Welcome to the Aris Allen Baltimore Shoeseum and Swing Era Artifacts!

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Visit us at our location in Baltimore, Maryland and you’ll see over 800 pieces on display. From shoes, to dance cards, to advertising pieces, to salesman’s miniature samples you’ll find lots of goodies to enjoy.

Our mission is to immerse you in everything a dancer from the Swing Era would have been familiar with.

For those of you who can’t come see our collection in person, we offer our online collection.

A LITTLE ABOUT OUR COLLECTION

We bring you both Footwear and Swing artifacts from the first half of the 20th Century. If you had been a young swing dancer in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, or 1950s you’d recognize most of the items in our collection. Every dancer would have had toiletries like hair setting lotion, cosmetics, and fragrances, footwear for dress, play, and dancing, accessories like jewelry, hosiery, and hair care items, and would have had dance tickets and flyers and mementos like dance cards sitting on their dresser.

We’ve tried our best to guess the decade of all our pieces, but we’ll sometimes run into this problem: occasionally shoes that look like they belong to an era will have been made 5-10 years after that style is, well, out of style. Here’s the catch: sometimes a style that would have been popular with 20-somethings in the 1930s will actually have been made in the 1940s for a 40-something who doesn’t like the current styles. 1940s styling will show up on 1950s shoes and so on.

You can see this today in orthopedic footwear… which looks oddly reminiscent of what a senior of today would have worn in their heyday (the 30s, 40s or 50s). What will orthopedic shoes look like when we’re very, very old? Steve Madden chunky heels and pointy witch toes is our best guess!

So to better serve you we spend our days researching Swing Era everything and have tried to be as accurate as possible. Usually the logo or the sole and heel really tells the story.

That said, we hope you enjoy our collection. Check back often as we add more photos.

Thanks so much for your interest!

Our current categories are:

Women’s Shoes
1910s and before
1920s
1930s
1940s
1950s
Men’s Shoes
1910s and before
1920s
1930s
1940s
1950s
And click here to see our extensive collection of Swing Era Artifacts and Vintage Footwear Advertising Pieces

1910s Very Early Keds U.S. Rubber Company Ladies Canvas Sport Boot

Wow. What a find. This is one of the very first Keds shoe made by the U.S. Rubber Company.IMG_1347

Very heavily advertised, this style appears in ads from 1919.

The U.S. Rubber Company was a manufacturer of rubber soles to the footwear manufacturing trade. At the end of WWI they started to manufacture their own line of men’s, women’s and children’s canvas sport shoes.

The 1919 models:
(note the more bulbous toes on the womens’ styles)

1919-Ad-United-States-Rubber-Keds-Womens-Shoes-Boots-Fashion-Sailboats-Footwear

 

 

Give way to the slightly curvier heel and pointier toes of the 1920 styles:

1920-KEDS-Flats-High-Boots-Pumps-Canvas-Tennis-Shoes-Ad

 

1910s Ladies Laceup Boots with French Heel

This one appears to be a salesmen’s sample in that it is marked on the breast of the heel with a paper tag sporting the style number and is clearly deadstock having never been worn.

While it has the bulbous toe and porcelain buttons of the Edwardian Era, it marks the return of the French heel – after about a decade of the ultra-straight military heeled styles.

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From the look of the heel and toe (see the Montgomery Wards catalog page below) I would date this at around 1915. Not quite twenties, but not firmly Edwardian.

1915-edwardian-montgomery-wards-mid-summer-sale-catalog

 

Kind of funny that losing the military heel in favor of the French heel has Wards calling them “military boots”!

You can see very early rumblings of the sharpness of deco stylings on this page.

 

1920s Ladies Captoe Louis Heel Boot with Miniature Broguing

This style marks the departure from the military heel back to the Louis heel. It is clearly not from the earliest part of the century as it lacks the ultra-pointy toe of that era.

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You can see what I call the “half apple shape” to the space between where the breast of the heel hits the floor and where the back of the bottom of the vamp ends. As opposed to the “half heart shape” so common both before this era and post-1940s right on up to today’s sort of “half funnel shape”. The negative space formed by the arch had a nice C shape to it.

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1890s Ornately Appointed Side-Laced Ladies Ankle Boot

This is one of the most beautiful examples in our collection. Though it sports an opera heel – so common in the very early part of the Edwardian Era, it has the detail and flourishes of Victorian styling. Made from ultra-soft kid, it was beautifully preserved due to its owner stuffing it with fluffy wool and, perhaps, keeping it out of the attic!

The laces, fortunately, are made from flat cotton with crimped metal tips – round laces would have hurt that angry little bone that sticks out on the inside of everyone’s ankle!

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The aglets (holes where the laces go through) are richly embroidered and are so uniform that it’s obvious they were rendered with a machine (so many parts of any shoe are rendered by hand – even today – for instance; the moc-toe of today’s loafers are all sewn by hand using 2 needles in concert). The toe ornamentation is clearly machine-rendered.

This pair was clearly owned by someone rich enough to buy the finer things. Which brings up the lack of logos on early, clearly manufactured, shoes. From what I can see, so many shoes and boots made for the mass market in the late 1800s were made to order. The only thing you’ll find inside the throat of the footwear is handwritten numbers – marking, no doubt, the style, size and order number requested by the customer.

The 1902 Powell Bros. catalog page below beautifully illustrates the choices one had.

1902-POWELL-BROS-SHOE-Catalogue-Fall3

You can see that by 1902 the opera heel is “out” and the straight military heel is “in”.

Note that this particular model was for women with ultra-wide feet. “E” is know in the biz as “Eddie” as in the very wide “Triple-Eddie”. His less wide brothers are Al, Benny, Charley, and Dave.

I just found this adorable article about shoe salesman’s lingo from the 1934 New York Times!

1920s Black Velvet and Patent Ladies Wedding Boots – 1923

 

Inside these beauties is a card stating “My Wedding Boots – 1923″. They are beautifully preserved, having been lovingly stuffed with newspaper from the twenties.IMG_1325I have been told that patent leather gets its distinctive shiny appearance (and propensity to crack!) from the process of painting the surface with resin then baking it. But googling it disputes this theory – seems a Seth Boyden invented the process of applying layers of linseed oil to leather in 1819. Not sure why linseed oil would crack… perhaps the coating and baking of a resinated surface came later and was a precursor to today’s plastic-surfaced patents.

Patent leather is well known as a no-no for dancers. You don’t know embarrassment like the kind you experience when you’re doing a spin in the jam in front of 700 people and your feet stick together sending you crashing to the floor! Yes, been there. We quickly learn the trick of oiling the sides of our shoes after such a calamity and forever eschew patent. Just not worth the risk!

 

1900s Ladies Brown Tone-on-Tone Laceup Boot with Ornate Vamp

 

This beauty has swirly detail where leather meets tapestry around the aglets.

While this looks like it’s made from kid, it’s possible that what we’re seeing here is something I have seen called “glazed dongola”. Kid being the more expensive glove leather from a baby goat or lamb and dongola being leather from a sheep or goat that has been tanned to look like kidskin.IMG_1322The ad below from 1899 shows the heels of the day – short, curvy and leaving a slightly triangular footprint. I have seen this heel called a “wedge heel” or “medium opera heel” in catalogs of the period. The toes in this ad are more pointy than the shoe above – by 1900 the extreme pointiness started disappearing.

1899-WOMANS-SHOES-Print-Ad-queen-quality

 

 

 

1910s Brown Ladies Laceup Boot with Louis Heel and Exaggerated “Butt”

We call this style the “big butt” as it’s from the period just prior to the flapper era when everything started getting all angular and deco (you can’t look like your gramma, can  you?).

The Louis heel and pointy toes were back and vamps were curvily plunging. A reaction to the gnarled-looking rounded-toe shoes of just a few years before.IMG_1317 - Copy

Notice the little piece of light-colored material between the heel and the heel cap (at the very bottom). Very popular during this era.

It looks as though the “butt” is exaggerated due to the leather on the throat of the boot shrinking. That may be… a little… as canvas shoes of the era also have a big ol’ butt – and they did not shrink from being left in a hot attic!

Below is a Red Cross Shoe ad from 1919.1919-Red-Cross-Shoes-ad

1900s Brown Ladies Edwardian Laceup Captoe Boot with Straight Stacked Heel

 

 

 

These most likely hail from the period between 1900 and 1910. 1900 marking the departure from short, curvy heels with a spade-shaped “footprint” when heels became very straight with a sharply-cut concave breast (the term for the front of the heel). Also, this period marked the extreme elongation of toes – the precursor to the post-1910s when footwear styles became all strangely rounded (as though you were curling your toes under).IMG_1310

1910s-Gitterman-boots-ad-WWI-WYCLO-military-colors

1910s John Strootman Men’s Captoe Button Shoe

Pardon the expression but this is one Fancy Ass shoe.

From the winged and pointed tail rampant dragon logo to the gold printed scripty box to the striped welt and gorgeous patent-on-kidskin, this beauty was clearly purchased by someone with an avant-garde sense of fashion.

This beauty is practically identical to the men’s shoe pictured at right from the McElroy-Sloane Shoe Company catalog from 1917.