NOTE: This is the third article in a series, reviewing the rare, hard-to-find and elusive antique shoes. It was a pleasant surprise to hear how popular the first two articles were. At first thought, it is hard to imagine so many different shoes being made. There are many, however, and enough to continue into this month's article. In fact, there are even several beyond those covered this time, and they will get their due attention down the road. Not necessarily in the next issue though.
There are other interesting facets of the history of our game's
artifacts to be covered too. Junior shoes is one subject in the planning and research stage. Another topic scheduled is "The Shoes That Sears Sold." The fact that they listed pitching shoes as early as 1923 and have, continually, every year to this very day, serves an interesting story to be told. The same goes for the Montgomery Ward catalog. They waited until 1925 to become active in the market, but even still had a major impact for decades and across the whole nation, on what shoes pitchers used.
Remember, this series on the RARE ONES is also a request to anyone who can assist in the research and supply some information on the rare shoes, mystery manufacturers or have in possession any of the elusive rare shoes, to get in touch with this writer.
0ne of the first commercial brand-named pitching shoe was the National Standard. Designed and patented by former World Champion George May. The shoe became very popular and was sold through nearly every catalog company in the nation. The National Standard Horseshoe Company of Akron, Ohio was listed in the Thomas Registry of American Manufacturers in 1924 through 1931, showing an Akron address until 1929, when the company moved to Canton, Ohio. This leads into our first mystery manufacturer, what shoe did the National Malleable Castings Company of Cleveland, Ohio make? The company
was certainly different than the famed National Standard shoe. The Thomas Registry listed this company for one year (1923) at 10600 Quincy Ave. The odds that one of their shoes still exists if probably very slim, and if the shoe did not have a brand name or distinctive markings, it would be next to impossible to identify.
In the same year that National Standard Horseshoe Company moved to Canton, the Thomas Registry began listing the American Forge and Machine Company, also of Canton, as a pitching shoe manufacturer. If there was a questions about a tie between the two companies that was answered by a 1929 ad in the Horseshoe World. In 1929 both companies had the same address. Both companies continued to be listed until 1931 when National Standard was discontinued, but American Forge and Machine Company continued to be listed through 1935. To date, there are several National Standard shoes in collection, all of which bear Akron, Ohio as part of the brand name logo. No National Standard shoe has been found with the lettering of Canton, Ohio. There is also another question if American Forge and Machine Company made any shoes other than the National Standard.
Betson is a fairly well-known hookless shoe to collectors, although very few exist in collection. As early as 1924, the Betson shoe was made by Betson Manufacturing of Peoria, IL. No information has been found of Betson dated after 1925. Then in 1934, Peoria Malleable Castings Company, Peoria, IL appeared as a shoe producer.
By this time, few hookless shoes were being made, so it is most likely that their shoe was a hooked model. The company continued to be listed through 1941, but no shoe has been found linked to this company.
The 1927 Thomas Registry listed the McGill Metal and Bearing Company of Valparaiso, Indiana as a pitching shoe manufacturer. Based on the year, this had to be a hookless shoe, but none have been found that tie back to this company. No ads have been uncovered for this company and by 1928, McGill was no longer listed as a producer. No shoes have been found bearing this trade name.
Another mystery company is William E. Pratt Manufacturing Company of Joliet, Illinois. First listed as manufacturer in 1932, they continued being listed through 1937. No ads have been found for shoes made in Joliet or bearing a logo to tie to this company. This is one mystery company that is especially puzzling, being in business for five years, but there are no shoes identified back to this company. One might suggest that they made a brandless shoe, but based on the dates in existence, their shoe should have been hooked or tournament models. To date, there has never been a hooked type shoe found that didn't bear a log or brand name. Hence this mystery manufacturer must have produced a shoe we just haven't yet identified back to the Pratt Company.
John Deere is a familiar name to everyone. How about John Deere Horseshoes. There are tournament pitching shoes bearing the name John Deere, including the dancing deer logo. No doubt the shoes were made for promotion purposes, but there are reports of John Deere shoes in full sets, complete with stakes and in a carrying case. The one John Deere shoe in my collection is even dated (1968).
Even International Harvester was in on the horseshoe business. No doubt few shoes were actually made, and then strictly for promotional purposes. There is only one shoe known in collection, and very well may be the only one that
will ever be found. The shoe, truly one of the rare ones, is very old and pre-dates the dimensions as drafted in 1919. The hookless shoe is nearly round with a 3" opening, bears the early-day logo of the farm implement company and weights 2 Ib. 4 oz.
The final shoe in this issue also has a bit of a story. A couple years ago, while I wandered through a huge flea market on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, I came across a vendor with some lawn chairs made of horseshoes welded together. This is a somewhat common sight, but normally the shoes used are those directly off the horse. A closer view brought a living nightmare to any horseshoe collector-this fellows chairs contained a few pitching shoes too. Closer inspection found a shoe previously unknown to ever exist, a hookless ESCO. After some conversation, the vendor agreed to search his warehouse of antique supplies to see if there were any ESCO shoes or other pitching shoes that had avoided his welder's torch. That conversation carried on for nearly two years and finally he found a box of pitching shoes that hadn't managed their way to his artwork. In the bottom of the box laid a lone hookless ESCO shoe with the beautiful script lettering. Patience had paid off and now that hookless ESCO is the only one reported in collection. There is an ESCO Company in Portland and each year they make a few pair of hooked tournament shoes with the same bold script lettering for their employee's use at summer company outings. The ESCO Company has no records of ever making pitching shoes for sale, let alone the older hookless models. From a daytime nightmare to a one-in-a-million find-the hookless ESCO shoe can have claim to be one of the rare ones.