Junior Shoes

Within the borders of antique shoe collection, Junior shoes are highly desirable finds. They are uncommon, USI many rather rare and are true artifacts of our sport. We're not taking about toy horseshoes-toy shoes are the rubber shoes made for child's indoor play. Junior shoes are made of steel and most fit the dimensions for sanctioned play. Most Junior shoes weight 1 1/2 Ibs. In the early days (1920s) there were a number of 1 Ib. Junior shoes made that were smaller than official size, but they are great finds for they are perfect replicas of their regulation models, including the brand markings.

   From 1930 on, all Junior shoes were at least 1 1/2 Ibs. And there have been several 2 Ib. too. The 2 Ib. models were often advertised for women and junior pitchers and did not have the Junior model notion on the shoe. All 11/2 shoes were noted as Junior models, except for Giant Grip, which named their shoe "Juvenile."

   While most Junior shoes would pass all criteria for use in a sanctioned tournament, there is no record of a world championship or state championship won with the use of 1 1/2 or 2 Ib. shoes. The first Junior World Championship was held in 1924 and won by Frank Stinson, using National Standard shoes. National Standard did not make Junior shoes, so we know that even way back then Frank was using 2 1/2 Ib. shoes. He also pitched that tournament from 40 ft.

   Why did manufacturers make Junior models? We may never know for sure, but it's a good guess there was a market with the very young, either as beginners in the game or for youngsters playing backyard games. There were toy rubber shoes made before the steel models, yet the Junior models did not seem to find a place in competition. That would make for a thinner slice of the horseshoe market, hence the Junior models are tough to find.

   Tough? Yes, there are no Junior shoes in our NHPA Hall of Fame collection.

   Identifying the first manufacturer to produce Junior models may be difficult and never proven definitely. The earliest advertisement found so far was a children's 1 1/4 Ib. shoe by the Allith-Prouty Company of Danville, IL in 1924. The Ohio Horseshoe Company first advertised 1 1/2 Ib. Junior models in 1927 and Diamond was noting Junior shoes that same year. The Chicago Steel Foundry was producing 11/4 Junior shoes, in the distinctive "oval" design, for Sears and Roebuck in 1928. At least these four manufacturers were the first to produce the Junior models, and more importantly, the only known hookless Junior models.

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   The 2 Ib. Leader shoe was on the market in 1935. Leaders were a hookless model and seemed rather late to enter the market as so many companies were already producing the hooked style tournament shoe. Being the only 2 Ib. shoes at the time, Leaders must have been very popular, for they are commonly found today where antiques and collectibles are sold.

   The first hooked style Junior shoe is believed to be the 1 1/4 Giant Grip Juvenile. This shoe was first announced in 1939 and remained the only hooked style Junior shoe until Diamond redesigned their model in the early 1960s. Even though Diamond sold only hooked regulation shoes from 1940 on, they had hookless Junior models through the 1950s. Ohio seemed to drop out of the Junior shoe market in 1930 and never attempted a hooked Junior shoe.

   During the 1950s, a surge of 2 Ib. shoes and Junior shoes came onto the market. Probably less is known about these shoes than their predecessors. There are 2 Ib. with brand names as I-Iobby, Playtime, and Wonder. Roberts, Wonder and Good Luck have 1 1/2 shoes, and St. Pierre was probably involved with these three. The manufacturer of the Hobby shoe is unknown. If we ever figure out who made the Health Guardian regulation shoe, we'll have solved the Hobby question. The same is for the Playtime model-find out who made the regulation Top Ringer picnic shoe, and we'll know who made Playtime.

   Are there any more Junior shoes? Yes, but we just haven't found all there is to know yet. This article only covers what has been uncovered to this point. This is apparent by a recent picture sent it by a fellow collector. The photo is an unidentified Junior 1 1/2 Ib. shoe that is brandless. The shoe resembles the Ringer shoe produced by the Buck Brothers of Milbury, MA in the 1960s, but it is still unidentified. There are more out there, but we just haven't discovered them yet.

   Junior shoes have a rather extended and vast history. If not being directly a part of our official game, Junior shoes certainly will remain part of our artifacts. The elusive old Junior shoes will continue to be prized finds for our collectors.

The Horseshoe Trader booth at the World Tournament was extremely successful. The success is due to Lee Wallace (Dallas, OR), Curator of the Oregon HPA Hall of Fame museum, who hosted the booth and to Cay Newhouse, Jr., who assisted and provided an impressive collectors' shoe display. Eighteen collectors were added to our roster. Countless shoes were brought in for identification and other rare shoes were brought for show and discussion. Several shoes were brought in and donated to the NHPA collection. In all, ten (formerly unknown) shoes were added to the all-time list. There is a growing interest in preserving our sport's artifacts and a growing enthusiasm for collecting old shoes. A bigger and better trader booth is in the planning for Bismarck (2000).

Thank you to Lee and Cay for their unselfish efforts in Greenville, Ohio.

The NHPA horseshoe collection should be on permanent display in the Hall of Fame. Mail your donation to the NHPF so the museum can be built.