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The Shoes Sold by Wards

   

   Following the incredible information found through the research of the Sears catalogs, a similar look at the Montgomery Wards Company only made sense. Finding an archive of a complete set of Wards catalogs was the first step, and was successful. The site was the University of Wyoming. By telephone, a volunteer staff member agreed to do the research and mail photocopies of the pages with horseshoe ads. A couple of weeks went by and then the packet arrived, with a billing. The cost: $14.10, far less than the cost to travel to Wyoming and spend the week or so to do the research.

   Wards did not carry the wide spread of different models of shoes as the rival Sears, nor did they begin as early to carrier pitching shoes. Wards first listed official pitching shoes in 1925, and as Sears, it was the hookless "Oval" model manufactured by The Chicago Steel Foundry Company. Pair of No. Is or No. 2s sold for 98 cents. Sets or outfits were not offered untill 927, for a price of $2.65. That is the how everything went on through 1934. For ten years, the same shoes were offered for basically the same price.

   A major change took place in 1935. This is the first year that a hook styled shoe was offered. With all the variety of hooked shoes being manufactured by this time, one would never guess, the first hooked style shoe sold by Wards would be the Royal, made by St. Pierre. Few may realize that the Royal shoe dates back that far, but it does. And the Royal was offered for just that one year. In 1936, Montgomery Wards began offering shoes bearing their own brand name. The full name was not on the shoe. Just an M over a W, but unmistakable shoes sold by Wards. There was bookless model and a hooked model. The hookless shoes, referred to as a regulation shoe sold for 79 cents a pair. The hooked model was referred as a tournament shoe and was priced at $1.19 a pair.

    There remains a mystery yet today--who manufactured these shoes? A good guess would be Diamond Horseshoe Company of Duluth, Minnesota for the tournament shoe was a perfect facsimile of the Eagle Ringer being produced by Diamond. The hookless models were even painted the same orange and green as the hookless Double Ringers manufactured by Diamond. There are no records available of Diamond ever manufacturing shoes with other brand names for retail sales. So far. Wards cannot locate information of where these shoes were made. The odds are some company besides Diamond made the shoes, but there must have been some infringement rights that were closely scrutinized because of the patented designed of the Eagle Ringer. This is possibly a question that will never be answered. The sales of pitching shoes did include a rules booklet. If a copy of one of those old booklets is retrieved, that information may shed enough light on the subject to answer the question.

   A side note on the hookless model-as most shoes at the time were marked As and Bs, the shoes sold by Wards were marked Os and Gs, which were the initials for George and Oscar who were executives of the company.

   The sales of Montgomery Wards pitching shoes continued through 1942. The price increased slightly as pairs of tournament models sold for $1.39, or a set of four sold for $2.65. A pair of hookless of shoes was priced at 89 cents and a set for $1.69. Most collectors have Montgomery Ward shoes in their inventory, although not all recognize the M/W logo. Those who find Wards shoes may not also understand that the shoes are all over 50 years old.

   World War II also interrupted the sales of horseshoes for Wards. Sales were reinstated in 1946 by offering Diamond Double Ringers for $2.49 a set. Diamond Eagle Ringers were included in 1947 at $3.69 a set. Evidence that Wards was buying from manufacturers who would give the best deal, showed up in 1947 as the Doubles Ringers were replaced by Royal shoes. The Royals were sold in outfits in wooden boxes at $4.59. The Double Ringers were offered again in 1948, so consumers had a choice of three models. By 1950, the two Diamond models were the only shoes offered. That is how it went right into the 1960s. Ever wonder why Diamond shoes are so commonly found at flea markets, antique shops or where ever you may hunt. Wards stores and through the Wards catalog were selling Diamond shoes for four decades.

   Junior shoes were not offered until 1950 and were Diamond Junior shoes. Four 1-1/2 shoes with two stakes, sold for $3.69. The Junior models were offered through 1953, even though Diamond made the smaller models well into the 1960s.

   For sure, Montgomery Wards had a commercial interest in their providing pitching shoes for sale. But through their catalogs, our promotion efforts were aided during the initial decades as our sport was being introduced to America. Our sport as well as many horseshoe collections has been enhanced by "The Shoes Sold by Wards."

TRADER JOTTINGS


   Thank you Paul Saba, Bull Shoals, AR, for donating a Phoenix horseshoe to the NHPA collection. This is a shoe that had not been part of the inventory so it is a most welcome addition.

   A thank you is also in store for Harl Ceer, whom many of you met when the World Tournament was hosted in Cillette, Wyoming. Harl has donated a Diamond Official hookless shoe bearing a Toronto, Ontario mintmark. While the thousands of Diamond shoes that are found here and there were made in Duluth, Minnesota, at one time there was a Diamond Horseshoe plant in Toronto. The specific time period is unknown, but it was some time ago based on the fact that the shoes are hookless.

   Speaking of older shoes made in Canada, an internet auction line recently featured a set of four Altas pitching shoes, manufactured in Welland, Ontario. These too were of the hookless variety and previously unknown. Apparently, there are more antique shoes from Canada than we previously thought. I encourage anyone with some documentation of Canadian early-day shoes to get in touch so we can do a whole article dedicated to these artifacts.