M968.5.10.1-2 | Shoes

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J. & T. Bell Boot & Shoe Co.
About 1880, 19th century
10.2 x 5.8 x 24.5 cm
Gift of Mrs. Kenneth Naylor
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Shoes (38)
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Keys to History

These white satin shoes were made by J. & T. Bell, an important Montreal shoe manufacturer.

Montreal was the centre of the boot and shoe industry in Canada in the 19th century. In 1854, J. & T. Bell advertised that their boots and shoes were "warranted to be of the best materials and workmanship," combining "elegance and durability." Like most Montreal merchants of the time, Bell sold boots and shoes wholesale to country merchants and also kept a retail store for city customers. J. & T. Bell manufactured footwear until about 1920.

These are "straight shoes," that is, they are made without left or right shaping, which was the usual method of construction for all footwear until the end of the 19th century. Delicate shoes such as these would have been worn for a special occasion - a wedding or a ball.

  • What

    By this time, leather shoes were being made with right and left shapings, but most fabric shoes were still made on "straight" lasts. The soft satin of the shoe would conform easily to the foot.

  • Where

    These shoes were purchased from the manufacturer J. & T. Bell, whose shop was located on Notre-Dame Street alongside other retail stores.

  • When

    Early shoe manufacturing in Canada concentrated on sturdy footwear. Fine boots and shoes were imported from England. By the 1850s local shoe manufacturers were able to supply all the needs of Montrealers from their shops.

  • Who

    The soles of these satin shoes show scarcely any wear, suggesting that they were worn only once or twice, possibly by a bride.