Thursday, May 24, 2012

Finds from the Fire!

I have wonderful friends.  Truly, I do!  Not only are they super fun and nice and funny and talented, but they're also generous to a fault.  Case in point:

On Tuesday, I made a trip to Gallery & Frame Shop, which is essentially my home away from home downtown.  :D  I was picking up a collage that had just been framed, when Julie Balson, the owner of G&FS an also a good friend of mine, handed me a little packet.  She said, "I thought you might like these".

WHOA.  MIGHT?  Julie thought I might like these?!?  Look at 'em!  They're amazing!

What's even better about them is that they come with a local back story!

Let's flash back to April 3 of this year.  You may recall a very somber post I wrote about the fire that destroyed a 155 year-old building, which happened to be only 2 doors down from Gallery & Frame Shop. (It turns out that had my beloved Fond du Lac Antique Mall not vacated their premises next door, the entire block would've been destroyed due to the kindling-type qualities of all of the old paper and wood that would've still been in the shop.  I can't believe I'm going to say this, but THANK GOD they were gone!)  Because Julie's husband Brian is a volunteer firefighter (ANOTHER saving grace!), they knew about the fire the second it was called in.  Julie had about 8 volunteers at the shop doing nothing but hauling art (including my pieces!) out of the building.  Due to their quick thinking and awesome help, the building only sustained minor damage.  WHEW!

There is one wall, however, that really needed to be redone due to smoke damage.  Julie and company are in the midst of repairing it, and that's where the ephemera comes in!  As they were cleaning between some of the wooden slats, these little snippets showed themselves.  Julie said she went in there with a tweezers to get it out (spoken like a true archivist and restorer, one of her many jobs as a framer!).

If you're asking yourself why on earth there would be all of this shoe ephemera in a framing shop, well, that's a good question.  You see, before the building housed Gallery & Frame Shop, which has been in that location since 1975, it was Fitzsimmons Shoe Store.

How's this for cool?  According to this Milwaukee Sentinel article from June 18, 1971, Graebel's Shoes bought out Fitzimmons at that time.  The article also states that Fitzsimmons had been in business for 116 years, which counting down from 1971 would mean 1855.  HOLY MOLY!  Wisconsin had only been a state for 7 years at that point!

So we know that the ephemera is from some time between 1855 and 1975.  :D  After doing a little research online, I discovered that the Hush Puppies brand dates back to 1958 (a fun history timeline can be found on the Hush Puppies Web site).  Because of the "hell cat" phrase and the fact that there's no apologies for all of the chemicals used to tan the pigskin, I'm going to say that the snippet with the pair of shoes is one of the earliest ads for Hush Puppies, probably 1958 or '59.  The other one, with the family and the iconic Basset Hound, I'm going to put at around 1967.  It uses that "Frontier"-esque font that was so popular then, and, well, I just have a feeling.  :D

The Brown Shoe Company (as in, Buster Brown) piece was harder to investigate, but just on looks alone I'm going to say mid-Fifties.  Anything later than that and it would be "flashier", I think.  :D

If you're wondering what I'm going to do with them, you're dern tootin' I'm going to use these in a collage somehow, and preferably all together!

Thanks so much again to Julie for saving these for me!  They made my day!  :D

Update:  I heard from Julie Balson that Gallery & Frame Shop was planning to remodel that wall anyway - not because of the fire.  Sorry for the misconception!


  1. Those are pretty cool finds! I remember getting some Hush Puppies back in the 70's! I'm also really glad the antique store was vacant! It makes me wonder what sort of fire protection my other precious antique shops have!

    1. I think it's these old buildings. They just don't have the modern amenities that our new buildings do, and it's astronomically expensive to update. :(