Mysterious New England: Connecticut’s Mystery Shoes

By Carla Charter

A pair of shoes from the late 1700’s continue to mystify those at the Connecticut Historical Society. The shoes are very typical of their time period, however the silk used to make them, believed to be recycled from a flag, are not.

The shoes were donated to the society by Mrs. Horatio Fitch.  “Horatio Fitch was secretary and treasurer for a number of railroad companies including the Hartford and New Haven Railroad,” said Ilene Frank, Chief Curator of the Connecticut Historical Society.   Fitch was married twice, his first wife, Rebecca, died in 1820. “His second wife was Lydia, born May 21, 1797 and is the one we believe donated the shoes in 1843,” Frank continued. “The reason we know the shoes were donated in 1843 is that that there was one line from the historical society minutes of that date that mention the shoes being donated,” Frank said.

The shoes have a little heel called a Louis Heel “They were made in 1780 and were also known as a Lady’s Buckle Shoe.” The fabric on the top of the shoe was recycled and reused but the society does not know if it was material the cobbler had on hand and used or whether the fabric was given to the cobbler to use.  “Fabric was expensive, especially silk, as it as imported. At that time if you had something valuable you found a way to reuse it,” Frank said.

it is believed the shoe’s silk was originally part of a flag possibly from the Revolutionary War period. “Horatio’s Grandfather Captain Abraham Fitch fought in the Revolution,” Frank said.  However, the society has not been able to definitively identify the flag material. “

Those who might know more about the shoes or can identify the flag they may have been made out of can Contact Frank at Ilenefrank@chs.org

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