Stepping Through Time ~ A Closer Look at Izannah Walker’s Painted Boots

My antique Izannah Walker holding an antique child's lace up boot.

My antique Izannah Walker doll holding an antique child’s lace-up boot.

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.

Here you can see the painted version on the doll and the real life child's boot side by side.  The ankles on this Izannah Walker doll have given way over time, with the painted fabric splitting near the ankle seam, where the leg is weaker.  I have conserved the legs by affixing thin bands of leather to the ankles, using rubber cement.  This holds the legs and feet together, but is a repair that can be removed without causing damage to the original antique surfaces beneath.

Here you can see the painted version on the doll and the real life child’s boot side by side. The ankles on this Izannah Walker doll have given way over time, with the painted fabric splitting near the ankle seam, where the leg is weaker. I have conserved the legs by affixing thin bands of leather to the ankles, using rubber cement. This holds the legs and feet together, but is a repair that can be removed without causing damage to the original antique surfaces beneath.

A close-up of the painted boots on an original Izannah Walker doll.  Compare them with the child's boot in the following photo.

A close-up of the painted boots on an original Izannah Walker doll. Compare them with the child’s boot in the following photo.

c. 1840-1850's child's black lace-up leather boot.

c. 1840-1850’s child’s black lace-up leather boot.

A side view of Izannah's painted boots.  Notice how the top of the boots are higher at the front of the leg and lower in the back.

A side view of Izannah’s painted boots. Notice how the top of the boots are higher at the front of the leg and lower in the back.

Compare this side view to Izannah's painted version.  Notice how closely they match.

Compare this side view to Izannah’s painted version. Notice how closely they match.

Note the characteristic shaped sole on the bottom of the boot.

Note the characteristic shaped sole on the bottom of the boot.

Here you can see the sole of the boots that are echoed in Izannah's painted cloth version.

Here you can see the sole of the boots that are echoed in Izannah’s painted cloth version.

This photo shows the bottom of the boot sole.  Youcan tell that these boots were worn by a child that had not yet learned to walk.

This photo shows the bottom of the boot sole. You can tell that these boots were worn by a child that had not yet learned to walk.

Another style of boots that Izannah Walker painted on her dolls were scallop top, side button boots like these, shown in a c.1870-1880's portrait.

Another style of boots that Izannah Walker painted on her dolls were scallop top, side button boots like these, shown in a c.1870-1880’s portrait that I own.

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.

~ by paulawalton on June 26, 2013.

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