M970.26.48.1-2 | Shoes

Eaton Canada
About 1885, 19th century
10 x 6 x 23.5 cm
Gift of T. Eaton Co. Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Shoes (38)
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Keys to History

At the beginning of the 19th century, women's footwear was generally made without heels. But by the 1870s a low graceful heel had been introduced.

The low heel on these shoes is called the "Louis" heel, a reference to King Louis XIV, the "Roi Soleil," who loved dancing. The leather is a delicate kid that has been treated with an aniline dye, one of the chemical dyes developed in the 1860s to give the leather a metallic sheen. The only part of these shoes that would have shown beneath the long skirts worn at the time - the toes - are decorated with black metallic beads.

This type of decorated shoe was very popular for many years. Similar shoes - with updated pointed toes - were advertised in Eaton's 1901 catalogue for $2.50.

  • What

    These shoes are made of bronze kid leather with buttoned straps across the instep, and are trimmed with black beads on the toes. Embossed on the sole of the shoe is "The T. Eaton Company Limited, Toronto."

  • Where

    No manufacturer's name appears on the shoes, since they were likely made expressly for Eaton's.

  • When

    Timothy Eaton opened his first small shop in Toronto in 1869. By the 1880s the business had expanded into a department store and had a mail-order catalogue that reached customers throughout Canada.

  • Who

    Shoes can, when they are carefully studied, suggest much about who wore them. This pair was worn mainly indoors, perhaps with an afternoon dress at tea time, as the soles show very little wear.