M973.1.63.1-2 | Boots

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George G. Gales & Co.
About 1900, 19th century or 20th century
Skin: leather; glass
18 x 7.8 x 25.5 cm
Gift of Mrs. Raymond Caron
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Boots (23)
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Keys to History

The footwear industry, one of the oldest in Montreal, expanded rapidly from 1850 to 1871 thanks to the process of mechanization. The census of 1871 counted more than 21,000 persons employed in the factories. This industry, which then accounted for nearly 25% of the labour force, was the biggest sector in the city.

In Canada, Montreal maintained its domination over this business sector throughout the 19th century. More than 250 models were produced in 1882 and, in 1890, the production of shoes increased to more than 2.5 million pairs. Montreal then occupied 60% of the Canadian footwear market.

The Gales firm, where these boots were manufactured, was located at 323 St. Antoine Street, in Old Montreal. The neighbourhood was then the centre of shoemaking, even though the suburbs were attracting more and more shops and factories because of the lack of space.

  • What

    The inner lining of these kid leather boots is cotton and satin.

  • Where

    The industrial production of shoes led to the establishment of measurement standards.

  • When

    Enjoyed and worn by both women and men, buttoned boots were very much in style from the 1860s to the 1910s.

  • Who

    About 1888, a working-class family spent about 60 to 70% of its income on food, 21% on rent and 11% on fuel. The remaining money - what there was of it - was used to buy clothing and shoes. In 1882, a pair of new shoes cost about $2.50; a pair of pants, $3.50; and a coat, $8 to $10.