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A History of Shoehorns

Prior to modern times, all shoehorns were custom made out of shell, horn and bone.

A shoehorn or shoe horn (sometimes called a Shoespooner or Shoe Tongue) is a tool that lets the  user put on a shoe more easily. Additionally, expensive shoehorns were  made from ivory, shells, silver, or bone in the 15th century.


Shoehorns appear to have originated in the late  Middle Ages or Renaissance; in English a "Schoying Horne" is mentioned  in the 15th century, though the French word chausse-pied is only found  during the last half of the 16th century.  Elizabeth I of England bought  18 shoehorns from her shoemaker Garrett Johnson between 1563 and 1566,  then in 1567 ordered four more in steel from the blacksmiths Gilbert Polson and Richard Jeffrey yet needed no more until 1586. Presumably,  these were used by many people in her household.


A group of more than 20 known English shoehorns are  all signed and dated, to between 1593 and 1613, and made by Robert Mindum. All also are inscribed with the names of their owners; these  include both men and women, including "Jane his wife" in 1612.  There is  also other engraved decoration on all, including heraldic medallions, geometric designs and flowers, covering most of the surfaces, in a style  characteristic of later scrimshaw. Their shape is very similar to  modern examples, and the longest is 11 inches long; five are turned back  at the narrow end in a kind of hook.  Several have holes pierced in  them, presumably for a cord or leather thong used for pulling them out  of the shoe or hanging them up. One owner "Hamlet Radesdale", 1593 is  described as a citizen of London who is a cooper; none of the owners  seem to be recorded otherwise. Joan Evans suggested, given the nature of  the inscriptions, that Robert Mindum made them as a hobby and gave them  to his friends. A powder horn similarly inscribed and decorated by him  also survives. The British Museum also has a similar inscribed and  decorated horn by another maker.

Shoehorns Actually Originated in the 15th Century