Comfort in Our Shoes

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This one has been nagging at me for quite a while. I saw it immediately after it went up for sale on eBay, but it was just too expensive. I made an offer – it was refused. I sulked and waited. Luckily my brother in-law, Seth Deitch, saved me by sending me an eBay gift certificate for Christmas and I decided I would apply it to the card which was available and I still had a yen for. Yay! Thank you Seth!

This fellow who manages to hang onto his cat dignity while tucked in this comfy shoe just delights me. My goodness, he’s a real little fussbudget, yes? He would give Cookie a run for her money, I think. He looks so very comfortable and at home in that shoe – I like to believe he really liked sleeping there and they captured him doing it. As cat owners know, for some kitties there is simply nothing like a smelly old shoe.  Mine are still kittenish enough to go for the laces first and foremost – you can barely tie a shoe in this house without tussling, mostly with Blackie.

This card was never used and I was unable to trace the photographer, Mr. or Ms. Porter. No date to be found and we do wish the photographer had managed a slightly higher contrast in either the taking or the printing. I was able to find evidence of the Boston Shoe Store in Maine from the 1910’s.  In a 1913 issue of the Boot and Shoe Recorder (yep, an early shoe store trade mag now digitized online) there is reference to it in Calais, Maine. At the time it was under the proprietorship of N. A. Olsen and was noted to be a good up to date shoe store with a modern front. It continues, Lewis, the shoe man, is a great believer in advertising. He uses a number of novel methods of advertising successfully.

Since this card is undated it is a bit hard to put the picture together, but on the same page you can read about our friend, A. T. Smith, when this photo was taken and he had just returned from a trip to California according to the shoe pub. He is mentioned under a section devoted to the shoe business in Houlton, Maine. Seems he was the then shoe man for something called McGary’s Co. the only significant competitor to a larger farmer owned corporation (and department store) called The Grange – and they seemed to have most of the local shoe business sewn up. After noting that only high shoes, in tan and black, sold well in Houlton (I take this to mean high on the leg, not high-heeled) the author goes on to say about the other local shoe stores, All they need is a little time, and they will be satisfied to quit the shoe game. 

Assuming our card is post 1913, his prediction was wrong and A. T. Smith was ultimately the proprietor of Boston Shoes in Houlton. (I will spare you the details but there is further evidence that Mr. Smith and his wife were prominent citizens in Houlton, ME and were active in city policy, etc.) Or this is earlier and the Boston Shoe Store did indeed migrate to Calais. Either way, I wonder if this great card is the work of the snappy advertising guy Lewis!

Houlton, Maine, a farm community, was noted to have a population of 5,845 in 1913 and said to be located in the potato belt. It has grown modestly in all these years and only boasted a population of 6,123 in the 2010 census. A map shows it sticking way out on the furthermost edge of the state, surrounded by water. I include an early postcard of the business district pulled from the town’s online historical site. Sadly, no other cat images were to be found in association with the town or the shoe stores – I believe that is a dog in the photo below.



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