The Connecticut Historical Society has been collecting costume and textile items since the 1840s. With all of those wonderful objects floating around it is hard to solve all of their mysteries. One particular mystery has intrigued me since I started here, and I thought I would share it with all of you….
These amazing 18th century shoes were donated to CHS in 1843. They were donated by a Mrs. Horatio Fitch, who inked the very thing on the bottom of each shoe.
The shoe uppers are made of silk, but not just regular 18th century silk…recycled 18th century silk. They are made from a silk flag. I have always wondered, and tried to find out, what flag.
When you look at the shoes closely, you can see the red silk damask of the flag background and layers of gold and blue paint. (in order to see the fabric more clearly, I blacked out everything else in the image, including the shoe heals…so don’t be confused from the first picture showing them with heals!)
The gold is painted in a swirl pattern with a banner painted in navy blue and lettered in gold.
Some of the letters are legible, but not enough to figure out what the banner originally said…there is an “OIT” on one shoe and an “N” on the other.
The original catalogue record suggests the shoes are made from an old military standard, but my searching has returned no results of a military standard with this same combination of colors in the same spots. However, the number of military flags is numerous, so I cannot say that I have seen them all. I hope that one day I’ll stumble on the answer to the mystery silk in these 1780s shoes, and perhaps when I do it will give us a bit more information about the original owner.