The evolution of rubber boots and ‘galoshes’

Ever wonder when rubber boots replaced shoes on rainy days?

Hessian soldiers wore leather boots, and Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, decided boots made of rubber would be more useful and keep feet drier. Charles Goodyear had vulcanized natural rubber in the 1850s to make tires and he sold the use of the patent to Hiram Hutchinson in 1853 to use for boots.

They became a fashion statement for a few years, but then farmers began to wear them, and then soldiers in both World Wars — the trenches often held rainwater and the boots kept feet dry. The boots continue to be used by many, and they have changed from a semi-pointed toe to a rounded toe, to even a metal toe to avoid accidents. Boots were first made of leather and went to the knees in the 1840s, then to the calf in the 1850s, and to the ankle by the 1860s. Today, the terms “wellies,” “gummies” or “gumboots” are used to describe rain boots. The original high Wellington boot is still popular for people in places or jobs where there are puddles and floods. The picture with this article is part of an 1898 calendar advertising Hood Rubber Boots for children. They are high enough to be considered Wellington boots. The sign, in a gold leaf frame, 14 by 24 inches, sold at a Kimbell Sterling auction in Johnson City, Tenn., for a bargain at $81.40. The company called the boots “galoshes.”

Q. I have an old antique rocking chair with a stuffed upholstered seat. The bottom has separated and is falling down. I’ve had the chair for more than 30 years and was told it’s Victorian, but I have no idea of any other information. What’s the best way to repair it?

A. If your chair is an antique, don’t try to repair it yourself. Look for someone who repairs chairs. Someone who does caning can probably fix it. They’ll have the proper glue or other material to fix the seat so it doesn’t come apart again. They probably also will know the material to use if you want your chair to be restored to the period look.

Q. Years ago, when Norman Rockwell plates were popular, I collected them. I’ve gotten rid of all but my four favorites. They’re called “Rockwell on Tour” and show sketches of Rockwell and two friends on a tour of Europe after college in 1927. The plates have sketches of their trip to England, Paris, Rome and Germany. The names “Bill, Dean, Norm” are listed on the plates. Information on the plates’ back say the pictures are sketches Rockwell made on postcards and sent to friends. Can you tell me more about my plates and their value?

A. Rockwell traveled to Europe with friends Bill Backer and Dean Parmalee. Rockwell’s sketchbook was stolen near the end of their trip and the four postcards sent to friends are the only surviving sketches. In 1981, the Rockwell Society of America sent a notice to members asking for undiscovered Norman Rockwell memorabilia. A couple who had three of the postcards contacted the society. Newell Pottery Co. made limited edition plates in 1982 with sketches made in England, Paris and Rome. The limit was the number fired in 150 days. Two years later, Parmalee’s daughter provided the fourth postcard, a sketch done in Germany. The final plate was issued in 1984. The sketches are 1920s cartoons, not like Rockwell’s later “folksy” paintings. The plates sell online for $6 to $16 each.

Q. I have $3,000 to $6,000 invested in my Mutt and Jeff collection and would like to give it to a reputable museum as a charitable contribution. I’m too old to continue collecting and none of my family is interested in it. What do you suggest? I’ll pay for shipping it to a museum.

A. Mutt and Jeff was a comic strip created by Bud Fisher that ran in newspapers from 1907 to 1983. You didn’t indicate if you have original art, comic strips, or toys and other items associated with the strip. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University (cartoons.osu.edu) in Columbus, has the world’s largest collection of materials related to comics and cartoons. You also can contact the Cartoon Art Museum (cartoonart.org) in San Francisco and the Society of Illustrators (societyillustrators.org) in New York City. If you have toys, games or other items, you might want to contact an auction that specializes in comic art and see if they can sell them. A museum probably won’t want everything, but you can offer it to be displayed or sold to benefit the museum.

TIP: Don’t store an oil painting in a damp basement or hot or cold attic.


Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

– Minton portrait plate, woman, jewelry, veil, “behold all my treasures,” pink, 9 inches, $160.

– Jade urn, lid, double dragon handles, reticulated, puzzle ball, rings, 14 x 13 1/2 inches, $320.

– Cookie jar, cockatiel, ruby art glass, silvered brass head, Murano, Italy, 12 x 7 1/4 inches, $540.

– Stump planter, burl wood, knobby, hollowed out, 18 x 15 inches, $1,020.

– Game table, convertible, sliding, burl walnut checkerboard top, rotates to backgammon, Lucite legs, 29 x 46 1/2 inches, $1,660.

– Erte mermaid group, “Sirens,” crossing iridescent tails, holding fish high, conch shaped hair, purple shells, 12 x 16 inches, $2,300.


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