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Cowboy boots by Art E Ayotte

Before the 1870s, the Western horseman wore what every other livestock handler and shit-kicker in America wore: either a brogan or a low-heeled pull-on Wellington type work boot.  The brogans were made, for the most part, in Massachusetts factories crushed down and packed in barrels and shipped West by wagon and riverboat. 

If you read "Two Years Before the Mast", you will recall that the ship's cargo included shoes to Los Angeles and dried cowhides on the return trip. Those Spanish hides would be tanned in Boston and turned into shoes in the factories at Lynn and Braintree.

They were the common shoe of the common man, from river boaters to farmers to herders, to Irish immigrant, to cotton-picking slaves.

However, in some of the pre-Civil War West, pull-on boots were worn. These were unlined and made of heavy, rough leather. They were of varied height, anything from mid-calf to sixteen inches high. They had low heels and squarish or rounded toes.  They were often associated with farmers and teamsters who drove the Conestoga or "Stogie" freight wagons that also brought the cigars. The boots were designed for working on foot in muddy areas shared with livestock who had not been toilet trained. 

The Mexicans had no early record of a heeled boot, nor do the horsemen of Spanish culture in South America.  The Argentinian Gaucho used leather wrappings to protect his feet from brush and cactus. The foot is placed in the middle of an 18" or 22" square of leather and then wrapped the way that many foreign armies used to use linen squares in place of stockings. Pre-war Finland and Russia and the French Foreign Legion come to mind.  Mexican Vaqueros had something similar. They were called "botas" but they were not boots.

Everything about the origin of the "cowboy boot" seems to point to Salinas, Texas in 1873.  The ideas came from a rider who wanted a boot that would easily find the stirrup but would never slide through it. Every horseman's nightmare was to be runaway-dragged by a foot  caught in a stirrup.  Some people believe that the popularity of pistols among cowboys was because the riders wanted a chance to shoot the horse in the event of a runaway.  The use of pistols for social purposes was secondary.

Until the time that the unknown rider approached the "German bootmaker", the horsemen of the West wore work boot Wellingtons or working man's brogans.  After 1873 the riders who could afford them began to wear the safer boots with pointy toes.  Teamsters, stage drivers and many stockmen who didn't care for the high heel continued with the flat-heeled footwear.

The early boots were of two-piece construction, that is, they had a front and a back, each of which was formed on a "crimping board" to the shape of the customer's foot.  The leather was wetted and stretched over the edge of a curved board that profiled the front of the boot.  When dry, the leather was trimmed and sewn to the back section of the boot. 

 Each piece extended from the sole of the boot all the way to the top. Later, for reasons of manufacture and assembly, the separate stack was introduced. This meant that the boot had a separate foot with a sort of tongue on the front.  The two piece boot has no tongue and is curved to shape before assembly.  If it is improperly done, the curved front wrinkles and rubs the wearer. 

Perhaps the only manufacturer today  making properly crimped boots is El Canelo, of Leon, GT, Mexico. They have introduced a heated crimper to form and keep the proper curve in the front of the boot.

I recall one passage talking about Federal recruits in the Civil War in which it was said, "These Army boots were the first laced shoes that some of these men had ever used."  If I recall correctly, the men were from the Ohio/Indiana area. Since I can't give a proper source for the quotation, let's call that one apocryphical or whatever you say when you can't  prove it. I have handled one early boot last found in Western Georgia and it was straight so it has to be back-country and pre-1830-40.  Any boots made after 1840-50 is almost certainly were built on left/right lasts. After all, left/rights had been in common use since 1830.

Wellington Boot from Wikipedia

The Wellington boot, also known as a welly, a wellie, a gumboot or a rubber boot, is a type of boot based upon Hessian boots. It was worn and popularised by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington and fashionable among the British aristocracy in the early 19th century.

The first Duke of Wellington instructed his shoemaker, Hoby of St. James's Street, London, to modify the 18th century Hessian boot. The resulting new boot designed in soft calfskin leather had the trim removed and was cut closer around the leg. The heels were low cut, stacked around an inch, and stopped at mid-calf. It was hard wearing for battle yet comfortable for the evening. The Iron Duke didn't know what he'd started—the boot was dubbed the Wellington and the name has stuck ever since. (The Duke can be seen wearing the boots, which are tasseled, in this 1815 portrait by James Lonsdale.)[1]

These boots quickly caught on with patriotic British gentlemen eager to emulate their war hero. Considered fashionable and foppish in the best circles, and worn by dandies, such as Beau Brummel, they remained the main fashion for men through the 1840s. In the 1850s they were more commonly made in the calf high version and in the 1860s they were both superseded by the ankle boot, except for riding.

These boots were at first made of leather. However in 1852, Hiram Hutchinson met Charles Goodyear who just had invented the vulcanization process for natural rubber. While Goodyear decided to manufacture tyres, Hutchinson bought the patent to manufacture footwear and moved to France to establish "A l'Aigle" in 1853 ("To the Eagle," in honour of his home country). In a country where 95% of the population were working on fields with wooden clogs as it had been for generations, the introduction of the Wellington type rubber boot became an immediate success: farmers were finally able to come home their feet dry and mud-free.

Now Wellington boots are waterproof and are most often made from rubber or a synthetic equivalent. They are usually worn when walking on very wet or muddy ground, or to protect the wearer from industrial chemicals. They are generally just below knee-high.

In Britain, there is a light-hearted sport, known as wellie wanging, which involves throwing Wellington boots as far as possible. The boots, especially Black Rubber, are also popular fetish items among many people.

The boot has also given its name to the welly boot dance, said to have been performed by miners in Africa to keep their spirits up whilst working. In 1974, Scottish comedian Billy Connolly adopted a comical ode to the boot called "The Welly Boot Song" as his theme tune and it became one of his best-known songs.

Wellington boots, though invented in Britain, are very popular in Canada, particularly in springtime, when melting snows leave wet and muddy ground for a couple of months. Children can be seen wearing them to school and taking them to summer camps.

Green Wellingtons are most popular in Britain, while black Wellingtons, particularly with red or green soles, remain the favourite of Canadians. Yellow-soled black Wellingtons are often seen in the US, in addition to Canadian styles. Wellingtons specifically made for cold weather, lined with warm insulating material, are especially popular during Canadian winters.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 
used with copyright and copyleft as per Wikipedia permission agreements

If you would really like to know more about boots, here is a very long over view article on the History of Boots.
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