These unused child-size leather button boots were donated to our collection in 1948. They were made by C. N. Henderson and Company circa 1883-1902 and have a paper label on the right sole with the Henderson’s School Shoes Little Red School House trademark.
Each shoe has six buttons on the side. The soles are leather, and the heels are reinforced with small nails.
C. M. Henderson & Co. was founded in the early 1850s in Chicago. It became one of the largest shoe companies in the Midwest with three factories employing nearly 1,000 people, producing a variety of footwear from ladies’ slippers to farming boots.
The company started using the “Little Red School House” trademark in the early 1880s and labeled the bottom of one shoe out of each pair the company sold. To promote the shoes, participating stores gave a cutout of the schoolhouse that was printed in red to children whose parents purchased these shoes or who were found wearing them.
The little red one-room schoolhouse was a celebrated symbol of American rural values. These easily identifiable school buildings were usually located on small lots not used for farming and were representative of the beginning of public-school education in the community.
Before 19th-century technological advancements led to innovations in shoe manufacture, shoes were made by cobblers and both left and right shoes were interchangeable. Mass production made shoes more affordable with greater variety and standardized sizing.
Button or lace ankle boots were the primary footwear worn by both girls and boys during the 19th century. Buttons on the boots were closed with the aid of a buttonhook, which - once inserted through the eyelet - pulled the button through it. Leather counters reinforced the heel and helped maintain the shape of the boots, which were often repaired and handed down from older family members.
Background Photo: Agnes W. Martin Collection. Walsh Family Album. PCM Collection.
These boots were donated by Evelyn Champion, who was a resident of Auburn for 55 years. She was born in Sierraville in 1891 and died in Auburn in 1969. She was a member of the Rebekah Lodge of Auburn. She was married to Jack Champion, also a native of Sierraville, who was a Drum Division transportation foreman for PG&E in Auburn and worked for the company for 35 years