Strange Shoe Terms

Message
Author
Anonymous

Strange Shoe Terms

#1 Post by Anonymous » Thu Mar 14, 2002 10:57 am

Do any of you shoe gurus know the origin of the phrase "whipping the cat"? I have seen it mean an itinerant American shoemaker.

D.A. Saguto--HCC

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#2 Post by D.A. Saguto--HCC » Fri Mar 15, 2002 5:15 am

Anon.,

These phrase origins are difficult at best to sort out. I, too, have seen "whipping the cat", but only in secondary and tertiary writings [20th c.], about early American itinerant shoemakers/cobblers. Itinerancy and shoemaking/cobbling is a fuzzy area. A lot depends on what region, and what century--itinerancy was never the norm for most shoemakers in the first place. My initial investigations pushed "cat whipping", the phase at least, back to the mid-eighteenth century as a Lowland Scots vernacular for a transient [not necessarily itinerant] tailor of clothes, i.e. "coat-whipper" in dialect. How it made the jump to being applied to shoemakers/cobblers [?] by 20th c. authors is not known. I have never found a contemporary reference to shoemakers, per se, as "cat whippers", only tailors, but then I've not looked really hard either. I'd proceed with caution using it for shoemakers IOW.

Gary Lehmann

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#3 Post by Gary Lehmann » Sat May 29, 2004 10:18 pm

Does anyone know what gum draggon is? I saw it on a bottle in the Lynn Heritage Center 10x10 shoeshop c. 1800. It looked like burnishing compound to me, but I thought the term was a synonym for gum tragacanth? Clarifiaction needed please.
Gary

User avatar
dw
Seanachaidh
Posts: 5373
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 1997 10:00 am
Full Name: DWFII
Location: Redmond, OR
Has Liked: 39 times
Been Liked: 3 times
Contact:

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#4 Post by dw » Wed Jun 02, 2004 6:07 am

Gary,

The term is "gum dragon" if I'm not mistaken. It *is* synonymous with Gum Tragecanth...a nickname, flash jargon, etc..

Gum Tragacanth is usually sold as hard flakes. It has to be dissolved in water or alcohol or some such. So if you saw it on a bottle it indicated that it was the active solution the maker was using.

And yes, it was used to burnish the edges of harness, etc.

Tight Stitches
DWFII--HCC Member

das
Seanachaidh
Posts: 1293
Joined: Wed Apr 26, 2000 9:00 am
Full Name: D.A. Saguto--HCC
Has Liked: 1 time
Been Liked: 7 times

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#5 Post by das » Wed Jun 02, 2004 7:03 am

Gary,

"Gum tragacanth--white or reddish gum from, certain herbs, especially from the goat thorn shrub."

Weaver Leather sells it pre-mixed, but with some stinky junk in it to keep one from tasting it I guess.

erickgeer

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#6 Post by erickgeer » Wed Jun 02, 2004 7:42 am

Someone has the powder/flakes available by the pound on e-bay. They're selling it as a binder for incense, and other aromatherapy uses.

Erick

Gary Lehmann

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#7 Post by Gary Lehmann » Sat Aug 28, 2004 10:07 am

OK so what is Dragon's breath? I know gum tragacanth smells pretty foul. Is that it maybe?

anon

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#8 Post by anon » Fri Mar 11, 2005 5:57 am

I have run across the term "Brunelle boot" recently, in reference to 1810 era British army boots and when I did a "google" discovered that Bass sells a "Brunell": a good looking loafer style which looks surprisingly like, from a small photo, a high tongued buckle shoe sans buckle.

M.I. Brunelle, as has been mentioned on this site, developed a "shoe rivetiing machine" and made nailed sole boots from 1810 to 1815, when his factory burned, for His Britanic Majesty's foot soldiers.

I'm wondering whether the term "Brunelle" has come to mean a particular style - as I suspect - as this would be another clue in the "shoe vs boot" debate which Napoleonic War enthusiasts engage in.

Any thoughts on this would be gratefully received!

Peter Monahan

das
Seanachaidh
Posts: 1293
Joined: Wed Apr 26, 2000 9:00 am
Full Name: D.A. Saguto--HCC
Has Liked: 1 time
Been Liked: 7 times

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#9 Post by das » Fri Mar 11, 2005 10:13 am

Peter,

My guess is that "Brunelle" specifies boots made by Brunell's riveting process, not a style. At that date shoes are often called by their construction: "welted", "channeled", "turned", and so forth.

marc
5
5
Posts: 272
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 10:00 am
Full Name: Marc Carlson
Location: Tulsa, Ok, USA
Contact:

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#10 Post by marc » Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:07 am

Just as a bit of amusement, I ran across this essay recently...

http://www.ellisparkerbutler.info/epb/biblio.asp?id=2399

Image

Marc

erickgeer

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#11 Post by erickgeer » Tue Mar 15, 2005 11:20 am

Marc,

Thank you, now I can go back to settin' up my shop.

Erick

anon

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#12 Post by anon » Thu Mar 17, 2005 7:11 am

Al

Thanks for the answer - I wondered if I was onto something there, but apparently not!

BTW, Marc Brunel was the father of the great railroad and steamship man (Isambard Kingdom Brunel). You mentioned once on this site that Marc had lived in America where he might have seen shoe nailing machinery. He was in fact chief architect for the City of New York till he followed Miss Sophie Kingdom to England.

He also invented the machinery to make "blocks" (pulleys to we landlubbers) for the Royal Navy - apparently the first automated assembly line, in which 10 men replaced 40 and did better work quicker too. He also patented various other devices and figured out how to tunnel underwater so the London Underground could "cross" the Thames.
A fascinating character all told. Also a dual citizen - rare then - of US and England (a Royalist refugee from the French revolution once).

Enough babble! Thanks again for the answer.

Peter Monahan

stever

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#13 Post by stever » Sun Oct 09, 2005 7:31 pm

Perhaps this question has been answered before so I beg your indulgence. I was recently asked a question regarding a couple of terms used in the Maryland Gazette in 1759 describing the foorwear of runaway slaves. "Negro shoes" and "Country shoes". My first guess would be rough and somewhat crude work shoes. Anyone have ideas?

Respectfully
Stephen Ratterman

das
Seanachaidh
Posts: 1293
Joined: Wed Apr 26, 2000 9:00 am
Full Name: D.A. Saguto--HCC
Has Liked: 1 time
Been Liked: 7 times

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#14 Post by das » Mon Oct 10, 2005 3:58 am

Stephen,

I answered these for you on the Rev-List through John White last night, but in case they didn't get posted:

"Country/Country-made Shoes"=local (colonial) manufacture, versus imported. In MD, "county-made" would imply MD-made. All kinds and types of shoes were described as country-made, not just rough stuff, though the term is usually found by itself with little further description.

"Slave/Negro Shoes"=The only 18thc. ref. I've found that describes anything unique about these is in a Virginia letter book. They were simply shoes made on wider lasts, for folks unaccustomed to wearing European-type shoes. The Brits had the same problem in WWII, producing army boots for the Sherpa people. They had to design a very broad, more anatomically-correct, and less stylized last to accommodate their feet, because the standard army last wouldn't fit them.

stever

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#15 Post by stever » Mon Oct 10, 2005 9:20 am

Al,
Thanks for your reply. I was contacted individually by an intermediary regarding those terms. I then discovered that the same question was openly asked on several 18th C oriented listes but without the courtesy of mentioning that it was a crossposting.
The Information Age is a wonderous thing but sometimes requesting information can be overkill.

Steve

das
Seanachaidh
Posts: 1293
Joined: Wed Apr 26, 2000 9:00 am
Full Name: D.A. Saguto--HCC
Has Liked: 1 time
Been Liked: 7 times

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#16 Post by das » Tue Oct 11, 2005 6:23 pm

Steve,

If you've not followed the chatter on the Rev War List, here's my reply to a posting there sent to me for comment. My comments below:

1) The 1849 ad is irrelevant for 1700s, besides it only mentions the most
common constructions for that period for everybody--nothing unique to
slaves.

2) There are plenty of 18thc. white runaways described as wearing "coarse"
shoes, i.e. it's not synonymous with "Negro shoes".

3) The "making" of shoes was only one phase of the manufacture, after they
were patterned, cut-out, and the uppers sewed together. Two pair a day,
assembling kits basically (i.e. "making"), is pretty fast, but for simple
un-lined shoes, to be expected. NB. the only "coarse" shoes mentioned were
women's (white?)--not slaves'..

4) There are plenty of 18thc. refs. to "coarse", "common", "strong",
"country-made", rough, nasty, etc. for whites too, again it's not synonymous
with or the definition of "Negro shoes".

=======
"Perhaps straight lasted, thicker leather, and not comfortable."
=======

If they were made between c.1590 and c. 1790, they're all going to be
"straight lasted", as right and left lasts don't come back into fashion
until the 1790s, IOW *everybody* wore shoes made on straight lasts--it
wasn't an option or in anyway could it be unique for slaves. Thicker
leather soles, even double soles, and stout uppers are mentioned for many
laboring men--again nothing unique to slaves. How the author can imply
"comfort" as a factor is beyond me. Is he suggesting slave's shoes were
intentionally made to be miserable? Folks of all races complained about
shoe discomfort, and the VA ref. I mention to wider lasts to better fit
slave's feet seems to imply they were trying to get suitable shoes on their
feet, rather than cram them into pinching British shapes.

stever

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#17 Post by stever » Tue Oct 11, 2005 7:41 pm

Al,
I haven't been reading that particular Rev War list. I do appreciate you taking the time to forward your responses to some of those apparent misconceptions referenced. So many ideas and concepts are often categorized under "Reenactorisms"

Steve

shoestring

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#18 Post by shoestring » Wed Oct 12, 2005 3:49 pm

Al,
thanks for informing the unenligthed about foot ware belonging to "Slaves".That all men were wareing uncomfortable shoes during that time in American history,and the need for a wider last was called for.As we all know when the feet hurt the body hurt............ .

Ed

das
Seanachaidh
Posts: 1293
Joined: Wed Apr 26, 2000 9:00 am
Full Name: D.A. Saguto--HCC
Has Liked: 1 time
Been Liked: 7 times

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#19 Post by das » Wed Feb 07, 2007 6:59 am

Not sure who brought up "Cat Whipping" or "Whipping the Cat"--maybe it was Jesse? Anyway, the term has several possible origins. The one I'm most familier with is that it's from phonetic Lowland Scots dialect for a coat-whipper, i.e. itinerant tailor. I've only heard/read the term used for low-status shoemakers (itinerants) in 20thc. books that did not cite a source.

Here's what I found in Grose. The last sentence seems to confirm the tailor connection, and nothing is mentioned about shoemakers:

======================
cat whipping (Grose 1811 Dictionary)
cat whipping
WHIPPING THE CAT
A trick often practised on ignorant country fellows, vain of their strength, by laying a wager with them that they may be pulled through a pond by a cat. The bet being made, a rope is fixed round the waist of the party to be catted, and the end thrown across the pond, to which the cat is also fastened by a packthread, and three or four sturdy fellows are appointed to lead and whip the cat; these on a signal given, seize the end of the cord, and pretending to whip the cat, haul the astonished booby through the water. —To whip the cat, is also a term among tailors for working jobs at private houses, as practised in the country.

Definition taken from The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, originally by Francis Grose.

===============================

User avatar
dw
Seanachaidh
Posts: 5373
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 1997 10:00 am
Full Name: DWFII
Location: Redmond, OR
Has Liked: 39 times
Been Liked: 3 times
Contact:

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#20 Post by dw » Wed Feb 07, 2007 8:07 am

Al,

Don't know if this contributes much but...from the OED:
a. to whip the cat: used (chiefly dial. or techn. colloq.) in various senses, some of which are not satisfactorily explained.
(a) To get drunk. (b) To lay the blame of one's offences on some one else. (c) To work as an itinerant tailor, carpenter, etc. at private houses by the day. (d) To play a practical joke, (e) To practise extreme parsimony. (f) To shirk work on Monday. (g) Cards. (h) Austral. and N.Z. To complain or moan.



Tight Stitches
DWFII--HCC Member

jesselee
6
6
Posts: 469
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 10:00 am
Full Name: Jesse Lee Cantrell
Location: Town of Niagara, NY, USA

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#21 Post by jesselee » Wed Feb 07, 2007 11:29 am

DA, DW

Someone else brought it up first. Then I had to comment, had forgotten the term. Just now found this a minute ago,



You will soon find that this process of stab, needle/needle one hole at a time will allow you to build up some speed. The old timers called it…"whipping the cat"… If you can keep your awl in your hand ( refer to the first of these articles) you will get almost fast…a lot faster than doing it the hole-punch way or by forcing a sail needle through the leather without using an awl.

When you see this process, it'll all make sense.

From site: http://www.gunfighter.com/cgi-bin/bbs/cowboy-a/cowboy-a.cgi?read=40851

I do appreciate the old timey cat humor though. I'll add that bit to my collection.

Jesse

das
Seanachaidh
Posts: 1293
Joined: Wed Apr 26, 2000 9:00 am
Full Name: D.A. Saguto--HCC
Has Liked: 1 time
Been Liked: 7 times

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#22 Post by das » Wed Feb 07, 2007 11:45 am

Jesse,

Thanks for that link. Hummmmm....I wonder where Mr. Geiger got the term from? I am familer with some if his writings, and he rarely seems to cite a source sad to say.

jesselee
6
6
Posts: 469
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 10:00 am
Full Name: Jesse Lee Cantrell
Location: Town of Niagara, NY, USA

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#23 Post by jesselee » Wed Feb 07, 2007 2:11 pm

DA,

I have run across the same problem. I have terms that I have never or only once seen before. I wonder if they came down through a certain lineage of masters in a particular Guild.

For instance, in my lineage, what y'all call Coad, we call Nobb. Same thing, different word. I have some which are animal and people oriented as well as almost allegorically minded (trade secret passings). I will never live long enough to find all the old and evolved bootmaking terms, but I sure appreciate the ones I have found. Not lots, but a good many.
Jesse

das
Seanachaidh
Posts: 1293
Joined: Wed Apr 26, 2000 9:00 am
Full Name: D.A. Saguto--HCC
Has Liked: 1 time
Been Liked: 7 times

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#24 Post by das » Wed Feb 07, 2007 2:27 pm

Jesse,

I just call it "wax" meself. After Marc Carlson posted on here that it was called "coad" in one Medieval source, many Forumites starting using the term "coad" like it was current. I doubt any shoemaker living between c1600 until today ever heard of "coad" Image

"Nobb" huh? You sound like you know/knew Jed/Jeb of Mason Dixon Boot Co? What ever happened to him? They made some fine 1860s boots in the 1970s and early '80s, but then disappeared.

User avatar
dw
Seanachaidh
Posts: 5373
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 1997 10:00 am
Full Name: DWFII
Location: Redmond, OR
Has Liked: 39 times
Been Liked: 3 times
Contact:

Re: Strange Shoe Terms

#25 Post by dw » Wed Feb 07, 2007 5:43 pm

Al, Jesse Lee,

I have to "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa", on that one. The only thing I can say in my defense it that the guild motto is "To preserve and Protect." Seems to me that using words that rightfully belong in our heritage is the surest way to "preserve and protect."

Besides, I hope I don't come off too "snabbish" if I say that it sure makes thing a lot clearer than saying "I wax my waxed ends with wax1 and then coat the taw with wax2...but be sure to use wax2 not wax3." Image

[where x1= coad or handwax; and x2 = beeswax; and x|+{3} = paraffin...all waxes if the dictionary is to be believed Image

Ain't half the fun of being a shoemaker the way secret and unfamiliar words roll off the tongue?

Tight Stitches
DWFII--HCC Member

Post Reply