Baby shoes from the 1880’s recall some sad family history

November 2022

​Vintage Discoveries

Baby shoes from the 1880’s recall some sad family history

by Ken Weyand

My dad often referred to his seven siblings when recalling how the family split up when their parents died, and they were “farmed out” in 1900 to various aunts and uncles. But he seldom mentioned the ninth member of the family, William Albert Weyand, who was only two years old when he died in 1884.

Historic Baby Shoes

Years later, when I discovered two pairs of baby shoes that had been saved with old photos and other family memorabilia, he told me they had belonged to his mother. When my parents died, the shoes remained with me, tiny reminders of my family, and their early struggles. Recently rediscovered, they had spent years hidden away as our family went about our lives.

Although my dad traced the shoes to his mother, I have a strong hunch they belonged to her late son, and she saved them to honor his memory. In the mid-1800s, when many babies died in infancy, E.D.E.N. Southworth, a novelist, wrote a short essay in Godey’s Lady’s Book on the subject, according to an article by Jeanne Gutierrez for the New York Historical Society. “There is no part of a baby’s wardrobe so suggestive and beautiful as the little shoes,” he wrote. Southworth’s essay made several references to grieving mothers who kept baby shoes in the 1800s.

Baby Shoes

Five Button shoes

At the time of his death, my uncle may have worn these shoes, with five buttons.

Baby Booties

Baby shoes were miniatures of adult shoes

A far cry from today’s booties, these shoes were meant for infants but were made to look like miniatures of adult shoes.

Buttons non Laces

My shoes were fastened by buttons, not laces. They vary in size, indicating one pair could have been worn by an infant, with four buttons. The other pair, about an inch long, was also higher and had six buttons. At least one button was missing on both pairs. Both had polished leather toes and hard leather soles. Unlike baby shoes of later eras, the shoes seemed to be designed not for comfort, but to be a miniature version of adult footwear.

Manufacturers Marks

There are few markings on the shoes to reveal the manufacturer. However, on both shoes, a small image etched into the sole, shows a tiny flower with petals. As the family often received gifts from my great-grandfather in Philadelphia, I’m guessing the manufacturer could have been Philly-based S. S. Sollers, a leading maker of children’s shoes in the 1800s. Advertising from another maker, John Mundell, & Co, announced they specialized in “solar-tipped shoes,” which could explain the polished leather on my two pairs. However, I could find no logos from either company that featured a flower petal. More research is needed.

Ken Weyand is the original owner/publisher of Discover Vintage America,  founded in July 1973 under the name of Discover North.

Ken Weyand can be contacted at Ken is self-publishing a series of non-fiction E-books. Go to and enter Ken Weyand in the search box.

Mementos of a trip to Paris: 1921-22

September 2022​Vintage Discoveries Mementos of a trip to Paris: 1921-22by Ken Weyand Sailing on the Aquitania My aunt, Ruth May Weyand, was the youngest of eight siblings orphaned in 1899 and farmed out to various relatives. By 1917, she had graduated from Illinois...

read more

Picture book was a 1917 railroad souvenir

August 2022​Vintage Discoveries Picture book was a 1917 railroad souvenirby Ken Weyand Rocky Mountain Views One of my relatives who traveled through the Western states by rail in the early 1900s came home with a souvenir book of “Rocky Mountain Views. The origin of my...

read more

Toy car had the look of a Chrysler “Airflow”

June 2022 ​Vintage Discoveries Toy car had the look of a Chrysler “Airflow” by Ken Weyand   Back in the mid-1940s Back in the mid-1940s, my wife’s dad, a physician in Hamilton, IL, had acquired a couple of toy metal cars. My wife, Karen, said her dad gave the...

read more

Ancient geography textbook reveals a lot

May 2022​Vintage Discoveries Ancient geography textbook reveals a lotby Ken Weyand  Old Geography Book One of the few records of my grandfather’s early life and that of his brothers is an old geography book I re-discovered recently in a cedar chest full of other...

read more

Solving a jigsaw puzzle—80 years later

April 2022​Vintage Discoveries Solving a jigsaw puzzle—80 years laterby Ken Weyand  Bored Youngster When I was a youngster, we would occasionally spend Sundays with my dad’s stepmother and his two sisters in Hamilton, IL, across the river from Keokuk, IA. I...

read more

Old nursery rhyme book fondly remembered

March 2022​Vintage Discoveries Old nursery rhyme book fondly remembered  ~ by Ken Weyand ~   My first books One of my first books – saved by my mother over the years – recently turned up in my attic. “Three Little Pigs” is a nursery rhyme classic, and it was...

read more

Donald Duck pull toy was a 1940s hit

 February 2022 ​Vintage Discoveries Donald Duck pull toy was a 1940s hit   ~ by Ken Weyand ~   As a youngster, one of my favorite comic-strip characters was Donald Duck, a creation of the Walt Disney Co. in the 1930s. Like many of his contemporaries, Donald...

read more

Old book charmed children in its day

January 2022 ​Vintage Discoveries Old book charmed children in its day by Ken Weyand   “Bugaboo Bill and Other Wonders” I came across an old book the other day that has me stumped. Was it part of the accumulation of “old stuff” my parents never threw away? Was it...

read more

Century-old high chair served three generations

December 2021​Vintage DiscoveriesCentury-old high chair served three generationsby Ken Weyand  The high chair, a device for aiding in the feeding of very young children and infants, has been around for decades. As a separate piece of furniture marketed to...

read more

‘Single Tree’ was part of old-time farming

November 2021​Vintage Discoveries​‘Single Tree’ was part of old-time farmingby Ken Weyand  Early in the 1940s, after years of “horse-farming,” my dad bought a tractor and sold his team of draft horses. Soon after that, much of the horse-drawn equipment was sold,...

read more