I often buy antique items to use as research materials. I find that having an original item to study is so much better than having to rely on photographs, paintings and sketches. Last weekend I found a single black lace-up child’s boot in a style that will immediately be recognizable to anyone who is familiar with Izannah Walker’s dolls. Izannah painted very accurate representations of common children’s footwear that was worn in her time. The black lace-up boot shown here dates from the 1840-1850’s, although I am sure that this style of shoe was passed down to younger children and continued to be worn into the 1860’s.
Izannah’s dolls kept up with current fashions, and when scallop top, side button boots became part of children’s attire, she painted this later style of footwear on some of her dolls. When considering the age of an Izannah Walker doll, you can take the style of their painted boots into account. I would not consider this to be a fool proof method of dating the dolls, because young children’s styles often lag behind those of older children and adults, Izannah’s dolls have a tendency to retain the look of the 1840’s – 1850’s no matter when they were made, and then there is the issue of the rarer bare footed dolls… However when looked upon as a supporting bit of evidence along with the rest of the doll’s history and clues to be found in her construction and clothing, painted boot styles can be quite helpful.
Another type of painted boots that can be found on Izannah Walker dolls are the tall black leather boots with red tops that she used on her rare boy dolls. I don’t own an example of those boots to show you, but if you follow this link to the Wisconsin Historical Society Children’s Shoe Collection you will be able to see the boy’s boots, as well as additional dated examples of lace-up and scallop boots.
My name is Paula Walton. I’m a working craftsperson. I’ve been self-employed since 1986, when I started selling the items that I make under the name A Sweet Remembrance. Among other things, I am a doll maker, a dressmaker that specializes in reproduction women’s and children’s clothing, maker of spun cotton ornaments and holiday figures, and a freelance designer. Upon occasion I write magazine articles and am a Craftsperson in Residence. I teach and do demonstrations quite frequently, plus I was previously the director and curator of a small museum in Connecticut.
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