Tuesday, September 3, 2013

New Acquisition: Chopine Shoes

By Richard I. Gibson

High platform shoes called chopines were popular in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were intended to increase women’s stature, like high heels, and to protect rich ladies from the mud of the streets. They were probably introduced from China to Europe via Venice in the late 1400s.

showing the platforms
The Manchu people who ruled China from 1644 to 1912 apparently developed shoes like these as an alternative to painful foot-binding. The idea was that the women with bound feet, or with shoes like these, were so special, so powerful, that they did not need to walk, or at least should be protected from the dirt of the street. One legend holds that a chieftain’s daughter, Duoluo Ganzhu, who was involved in a futile battle, had the idea of using stilts or tall shoes to attack an enemy across a marshy bog—and then encouraged women to wear stylized elevated shoes in memory of the ensuing victory.

detail of sole
The shoes shown here, donated to the Mai Wah Musuem by Tina Huie in 2013, date to the 1890s. They were used in Butte by Tina Huie’s grandmother, Lily Chew Huie. Lily was born in San Francisco about 1890, and lived in Butte with her husband Sam Huie. Sam managed a restaurant at 251 East Park Street in 1927-28, and the family lived at 341 East Park and at 639 Utah. The family continued to live in Butte into the 1940s.

We believe that Sam was an older nephew of Dr. Huie Pock of Butte; Dr.Pock died in 1927, the same year Sam is first listed in the city directory. Despite this late listing, Sam and his family were in Butte at least as early as 1907. Sam and Lily had 13 children, at least 11 born in Butte, and at least two of whom (Arthur and Katie) worked in the restaurant as waiter and waitress in 1927-28, alongside Quong Huie, Huie Pock’s son. Arthur, Katie, and Quong were all listed as residing at 639 Utah Street, which was Dr. Pock’s home and office until he died. 

Sam Huie's restaurant, 251 East Park Street
(center of one-story building at left)
As did the sons of the Chinn family who lived in the Mai Wah buildings, at least six of the Huie family sons enlisted in the U.S. Army at the start of World War II, and others were involved in stateside industries and organizations involved in the war effort.

The finely embroidered shoes have a decorated wooden sole with inlaid colored fabric and braided twine.

MW 2013.08.001

Resources: City Directories, census records, information from Tina Huie; background on chopines from various online sources. Photo of Sam Huie’s restaurant at 251 East Park from Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, building inventory c. 1950s. Modern photos by Richard I. Gibson.

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