Last week, a reader admired the tidy little boots sported by the Parsly children in their family portrait. Here’s a closer look at a similar, though slightly earlier, pair.

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These side-button black leather boots are six inches from toe to heel. They’re fairly worn and scuffed, and the right shoe has a hole worn through at the big toe, but otherwise they are in stable condition.  They were probably sturdy, everyday shoes, worn until outgrown.

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The boots were likely worn by their donor, Isabel Stabler Moore (1885-1971), daughter of Dr. Augustus and Helen Snowden Stabler. Isabel was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, but the family returned to “Roslyn,” Dr. Stabler’s home in Brighton (Sandy Spring area), after the death of his father in 1890.  An interesting – and currently unanswered – question is, why were they saved?  For sentimental or practical reasons, or perhaps it was simply an oversight?

Inside the left boot is a label for “Best & Co., New York,” a high-end children’s clothing store (originally, anyway) founded in 1879. I can’t find catalog images for that shop, but here’s a selection of children’s shoes from the 1886 Bloomingdale’s catalog. Isabel’s boots resemble the “spring heel” boot on the right (minus the scalloped edge), suitable for both boys and girls.

1886 bloomies shoes

In surveying 1890s images from our photo collections, most of the girls are wearing side-button boots while the boys have front-laced ones, but I don’t believe that was a hard and fast rule.  Slightly older girls had heeled boots, but otherwise toddler shoes of the late 19th century seem fairly interchangeable.

warfield and pooleLeft: Robert Leroy Warfield (1889-1970) of Rockville, donated by the Warfield family. Right: Martha Sprigg Poole (1890-1972) of Poolesville & Washington DC, donated by Katherine Poole.

Want more children’s shoes? We have a nice selection, some of which will probably end up on the blog eventually, but in the meantime check out the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society, which has gathered their 1890s children’s footwear onto one page (including a fabulous pair of blue boots, which I covet).

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