Vintage Boots

Women's Bicycle Boots

By Dakota Elliott, Intern.

Ladies, the next time you hop on a bike, be thankful you don’t have to strap on knee-high leather boots beforehand. Long before tennis shoes came about, women wore boots made specifically for biking to protect their legs while biking with skirts. Women’s bicycle boots became fashionable in the 1890s up through the early twentieth century. However, they decreased in popularity around 1910 when women began to prefer shoes with stockings for biking.

Women’s bicycle boots were typically front laced leather boots, usually black or brown, and often times had a rough sole in order to prevent the boot from slipping off the pedal. The lower part of the boots were laced through metal eyelets, like a typical shoe. However, the top part of the boots were laced through metal hooks. The top part of the boot had metal hooks to give the laces more wiggle room to allow the user more flexibility and comfort.

Photo from  Women's Shoes in America, 1795-1930

Photo from Women's Shoes in America, 1795-1930


The pair we have here are in great shape and are a light brown leather with the same laced pattern as mentioned above. The toe has a moccasin seam pattern and the heel sole has metal rivets for lasting durability. In our pair, each insole is labeled with, “Active Maid, Milwaukee, WIS,” which was the trademark for the Ideal Shoe Manufacturing Co. of Milwaukee.

The bicycle boots above are part of our collection.

The bicycle boots above are part of our collection.


Boots with the Fur

By Dakota Elliott, Intern

I’ve been spending a lot of time working with boots here at the historical society. After having surveyed at least a dozen pairs, I’ve decided to share some of what I have learned over the past month or so. I’ve been researching and surveying boots ranging from walking boots to evening boots, to comfort boots and even rubber boots. The boots I have surveyed have been in a variety of different colors, materials, sizes, and age. For this post, however, I will be focusing on carriage boots because I found them to be some of the most interesting and I like their style. 

I think one of the reasons I like the carriage boots is because I can relate to them. Carriage boots are like an overshoe, except they are an overboot. (That term isn’t actually real, but you get what I’m saying). The purpose of a carriage boot was to cover a woman’s shoe against the snow and provide comfort for her during the winter months. And as the name implies, the boots were sometimes worn during carriage rides to protect shoes from getting in and out of the carriage. After just surviving through yet another bitterly cold and snowy Wisconsin winter, I can see why carriage boots were so popular. I wouldn’t mind having a pair to put over my Chuck Taylors after a fresh snowfall on my way to class.

Anyway, back to the boot! Carriage boots peaked in popularity between 1860 all the way up to the early 20th century. The boots usually had a velvet exterior and were lined with a cozy quilted silk material for added comfort and warmth. I have surveyed a pair with a white quilted interior and a different pair with a pale purple quilted silk, so the color and style does vary slightly. We even have a pair with a gray velvet wool interior. Typically, carriage boots had a fur trim, possible rabbit fur, and were tied together with satin ribbon. One down side to the boot, however, is the sole was not made of rubber until the 20th century, thus, not providing ample comfort in wet conditions. The carriage boots I have surveyed here all have a very thin leather sole which is odd, considering their purpose. Although, some women did use carriage boots as regular everyday boots. All in all, carriage boots were a winter wear staple in North America and were worn for many years. And with their sophisticated looking style, they make for one fancy winter boot.

The carriage boots above were worn by Mrs. Goodrich, a resident of  La Crosse, WI. Ca. 1880-1890.

The carriage boots above were worn by Mrs. Goodrich, a resident of  La Crosse, WI. Ca. 1880-1890.