fashionable shoes reveal their hopes and dreams? Examining shoes that have been preserved in local, regional, and national collections, Treasures Afoot demonstrates how footwear captures an important moment in American history while revealing a burgeoning American identity.

Reviews

Reviews

Alexander spent eight years researching [Treasures Afoot], which examines eighteenth-century shoes from thirty different collections, plus thousands of original letters, inventories and other manuscripts. Each shoe or pair of shoes is the catalyst for a story of how it was made, sold and worn, told in astonishing depth and detail.

Very engagingly written... Shoe history is a very popular field, and [Treasures Afoot] deserves to be widely read, as it is an excellent contribution to the histories of material culture and transatlantic consumerism.

This impeccably researched, written and illustrated book is enough on its own as a study of surviving luxury objects from almost a century of American history.

[Treasures Afoot] is well written and easy to read... an interesting addition to the very limited number of works specifically about eighteenth century shoes.

This is a book that will intrigue students and scholars of American and Material Culture Studies, as well as anyone interested in fashion, history, or—what else?—shoes! It is well researched, accessible, and it interweaves history, biography, and engaging shoe stories in a brilliant manner, doing justice to all the strands in draws to it. It would be a delight to see more endeavors like this one undertaken by and circulating among Americanists.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6.125
x
9.25
Pages
248
ISBN
9781421425849
Illustration Description
99 color photos, 10 b&w illus.
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. The Cordwainers
Chapter 2. Wedding Shoes
Chapter 3. The Value of a London Label
Chapter 4. Coveting Calamancos: From London to Lynn
Chapter 5. The Cordwainer's

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. The Cordwainers
Chapter 2. Wedding Shoes
Chapter 3. The Value of a London Label
Chapter 4. Coveting Calamancos: From London to Lynn
Chapter 5. The Cordwainer's Lament: Benjamin Franklin and John Hose Testify on the Effects of the Stamp Act
Chapter 6. "For My Use, Four Pair of Neat Shoes": George Washington, Virginia Planter, and Mr. Didsbury, Boot- and Shoemaker of London
Chapter 7. Boston's Cordwainers Greet President Washington, 1789
Conclusion
Epilogue
Appendixes
Glossary
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Kimberly S. Alexander
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Kimberly S. Alexander

Historian Kimberly S. Alexander, a former curator at the MIT Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, and Strawbery Banke, teaches material culture and museum studies at the University of New Hampshire.