The Shoes with a Sharp Story

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Every once in a while, when I’m researching an object, I find something entirely unexpected.  That’s certainly what happened recently with a pair of early 20th century shoes.  Made of off-white leather with beautiful beading and curved heel, I wanted to get a sense of who and when the shoes might have been worn.  All I had to go on was a brand name, Sorosis, and a rough date.

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Sorosis shoe from the MSU Museum Collection. Circa 1920, 850.94A-B.

One of the first things I found was a short story, The Sharpness of Steele, written by Julian Street.  Published in 1903 by the Sorosis Shoe Company, it tells the story of a group of friends at a house party.  Two men, John Blair and Jimmy Steele, who both are both infatuated with a Miss Wainwright.  When Miss Wainwright’s Sorosis shoes, her “only respectable pair,” Blair takes the blame.  Of course, it was the rascal Steele who took them and planted them in Blair’s room.  In the end though, things are set to right and Blair and Miss Wainwright become engaged.

While this was written a decade or two before our pair would have been made, it is a fascinating bit of marketing.  The product placement in the story is clear, but no more intrusive than anything you might see on TV today.  The back half of the book contains more traditional advertising materials.

While the original is housed in the Harvard University library, you can read the story yourself through Hathi Trust, a repository of digital books.

If you’re interested in learning a little bit more about Sorosis, Drexel published a nice piece about a similar pair of shoes from their collection a few years ago.  This is the sort of piece I intended to write before I got distracted by Miss Wainright, John Blair, and Jimmy Steele.




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