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Shoes-Shoes do not get a lot of attention in the Outlander series, but they were an essential part of an 18th-century lady’s wardrobe. All shoes of this era were made by hand, and buyers could choose from bulk stock or make custom orders. One might think that custom-made shoes would fit perfectly, but in the 18th century shoes were not typically made differently for left and right feet. Instead, the breaking-in process determined which side each shoe went on, and that could be uncomfortable whether the shoes were made to order or not. Image of a woman with a wash bucket and mop wearing shoes with buckles: This ca. 1750 portrait depicts a woman named Mrs. Maltby, who wears silver oval-shaped shoe buckles and high-heeled shoes even as she goes about her chores. ©Trustees of the British Museum. Images shown: Leather Shoe Sole and Insole, Date: ca. 1764-1820, Site Name: Birely Tannery, Site Number: 18FR575/20-This shoe sole and insole are examples of rare leather survivals in the archaeological record of Maryland. Usually microorganisms that live in the ground eat organic materials like leather until nothing is left, but a lot of leather survived at the Birely Tannery site in Frederick County, Maryland because of unusual soil chemistry. A tannery is a site where animal skins are processed to turn them into durable leather. This is a very dirty and smelly job that involved harsh chemicals. Tanners purchased skins from people who raised and butchered animals, and then they soaked the skins in a series of chemical vats to remove hair, soften hides, and preserve the leather. Along the way, skins were soaked in lime, alkaline solutions made with ash and bird or dog dung, and tanning bark solutions. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, there were no regulations about cleaning up such industrial sites, so the chemicals used there built up over time, driving away the microbes that usually live in the soil. As a result, all of the leather that was deposited as waste from the operation, or as general trash, ended up in the ground with the very chemicals needed to preserve it. Archaeologists found whole shoes, shoe parts, scrap leather, and at least one horse harness fragment. The details found in these rare survivals offer a lot of information to researchers. For example, this shoe and insole fit together perfectly, but only the sole of the shoe has holes for the stitches that held the shoe together. Those are the kinds of details archaeologists can use to learn how everyday shoes of the 18th century  were constructed.  Wooden Shoe Heel, Date: ca. 1720-1750, Site Name: Oxon Hill Manor, Site Number: 18PR175/2345-Artifacts made of wood  are usually consumed by microorganisms in the ground before archaeologists can recover them, but this wooden shoe heel came from a special burial environment that was very different from the Birely Tannery. Instead of benefitting from preservative chemicals in the ground, the shoe heel came from an old well where stagnant water was all that was needed to keep the wood-eating critters away. Because the water in the well was still instead of flowing, it lacked the oxygen that bacteria and other organisms need to survive. The archaeologists who excavated the Oxon Hill Manor identified at least 13 different shoes in the well, in sizes for men, women, and children. This was the only wooden heel for a woman’s shoe. Shoe Buckle Frame (top left), Date: ca. 1750-1780, Site Name: Ft. Frederick, Site Number: 18WA20/400; Shoe Buckle (top right), Date: ca. 1761-1790, Site Name: Antietam Furnace, Site Number: 18WA288/98; Buckle Frame (bottom left frame), Date: ca. 1720-1799, Site Name: Saunders Point, Site Number: 18AN39/165; Buckle Chape (bottom left chape), Date: ca. 1750-1780, Site Name: Ft. Frederick, Site Number: 18WA20/164.008; Shoe Buckle Frame (bottom right), Date: ca. 1720-1799, Site Name: Queenstown Courthouse, Site Number: 18QU124/16 - Shoe buckles became popular for English dress in the 1660s, and they remained in fashion until about 1800. They were worn by men, women, and children, so they are a relatively common archaeological find. Each shoe buckle of the 18th century has multiple parts: the frame, which is all that shows when the shoe and buckle are fastened, and the chape, which is the mechanism that attaches the buckle to the straps of the shoe. Shoes usually had two straps, and chapes of the 18th century typically consisted of a loop that one strap passed through, and “tongues” or “tongs” that held the second strap in place. Because of the stress of holding the straps, chapes broke relatively often and were frequently replaced. All of the examples of shoe buckles and chapes shown here are made of copper alloy or brass, but buckle frames could also be made of iron, pewter, silver, or gold, and chapes were frequently made of iron. It was not unusual for shoe buckle frames to be made of a more expensive material than the chapes, as the chapes would be hidden and might break and need replacing anyway. Illustration of how 18th-century shoe buckle chapes were used on shoes.