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.

‘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

Flying ‘back in time’ in a vintage biplane

~ October 2018 /  Traveling with Ken ~​Vintage DiscoveriesFlying 'back in time' in a vintage biplane  ~ by Ken Weyand ~  Flying in an open-cockpit biplane is a forgotten part of our history. It was an era when pilots flew "tail-dragger" aircraft from grass...

read more

Only ghosts remain in Arkansas mining town

~ December 2017 /  Traveling with Ken ~Vintage DiscoveriesOnly ghosts remain in Arkansas mining town  ~ by Ken Weyand ~  Unlike the many pop-ulated hamlets that dot the Ozarks countryside, the old mining town of Rush is a true ghost town. Located 16 miles...

read more

Thomas Hart Benton home preserves painter’s spirit

~ July 2017 /  Traveling with Ken ~Vintage DiscoveriesThomas Hart Benton home preserves painter's spirit  ~ by Ken Weyand ~  The Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site at 3616 Belleview in Kansas City, MO, looks as if the artist might walk in...

read more