Shoe Museum

The TUSPM Shoe Museum includes roughly 900 pairs of shoes, 250 of which are on display on the sixth floor of the TUSPM main building.

Visitor information

Admission to the museum is free, but visits must be scheduled in advance.

Please contact curator Barbara Williams at 215-625-5243 or to schedule a visit.

Location: 148 N. 8th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107

About the Shoe Museum at TUSPM

The museum was created during the nation's bicentennial in 1976 as an added attraction for visitors to the Liberty Bell and Independence Park, which are only two blocks from the college. A group of volunteers sought additions to the college's collection, and the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia placed the Dr. H. Augustus Wilson Shoe Collection on extended loan at the college. Dr. Wilson (1853-1919), a noted Philadelphia orthopedist, was a world traveler and collected footwear from over 30 nations.

Although most of the museum's collection dates from the 19th and 20th centuries, there is also a good representation of older footwear. One unusual item is a pair of 200-year-old French "sabots," the wooden shoes that gave birth to the expression "sabotage." Other items in the collection include Egyptian burial sandals, bridal footwear, salesmen's miniature samples, children's shoes, shoe lasts, Malaysian clogs, Eskimo boots, a circus giant's size 18 shoes, iron diving boots, ballet shoes, and the huge shoe of a young victim of gigantism whose leg and foot weighed 58 pounds. The museum also includes shoes donated by celebrities, as well as former presidents and first ladies. Shoes of sports stars include those of Dr. J and Joe Frazier, Bernie Parent's Stanley Cup skates, Reggie Jackson's five home-run World Series shoes, Andre Agassi's 1990 pink and black Nikes, and World Cup Team Portugal superstar Luis Figo's shoes.

Recent additions include Ella Fitzgerald's "very '60s" gold boots, Joan River's exotic Manolo Blahniks, and a pair of six-inch blue satin platform sandals worn by Sally Struthers as "Gloria" on the popular TV sitcom All in the Family. According to museum curator Barbara Williams, platform shoes have resurfaced regularly throughout history, first as protection from dirt and water, then as fashion, including half a dozen fads during the 20th century. Popular in the East for centuries, platform shoes were introduced to Europe in the 16th century. Originally known as chopines, these "stilt" shoes reached dizzying heights of up to two-and-one-half feet. The wearer needed the help of two servants to walk, reinforcing both social status and the image of a woman as frail and dependent.

In fact, many of the unusual shoes in the museum's collection were made for women, who even today experience four times the number of foot problems as men due to high heels, pointed toes, poorly fitting footwear, or other abuses in the name of fashion.

The extent of damaging shoe fashions is represented in the museum's collection of tiny Chinese "lily shoes". Following a 1000-year-old Chinese custom, young girls' feet were tightly bandaged from about the age of five, forcing the arch upward and the toes under, to produce a foot about half the normal size. The ideal was the three-inch "Golden Lotus," while a four-inch "Silver Lotus" was not quite as desirable. In addition to crippling girls for life and accentuating their economic uselessness, the practice emphasized the wealth of the men who could afford such obviously handicapped women. The lily foot was also considered erotic. Incredibly, although banned by decree in the Manchu Dynasty (1644), this custom existed into the early 20th century, when the Revolution forced women to work.