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Cas City Forum Hall & CAS-L  |  CAS TOPICS  |  NCOWS (Moderator: Will Ketchum)  |  Topic: The History of the Rubber Heel 0 Members and 2 Guests are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: The History of the Rubber Heel  (Read 14464 times)
Ottawa Creek Bill
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« on: March 16, 2010, 07:00:37 pm »


This story gives the Indication that the rubber heel was invented in 1896. The article goes on to say that O' Sullivan patented his rubber heel in a few years after his invention.......1900 or after? The article is not clear on that. That does mean rubber heels were probably a scarce commodity out west prior to 1900............

Bill

THE O'SULLIVAN STORY (now O'Sullivan Films)

Humphrey O'Sullivan was born in Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland on October 7, 1853. He attended public school and at the age of 15 began a five-year apprenticeship to become a skilled typesetter and a member of the Printer's Union. After one year in a Cork printshop, the young printer came to the United States, stopping to work at his trade in Yonkers, N.Y., but soon moved on to Lowell, Mass., where his older brother James owned a retail shoe store. After three years with local newspapers, Humphrey joined his brother in the shoe business.

Legend has it that the invention of the rubber heel occurred in that Lowell, Mass. print shop. The story, as documented in a typewritten page dated 1926 (source unknown), is that, in 1896, Humphrey O'Sullivan was a young printer in Lowell, Massachusetts. He walked on a stone floor while feeding a printing press, and to ease his footsteps, he bought a rubber mat on which to stand. His fellow employees kept "borrowing" the mat, so Humphrey cut out two pieces of the mat the size of his heels and nailed them to his shoes. The results pleased and astonished him. Soon, O'Sullivan was making full-fledged rubber heels, equipped with hidden washers to hold the nails, and going around peddling them among the shoemakers of Lowell. They were the first rubber heels ever made, and he eventually patented the idea. In a few years, O'Sullivan Heels were being shipped to all parts of the country.

The message gets more sophisticated

After developing what was to become known as "America's No. 1 Heel", O'Sullivan arranged for his products to be manufactured by the Boston Belting Company. After several years, he switched to the Goodrich Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio, and the O'Sullivan Rubber Company continued with this arrangement for many years. With production now in capable hands, Humphrey concentrated on selling and advertising his products. The business was eventually sold, and was moved to Winchester, Virginia in 1932, and O'Sullivan Rubber began making rubber heels instead of having them manufactured by another company. Business boomed during WWII, but like many companies, they had trouble adjusting to the post-war era, and sales dropped considerably. To increase sales, in the late 1940's O'Sullivan installed its first vinyl sheeting plant, and for the first time became a publicly owned company. The growth of vinyl took the company in a new direction, and O'Sullivan began shipping their products to customers who made ladies' handbags and furniture upholstery.

In the 1950's O'Sullivan successfully entered another challenging market servicing the Automotive Industry with PVC/ABS skins for Instrument Panel applications. Door Panel products were added a few years later, along with materials for consoles, knee bolsters, and sun visor materials.

During the 1960's, O'Sullivan added its second vinyl sheeting line, and its third and fourth lines were added in the 1970's and 1980's respectively. Also during those decades, O'Sullivan entered the Pool Liner and Medical markets. These were high performance products that were designed to meet the unique specifications that our customers required; including outdoor sun resistance and exacting quality standards for blood storage.

Whether the opportunity was for rubber heels, high performance TPU alloys for Medical Mattresses, or products to meet the stringent automotive specifications, O'Sullivan excelled at developing creative solutions for its customers. That creative energy continues today, and we encourage you to review our other capabilities listed on this web site.

 
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« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2010, 07:10:01 pm »

Like a lot of things you get a lot of claims, what are the sources for that one? 
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« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2010, 07:22:38 pm »

Del....
Here is the web page.....All I did was search "When was the rubber heel manufactured?" and several sites cam up with the same information on O'Sullivan.... Evidently they are still in business.

http://www.osul.com/Default.asp?page=529

Bill
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« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2010, 07:25:42 pm »

I think this guy was smart enough to patent it.
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Ottawa Creek Bill
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« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2010, 07:41:50 pm »

Also here, the History of Footwear....scroll down to Rubber Heel.

Bill

http://inventors.about.com/od/sstartinventions/a/Shoes.htm

Rubber Heel
The first rubber heel for shoes was patented on January 24, 1899 by Irish-American Humphrey O'Sullivan. O'Sullivan patented the rubber heel which outlasted the leather heel then in use. Elijah McCoy invented an improvement to the rubber heel. The first rubber soled shoes called plimsolls were developed and manufactured in the United States in the late 1800s. In 1892, nine small rubber manufacturing companies consolidated to form the U.S. Rubber Company. Among them was the Goodyear Metallic Rubber Shoe Company, organized in the 1840s in Naugatuck, Connecticut. This company was the first licensee of a new manufacturing process called vulcanization, discovered and patented by Charles Goodyear. Vulcanization uses heat to meld rubber to cloth or other rubber components for a sturdier, more permanent bond.
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Ottawa Creek Bill
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« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2010, 07:46:09 pm »

If you want more info on the rubber heel, just Google "the History of shoe manufacture"......they all come up with O'sullivan as the inventor of the rubber heel. By the way the second source I posted shows the O'sullivan patent as 1899,  If this proves to be true, this pretty much puts the rubber heel outside of the NCOWS era.
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« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2010, 03:30:36 am »

OCB – I did a quick peruse through my library and the following is what I could find germane to the topic at hand. Both references are from India-Rubber and Gutta-Percha in the Civil War Era by Mike Woshner (1999, O’Donnell Publications, Alexandria, Virginia). It's not a whole lot but adds to the picture.

Page 109 - Excerpt from Rev B. K. Pierce in his biography on Charles Goodyear, published in 1866: “…a thick heel and elastic sole of india rubber give him [Federal soldier] comfort every time he puts it to the ground.”

Page 145 – “While Goodyear suggested attaching the [rubber] soles with cement, later innovations of the 1850s and 1860s included rubber heels and soles with nails embedded for attaching to the leather.”

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« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2010, 11:07:31 am »

I am not at home so I do not have my book to get the page number but:  A pair of burned rubber soles were found during the archeological digs at Adobe Walls.  The book is by T. Lindsey Baker.  Adobe Walls was burned in 1874.

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« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2010, 11:19:12 am »

This is one reason I haven't joined the ranks of The Originals (besides disliking the name Wink)  I would no more go without rubber soles on my shoes and boots than I would without my diabetes meds. Roll Eyes

Will Ketchum
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« Reply #9 on: March 17, 2010, 11:52:25 am »

This is one reason I haven't joined the ranks of The Originals (besides disliking the name Wink)  I would no more go without rubber soles on my shoes and boots than I would without my diabetes meds. Roll Eyes

Will Ketchum

This topic has nothing to do with the originals class.....I think (since I posted it), it has to do with the history of the rubber heel.

Bill
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« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2010, 12:04:10 pm »



Quote
it has to do with the history of the rubber heel.

...which (from what I see) appears to be documented to the 1860s-1870s if not earlier. Very interesting.
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Ottawa Creek Bill
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« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2010, 12:06:37 pm »

So..........How do we rectify the different sources of Information? Does anyone know where we can actually see or handle a pair of boots/shoes with rubber heels that has the resource/research information to go with it. Another thing we need to be asking is how common were the rubber heels in different eras...for example, 1850-1860,1860-1870, etc.

As a side note, my Sears 1897 catalog does not show any western style boots with rubber heels or soles. The only shoe/boots with any rubber were tennis shoes, or, all rubber over boots. All western style boots in the catalog had leather soles and heels.

Bill
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« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2010, 12:10:00 pm »


...which (from what I see) appears to be documented to the 1860s-1870s if not earlier. Very interesting.

Dave...not necessarily, we need more proof then just a couple of sentences since the rubber heel was not patented until 1899 (that information is from more then one or two sources). We need visual proof (if possible)....right now I would say maybe.

Bill
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« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2010, 12:29:49 pm »

Dave...not necessarily, we need more proof then just a couple of sentences since the rubber heel was not patented until 1899 (that information is from more then one or two sources). We need visual proof (if possible)....right now I would say maybe.

Bill

The 1899 patent does not preclude earlier existance.  The patent may be an improvement of an existing item. 
It could be:
                 A different formual for the rubber.
                 A pattern on the surface.
                 A means of attachment.

The possibilities are endless.

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« Reply #14 on: March 17, 2010, 01:18:49 pm »



There seems to be ample evidence that rubber soles were available and used on shoes/boots even to pre-CW days. Even the Connecticut Historical; Society possesses rubber shoes and soles dating pre-1855. Would it not stand to reason that if rubber was being used for soles, that it would not also be used on the 'sole" of the heels?

I am curious, too, as to exactly what that 1899 patent pertained to.  Was it for some of the things that Books mentioned? Was it for the entire heel? Or was it for only the "sole" or bottom part of an otherwise leather stack?

Guess more research is in order.

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« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2010, 01:41:47 pm »



Actually, in reading this patent, (No. 625,897), information crediting O'Sullivan with inventing the rubber heel is inaccurate. What his patent does is only to improve existing methods for attaching the rubber or "cushion" heel to the shoe/boot.

An excerpt from that patent description clearly indicates that:

Quote
Be it known that I, Humphrey O' Sullivan, a citizen of the United States, residing at Lowell, in the county of Middlesex and State of Massachusetts, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Cushion-Heels; and I do hereby declare the following to "be a full, clear, and exact description of the invention, such as will enable others skilled in the art to which it appertains to make and use the same.

The present invention relates to an improvement in cushion-heels for boots and shoes, and more particularly to an improved form
of cushion-heel provided with nail or screw head chambers.

Many forms of cushion-heels in which the heads of the nails or screws by which they are secured to the body of the shoe are ex
posed are found to be more or less objectionable, as such nail or screw heads are liable to catch dirt or snow from the street and carry it into the house with the wearer: To overcome this objection and to secure other advantages, hereinafter pointed out, are the objects of the present invention, which consists in the cushion-heel hereinafter described, and more particularly set forth in the claims. The preferred form, of my invention is illustrated in the accompanying drawings, in which—•   
        Figure 1 is a perspective view of my improved heel. Fig. 2 is 'a longitudinal sectional elevation; and Fig. 3 is an enlarged sectional elevation of a portion of the heel, showing details hereinafter to be described. 1 indicates the preferred form of my cushion-heel, which will be made of rubber or other elastic material and provided with a number of nail or screw head chambers 4, which are adapted to receive the heads of the nails or screws by means of which the cushionheel is to be secured to the shoe and to protect them from the action of the elements and at the same time to prevent them from carrying dirt or snow. While the nail or screw head chambers 4 are preferably made a little larger than the diameter of the nail or screw heads they are to receive, the size may vary without departing from the spirit of my invention, as it contemplates, broadly,a cushion-heel with nail or screw head chambers.

He further states elsewhere in the patent application that:

Quote
The heel as above described may be made according to any of the well-known and accepted ways of making rubber articles


O'Sullivan clearly states that such "cushion" heels are already in existence and use, and that his patent should be awarded based on an improved method for concealing nails and screws used to attach them.

This should put an end to the O'Sullivan argument, at least for our purposes.





 
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« Reply #16 on: March 17, 2010, 03:31:29 pm »

Bill,

Check this out.

     http://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php/topic,31673.0.html
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« Reply #17 on: March 17, 2010, 04:37:41 pm »

OCB & all -

Books hit the nail on the head regarding patent info. Use of such information would be the ultimate qualifier, methinks, of what is and is not kosher regarding a rubber heel over time.

Since patents could/can be applied for on numerous superfluities as well as real innovations it's hard to know 'what right looks like' regarding the apprearance of a proper rubber heel in 1860 or 1870 or 1880, and perhaps they all looked the same. I think the secret to unlock this mystery lies buried in patent verbage and drawings.

Having said all that I'll stick with leather heels though will keep my repro vulcanized rubber talma handy...

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« Reply #18 on: March 17, 2010, 07:05:17 pm »


Actually, in reading this patent, (No. 625,897), information crediting O'Sullivan with inventing the rubber heel is inaccurate. What his patent does is only to improve existing methods for attaching the rubber or "cushion" heel to the shoe/boot.

An excerpt from that patent description clearly indicates that:

He further states elsewhere in the patent application that:


O'Sullivan clearly states that such "cushion" heels are already in existence and use, and that his patent should be awarded based on an improved method for concealing nails and screws used to attach them.

This should put an end to the O'Sullivan argument, at least for our purposes.





 

Here is a picture of the heel from an add from around the turn of the century:



The countersunk holes in the heel is what the patent covers.
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« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2010, 12:12:29 am »

I'd suggest checking with D. W. Frommer - he is not only on of the best boot makers working today, both in modern and classic styles, but is an historian as well:
http://www.bootmaker.com/bespoke.htm

Another source of info may be the Crispin Colloquy, a website for those interested in boot making both past and present... http://www.thehcc.org/cgi-bin/discus/discus.cgi
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