HE manufacture of Altura, now called leather, is of very early origin, mention of it being found in manuscripts many years before Christ. Man in order to protect his feet in primeval days was compelled to adopt a covering of raw hide.
One of the earliest occupations of mankind was the dressing of leather, in all countries ; and it is remarkable that Canadian Indians, Laplanders, and Africans dress skins remarkably well, although their processes and means are necessarily of the rudest kind.
The earliest mention of shoes in the Bible occurs in Deuteronomy xxv. 10. According to the writer, Moses, therefore, the Jewish shoe dates back centuries before the Christian era. We also find mention of shoes at Exodus iii. 5, when the angel of God appeared to Moses on Mount Horeb in a flame of fire out of the midst of the burning bush—a bush which burnt without being consumed. Moses awed said, “I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt;” when the angel of the Lord replied, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” The expression “put off thy shoes” is more enlightening than any previous notice of shoemaking in ancient history,
We also find that Joshua, on seeing .an angel in the pathway, asked whether he was for Israel or their enemies ; he replied that as captain of God’s host he came, and on Joshua making obeisance to him he said, “ Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; ‘for the place whereon thou standest is holy.” (Joshua v. 15.)
The uncovering of the foot was undoubtedly a sign of reverence, and at the present time it is the custom to leave one’s shoes at the door of a mosque, while in Western countries the head is uncovered on entering a place of worship.
When the Hebrews were preparing to cross the Red Sea, Moses commanded them thus: “And thus shall ye eat it (the Passover), with your loins girded, and your shoes on your feet,” etc. (Exodus xii. 11), which shows that shoemaking was known amongst the Hebrews before they left Egypt. The historian, Herodotus, tells us: “The Hebrews in the first ages wore boots which covered altogether the feet and legs.”
The sandal and the buskin made up between them the foundation of shoemaking; the sandal was no doubt the first foot covering, raw hide and leather being the material mostly used.
At the present day in Palestine, and probably for many centuries past, wooden soles have been used by the poorer classes on their sandals. “Sold the poor for a pair of shoes” (Amos ii. 6). At the present day these sandals or shoes have usually a raised heel.
If a Hebrew wished to show high respect to anyone, he took off his shoes and approached him barefooted.
The shoe was also used as a sign of conquest, the passage “Over Edom will I cast my shoe” occurring in the Psalms lx. 8, and cviii. 9,
We also read that the prophet Isaiah went up to Jerusalem barefooted.
On the day of Atonement the ancient Israelite did not wear shoes, except those made of soft material—not wearing his ordinary leather shoes, in order to go quietly for the sake of his sins. Before the celebration of Jewish weddings in ancient days, historians tell us that the future husband offered a ring to his fiancée, and after embracing her he gave her a shoe, the shoe being’ emblematic of the right of possession, and the bridegroom in giving this shoe seemed to say to his intended wife, “ I give myself to thee.”
The Romans called a shoemaker sutor, from the verb to sew, or calceolarius, which recalls the flower calceolaria, and which is so called from its slipper shape. Their shoes were often buried with them, perhaps as being the most valuable and showy article of dress, and one that the deceased would least like to part with. In the ninth and tenth centuries wooden shoes were worn by the greatest princes of Europe, the upper part of leather and the sole of wood ; the poorer Anglo-Saxons wore no stockings or boots, but wore a cloth bound round their feet and legs. In the Norman period su6tutares were worn; it was a close warm shoe. When worn by the lower orders, shepherds, etc-, the legs were also covered by a kind of gaiter, but richly ornamented shoes were worn by the upper classes; some were ornamented round the top. A great beau, Robert, surnamed the Horned, who lived in the reign of William Rufus, used shoes with sharp long points, stuffed with tow and twisted like a ram’s horn. The English word boot is derived from the Welsh botes, which means shoes.
Pattens, of which a number are exhibited at Cluny Museum, Paris, and of which a specimen is shown in Plate VII., Nos. 38 and 35, in olden days took the place of the modern golosh, and their supposed origin would date back as far as the fourteenth century, when long-toed shoes were in fashion. Its name is derived from the French patin, and not, as the poet Gay writes,—
“The patten now supports each frugal dame,
Which from the blue-eyed Patty takes its name.”
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they were worn by clergy and gentry, and to be as light as possible were made of aspen wood. In Davenant’s “The Wits,” published in 1635, we find “From your sattin slipper to your iron patten,” including all grades of society.
The ringed patten, which was a patten with an iron ring on the sole, to save it from wear and to keep the foot dry, is not older than Queen Anne’s time.
The Polish shoes worn in 1388 were the most ludicrous shoes ever fashionable in England; they were fastened to the wearer’s knee by cords of silk, or gold and silver chains. A Duke of Anjou is said to have first introduced them to hide a bunion on his foot.
In Henry VIII.’s reign shoes grew so broad to suit his gouty feet, that in his daughter Mary’s reign the shoes became so large that Parliament limited their breadth over the toes to six inches.
Wrinkled boots became fashionable in the reign of Charles I. With them was worn inside the boot the sashune, which was bound about the leg to thicken the leg, and so give the boot a smooth appearance.
Slippers were much worn in Queen Elizabeth’s time. In Webster’s “Devil’s Law Case,” 1623, a character is described as wearing “tennis court woollen slippers for fear of creaking.”
That at a very early date gloves were worn, there can be no doubt, since both Homer and Xenophon speak of them. They are also mentioned by Varro (plainly showing they were known to the Romans) in his “De Re Rustica,” who says that olives gathered by naked hands are preferable to those pulled with gloves on.
Their origin is unknown; probably the first mention of the glove occurs in Ruth, iv. 7, 8, nearly three thousand years since the word Nangaal meaning to enclose or shut. Thus, when it is followed by Regel, foot, it must imply a sandal or shoe, but standing by itself as quoted in the passage it may be translated glove.
For this we have the authority of the Chaldaic Version, which renders it Nartek rad, the case or covering of the right hand.
The ancient Rabbins render the word in the original writings glove, and not shoe. Sir Walter Scott, who was a great authority on matters of antiquity, was of the same opinion. Amongst the Hebrews, gloves were not worn by women, only by men.
The earliest form of glove is represented without separate fingers. In the fourteenth century they were worn with long tops, and carried in the hand or under the girdle; they were part of regal attire, and often jewelled on the back. Gloves worn on and carried in the hands are seen in the Arundel MS. 83, fourteenth century, and their manufacture would appear at that period to be specially German, as part of the duty paid to our sovereign consisted of five pairs of gloves. Jewelled gloves were worn by the higher clergy as a sign of their rank. In the will of Archdeacon Dalby, 1400, gloves made of hare-skin are mentioned. Knights when fully armed wore gloves formed of plates of metal overlapping, or the fingers were covered by a broad plate, flexible in the centre. In the fifteenth and following centuries they were more commonly worn. Wedding gloves are mentioned in a MS., 1599. Sometimes they were perfumed and embroidered. Steevens, in his “Notes on Shakespeare,” vol. ix., p. 467, tells us that it was at one time “the custom to wear gloves in the hat on three distinct occasions, viz., as the favour of a mistress, the memorial of a friend, and as a mark to be challenged by an enemy.” In Shakespeare’s works they are frequently mentioned. Portia begs of Bassanio his gloves, which she will wear for his sake. Queen Elizabeth presented a glove to George, Earl of Cumberland, and in his portrait he is represented wearing it in his hat as a favour. In a portrait of Queen Elizabeth by Zucchero she is represented as wearing on her left hand a dark-coloured leather glove, the back of the hand and fingers of which appear to be stamped with patterns and ornamented with, small stones and pearls. In the museum at Saffron Walden is a richly-decorated glove said to have belonged to the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots. It is of a light buff leather, beautifully ornamented with spangles and needlework in gold and silver threads, with a gold-lace border and silk opening at the wrist. At that period the tops of men’s gloves were sometimes of red leather, the rest being white; the tops of others were sometimes trimmed with rich embroidered stuff. Perfumed gloves were brought as presents from Italy in the sixteenth century—a custom that continued till the middle of the last century. In his “Angler” Walton speaks of otter skins as being excellent for gloves. As a means of keeping the hands white, chicken-skin gloves were invented about the middle of the eighteenth century. In order to “bleach- the hands” properly, the wearer slept in them. In “Mundus Muliebris,” 1690, occur the lines:
“And some of chicken-skin for night
To keep her hands plump, soft, and white.”
In a shop-bill issued by a perfumer named Warren he says: “The singular name and character of these gloves induced some to think they were made from the skins of chickens; but, on the contrary, they are made of a thin strong leather, which is dressed with almonds and spermaceti; and from the softening balmy nature of these gloves, they soften, clear, smooth, and make white the hands and arms, and why the German ladies gave them the name of chicken gloves is from their innocent, effectual quality.” There is no precise date for the origin of the glove trade in England, but as the etymology of the word is so positively Saxon, it is highly probable the Saxons introduced it into this country, the word glove being a corruption of glofe. The first legal enactment respecting the glove occurs in the records of France.
Gloves are first mentioned in the records of Great Britain about the year 1462, when they were prohibited to be imported into this country, the glove trade being then a rising one and considered worthy the protection of the legislature. This prohibition was cancelled in 1825. The gauntlet was introduced into England at the time of the Norman conquest, and was a mailed glove, that is, a stout deer or sheep-skin glove, having jointed plates of metal affixed to the fingers and back. There was attached to the top of the glove sometimes a circular defensive plate, protecting the wrist and meeting the armour which covered the arm. The gauntlet was used both as a sign of defiance and an offensive weapon at the Trojan games, nearly one thousand years before the Christian era. Perfumed gloves were at one time imported largely from Venice and Spain. About the year 1566 embroidered gloves in the highest perfection were imported into England from Venice as articles of the greatest luxury. Silk gloves were also introduced about this time. The practice of giving gloves at funerals is derived from high authority. It was at one time customary to bury royal personages and the higher orders of the clergy and military with gloves on. The gauntlets of Edward the Black Prince are suspended over his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral. The ceremony of challenging at a coronation was probably performed for the last time at the coronation of George IV., when anyone was challenged to dispute the right of the sovereign to the throne. His Majesty’s champion entered Westminster Hall mounted and fully armed, and threw down his glove.