June 13, 2024 2:41 pm

Shoe from James Whitcomb house donated to Boxborough Historical Society

Maybe meant to ward off evil spirits with the essence of its wearer, a child’s shoe was stowed away in the walls of no-longer-standing home of Boxborough founder and Revolutionary War veteran James Whitcomb.

These “concealed shoes” date back to as early as the 14th century. They are usually made of leather and found mostly in England, though they’ve been found in North America, Australia, and several European countries.

The “Whitcomb shoe”, about six inches long and Clarks Womens Shoes  weighing about 3 ounces was discovered during renovation of the house in the 1960s. It was then purchased by a New Hampshire resident at an auction held by the Friends of the Whitcomb House meant to raise money to save the home by moving it.  The shoe is now home, part of the collection at the Boxborough Museum.

Dated between 1750 and 1830, the shoe may have been there at the same time as James Whitcomb Jr., son of the original builder and owner who erected the home in 1721.

"Whitcomb Shoe" Dated 1750 -1830

In the image above you can see that it’s been worn and torn to the sole. Due to leather costing about a week’s salary for an average worker, there is usually Vibram Shoes Five Fingers  only one shoe in the walls or floorboards of homes. The other was likely reused for another purpose.

Although the custom of “concealed shoes” died sometime in the 20th century there are still reports of them being found and is the best guess for the history of the Whitcomb shoe.

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