Flashback: Glass Slippers Shoes and Boots

April 16th, 2009

This article describes the 19th-century glass slippers and boots pictured, noting which are the rarest and most desirable for collectors. It originally appeared in the June 1942 issue of American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antique collectors and dealers.

In recent years collectors of antiques, particularly American, have displayed an ever-increasing tendency toward specialization. This may be due to the fact that our collecting tempo has steadily increased. So much so that the most sought after items can no longer be as readily acquired from owners of long-established households. Many of them have already passed into the possession of collectors or dealers. In any case, specialized collecting in these chaotic days is a cheering form of mental relaxation.

Illustration I: Three Bottles in Boot Shape: The glass is of the Nailsea type with loops or whorls in white or color. These three bottles may be of Continental origin. At the left is a rummer in boot form with delicate spiral swirling that may date from time of George III of England.

Illustration I: Three Bottles in Boot Shape: The glass is of the Nailsea type with loops or whorls in white or color. These three bottles may be of Continental origin. At the left is a rummer in boot form with delicate spiral swirling that may date from time of George III of England.

Apparently novelties in the form of little slippers and boots were made in many countries, both in glass and in china, over a long period of years. Just what material was used for the first of these interesting objects has not been established, but I am inclined to believe that the earliest may have been of blown glass.

There is a tradition that blown glass boots were made in England during the reign of George III in derision and ridicule of the Earl of Bute. While the former was still Prince of Wales, John Stuart, Earl of Bute, acquired great influence over him and indeed put into the head of that misguided and obstinate monarch an exaggerated idea of the powers of kingship which some years later was to cost him thirteen American colonies.

After George became king, his friend and confidant was raised to a position of importance, first becoming one of the principal Secretaries of State and then Prime Minister. He lasted about a year in the latter post. His private life was above reproach, but he was probably one of the worst public servants England has ever known. His policy was one of royal absolutism and his levying of excessively high taxes met with no favor in England. So great was his unpopularity with the people that in 1763 he was practically forced to resign as Prime Minister. It is quite possible that the slang phrase “boot him out” may have originated at this time.

Illustration II: Made Originally as Perfume Bottles: Shaped like Dutch wooden sabots and high shoes, they are much smaller than are usually to be found.

Illustration II: Made Originally as Perfume Bottles: Shaped like Dutch wooden sabots and high shoes, they are much smaller than are usually to be found.

There is an obvious difference between a slipper and a boot. According to the dictionary a boot is “a covering, usually of leather, for the foot and more or less of the leg.” In the United States, the word boot is distinctively applied to the form reaching at least well up on the leg. Otherwise, both here and in England, boot is a term generally used for any high cut shoe. Thus, a baby’s shoe is referred to as a bootee. A slipper of course is a low shoe, easily slipped on or off the foot.

Last January it was my good fortune to be able to have photographed the large and varied collection of four hundred and sixty-eight glass slippers and boots belonging to Mrs. Lloyd B. Wilson, for use in my forthcoming book. Mrs. Wilson has been a discriminating and avid collector and her collection is undoubtedly the most outstanding in this country today. From the examples shown here, one may get an excellent idea of the variety and scope of this phase of collecting. In Illustration I, we see three boots blown in bottle form and a fourth delicately swirled and in the shape of a rummer. The latter was a favorite in early days at hunt clubs.

In Illustration II may be seen a number of perfume bottles in the shape of Dutch slippers and also in boots. The Dutch slippers may be encountered frequently, though seldom in the tiny size pictured. The other forms pictured are more scarce. In Holland, years ago, blue china Dutch shoes filled with eau de cologne were seen in all shops carrying novelties for sale.

Illustration III: Boots and Shoes in Glass: The three at the right are boots in clear glass. The largest, center, is 10 1/4 inches high. The one at the extreme left, which is a bottle, has a frosted finish. Its base is a hassock. It has a total height of twelve inches.

Illustration III: Boots and Shoes in Glass: The three at the right are boots in clear glass. The largest, center, is 10 1/4 inches high. The one at the extreme left, which is a bottle, has a frosted finish. Its base is a hassock. It has a total height of twelve inches.

Rarities in large boots are pictured in Illustration III. The tallest measures 10 1/4 inches high and so far, has only been found in clear glass. The largest shoe bottle is pictured in the same illustration. It is a very elaborate frosted and clear high button shoe, resting on a hassock. Its total height is 12 inches. It is so similar to many French perfume bottles that one wonders if it may not have been imported. Its style would denote the time of our Philadelphia Centennial, in 1876.

A scarce and interesting shoe is the type shown by the last three examples, to the left, in Illustration IV. These are of “case” glass, a process of glassmaking which shows a white lining on the interior of the objects. All three of these shoes are decorated with applied leaves and small festoons of clear glass. Two are mottled in coloring and might easily be designated as “splash ware:” The third is a clear rose color.

Illustration IV: Shoes and Slippers in Glass: At the left are three shoes in colored case glass with applied leaves in small festoons. The three slippers at the right are of opaque glass, two of which have hand painted decoration.

Illustration IV: Shoes and Slippers in Glass: At the left are three shoes in colored case glass with applied leaves in small festoons. The three slippers at the right are of opaque glass, two of which have hand painted decoration.

Of considerable interest to glass collectors are the three pointed slippers to the right, in the same illustration. These appear to be china, but are of glass and two are hand decorated. There was a time when all such decorated wares were lumped under the heading of Bristol. An old catalogue issued by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Co., which has come into my possession since the publication of Sandwich Glass, pictures such a wide variety of painted glassware that I think items made by them may well have included slippers.

Among the rarest novelties in slippers are the little thimble holders. Four are pictured in Illustration V. They are exceedingly scarce today, doubtless due to their diminutive size, thereby causing them to be easily lost or overlooked. Two are slippers, in shape similar to our modern “mules.” They measure 2 1/4 inches in over-all length. These were made for the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo, N. Y., and have been found in several colors. The little blue high shoe has white enameled lacings. The very dark one is in a deep amethyst, with frosted or satin finish. The detail is exceptionally fine. It is an oxford style, with four lacings. One wonders whether it could not have held a tiny scent or perfume bottle, rather than a thimble.

Illustration VI: More Boots and Slippers: Of the two high boots in the center, that at left has a view of Hamburg at the top of the leg. The slippers at the right are rarities as are the smaller frosted boots at the extreme left.

Illustration V: A Variety of Slippers, Boots and Shoes: In upper row are two perfume bottles, an unusual slipper, and an opaque boot decorated with gold, probably of English workmanship. Lower row, a group of thimble holders. The two at the center were made as souvenirs that were sold at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition.

An indication of the popularity of blown glass boots in Europe, is shown by the two pictured in the center of Illustration VI. One carries a view in the City of Hamburg and is further embellished with gold decoration. The similar boot beside it is plain, with no decoration, but would appear to have been produced by the same company.

The two slippers at the right of the boots are both rarities. One is frosted and very nicely cut; the other is of heavy glass with a small applied decoration. All of the slippers display an interesting variation in the style of the heels. The last one described has a high “spike” heel. The over-all length of this slipper is 7 1/4 inches.

Illustration VI: More Boots and Slippers: Of the two high boots in the center, that at left has a view of Hamburg at the top of the leg. The slippers at the right are rarities as are the smaller frosted boots at the extreme left.

Illustration VI: More Boots and Slippers: Of the two high boots in the center, that at left has a view of Hamburg at the top of the leg. The slippers at the right are rarities as are the smaller frosted boots at the extreme left.

The two satin glass boots pictured in the same illustration to the left are standing on an oval base. The story accompanying these boots is that they were made at the Mt. Washington Glass Co. as a gift to the wife of one of the company officials for her new baby, by one of the glassworkers. They are said to be the only pair made of that kind and that they were produced in 1883. I cannot vouch for this story. If it is true, then the mold for the boots must have been destroyed. It will be interesting to learn whether any others like them ever come to light.

The Daisy and Button slipper shown in the center of Illustration VII is attached to the oblong tray, which is in the Fishscale pattern. This design was originally made by the old Bryce Bros. Company of Pittsburgh, where it was known by the trade name of “Coral.” This slipper on the tray is difficult to find today, though I have seen it in crystal and in colors. In the Bryce Bros. catalogue, it was labeled as an ash tray.

Illustration VII: An Assortment of Boots, Shoes and a Slipper: These were largely of mid-western make. The Daisy and Button slipper affixed to the tray was originally made by the Bryce Brothers Company of Pittsburgh.

Illustration VII: An Assortment of Boots, Shoes and a Slipper: These were largely of mid-western make. The Daisy and Button slipper affixed to the tray was originally made by the Bryce Brothers Company of Pittsburgh.

The boot to the right of the tray is in an opaque blue. It is decorated with a leaf pattern and has a diamond point design on the heel. This is one of the rarest boots pictured. The high shoe with the tongue hanging downward is equally hard to find. It is in amber and has hobnails edging the sole. The baby’s bootee next to it is in an opaque color and has a dainty, lacy pattern. Some of these smaller boots and bootees were designed to be used as match holders and also as toothpick holders.

The boot salt and pepper shakers with pewter tops, shown in Illustration VIII, are fairly scarce items. They are seen in crystal as well as with a frosted finish. They were probably made at the time of the Centennial in Philadelphia. I have heard that similar boots were produced having screw tops and a handle in addition, and that they were sold filled with candy. Another style had a pewter top with a lid designed to be used as a mustard jar.

Illustration VIII: Other Shoe and Slipper Designs: The salt and pepper shakers in the center have perforated pewter tops. The slippers have the original perfume bottles for which they were made as holders.

Illustration VIII: Other Shoe and Slipper Designs: The salt and pepper shakers in the center have perforated pewter tops. The slippers have the original perfume bottles for which they were made as holders.

There is an almost unlimited field of action for the collectors of old slippers and boots: For instance, some shoes may be found in pairs, with a right and a left shoe. Then there are those bearing the names of the manufacturer. One sometimes found marked is the Centennial Exhibition (1876) slipper produced by Gillinder & Sons of Philadelphia.

A curiosity is the “Depression” shoe bottle with screw cap, put out during the depression in 1893 and said to have been given away at Christmas filled with whiskey, by hotels. We wonder! Then there are the Daisy and Button slippers which were designed to hold bottles of perfume. Several styles are pictured in Illustration VIII.

Shoe lamps having a small round handle at the side may be found marked “Pat. June 30-1888.” These occur in blue, amber and in crystal. There are also those slippers bearing paper labels, some advertising old-time shoe stores. It is no wonder that enterprising present-day shoe manufacturers find the collecting of these glass novelties a fascinating hobby.

This article originally appeared in American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antique collectors and dealers.

12 comments so far

  1. jane binkley Says:

    I have a blue carnival glass bow slipper with a flower or starburst pattern except on the toe. It is smooth. But what I would like to know is what the symbol stands for on the bottom. It is an S with a small G inside the top curve of the S. Also there is an indentation or “frog” on the sole of the shoe. It’s in good shape, like new and I’m also wondering what it should be worth as I am packing it for an auction sale.

  2. Shirley Eve Says:

    I have a “case glasscoloured boot’as pictured in the above artical – picture number 1V.It is in very good condition, i was wondering if you could tell me how much it would be worth . thankyou

  3. Susan Rorwick Says:

    I have a glass slipper similar to that pictured in illustration V11. The only mark that I can see is Patn Oct 19 1886. From that is it possible to identify the maker? Can you also give me the approx. value of the one in the illustration. My thanks for your assistance.

  4. Lenora Mixon Says:

    I would like to see more information on this topic. I believe that there are many glass shoe collectors who like myself are just clamouring for information on this type of collectible. The glass shoe collectors probably also collect porcelain and other types of shoes as well. I am interested in any history from any collectible shoe maker. I hope you will in the future include more articles of this type.

  5. Joanne MacDonald Says:

    My mum has a glass slipper with the salt and pepper shakers along with a vinigarette bottle inside (similar to the last photo). This heirloom will go to my brother so I on the hunt to find one for myself. Do you know where I can get something like this in Australia or do I need to go further afield. I can suppply a photo of what I am looking for if this helps.
    Thanks

  6. Jim Detloff Says:

    I have a pair of porcelain slippers marked OSBORNE hand painted.
    Can anyone lead me to information on this manufacturer?

  7. Marina Lee Says:

    Thanks Ruth for this post and for bringing this lovely glass slippers and boots. They look awesome. Such boots look very trendy and with different style and different design work done on it. I simple love that.

  8. cheap jerseys Says:

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  9. Cliff Parker Says:

    I have a crystal slipper with the only marking on it is pat.d. oct 19,1886
    on it with gold heel stars and dot symbols. can you please help me figure out the history of the shoe and what is might be worth.
    Thank you

  10. Luke Sweeney Says:

    Hello,

    I have a mold blown boot(seam runs half way up the neck) like the 4th boot in from the left in illustration 2. It also has an old sticker on it that says Remember Me. Can you give me an idea of its origin and value?

    Thank You,
    Luke

  11. Mona Lilly Says:

    My father has two glass slippers from his Uncle, who came from England to Illinois. When you hold the slippers up they have an HT engraved in each one.
    They look like the one on the plate but a higher heel. Again you know how storys goes my dad is 82 and these slippers are suppose to be linked to Catherine the Great. Who knows?

  12. Rosemary Pye-Boch Says:

    I have a clear glass boot with a handle on it, so I’m thinking it must be a mug of some sorts. The boot represents a cowboy boot, it is nine & a half inches tall & is a gold-bronze colour. There is a head of a long horn steer on each side near the top of the boot along with other designs on what would be the leg section. The foot section has no design on it & there are no markings on the bottom of the sole except for several marks that appear to be bubbles in the glass itself. Would you have any idea of the age, or who it was made by & the value of it.
    Thank you.


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