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My October 2019 Artifact of the Month is a pair of mint-in-box Van Camp football cleats dating to between 1920 and 1935. Manufactured out of a suede leather upper and an oak tanned sole, these size 7 shoes feature leather Yale cleats, a steel-reinforced toe and heel, and a cushioned sole. Amazingly, the original Van Camp Hardware and Iron Company tag and the box, identifying the pair as the No. 1368 football shoes, remain intact. Not only have the cleats never been worn, it appears that the have never been laced either.
c.1920-1935 Mint in Box
Van Camp Football Shoes
Football Shoe Evolution
Founded in 1876 by Cortland Van Camp, the Van Camp Hardware & Iron Company was a wholesale hardware company based out of Indianapolis, Indiana. Van Camp produced massive mail order catalogs with hundreds of thousands of goods that were shipped direct to Midwestern households. The company outlasted many of its competitors in the twentieth century but eventually succumbed to changes in the mail order product business and closed in 1977.
Van Camp Hardware & Iron Company
Introduced by A.G. Spalding & Bros. in 1901, the "Yale cleat" was constructed out of multiple layers of sole leather, stacked and laminated together, and then cut into a trapezoidal-shape. The Yale cleat was nailed into the sole of the shoe with tack nails. The cleat shape and their configuration on the sole of the shoe provided improved traction over other cleats due to their greater surface area. By 1903, most leading University players wore football shoes with Yale cleats. Replaceable rubber cleats were invented in the early 1920's and replaced Yale cleats on most collegiate and professional level shoes by the late 1920's. Yale cleats would continue to be offered on lower grades of football cleats until the late 1930's.
The Yale Cleat