Boot Scrapers

Mar 1, 2021 0 comments

In the days before automobiles, when streets were meant for horses and their carts mostly, walking through mud and excrement was an unavoidable part of life in the cities. However, what was unacceptable then, and is still now, is treading into homes with muddy boots. But a simple doormat was not enough to get rid of the filth that stuck to ones shoes. What was needed was a shoe scraper. These were made of cast iron or wrought iron and were attached at the entrances of many decent homes, churches and hospitals in cities across Europe and the Americas. Visitors would scrap the mud off their shoes on these simple devices before stepping into the building. The French called them ‘dĂ©crottoir‘. Others called them simply ‘boot scraper.’

boot scraper

An antique boot scraper in a German city. Photo: Dirk E Ellmer/Dreamstime.com

Boot scrapers appeared as sidewalk attachments in big cities at the end of the 18th century. The society’s high class had just discovered that walking the streets was a fun and educational way of exploring cities, and began to take the sidewalks instead of riding in carriages in increasing numbers. As walking became fashionable, it helped change the shape of the cities, with footpaths, tree-lined boulevards, public parks and covered arcades.

Shoe scraper were originally attached to sidewalks, but as more and more people started walking, it became vital to keep the sidewalks clear of obstacles. In the 1840s, scrapers were ordered off the street by Belgian authorities, and instead affixed to houses, by the door, leading to a change in social habits such as removing one's shoes on going inside.

boot scraper

A boot scraper in front of house entrance in West End area of Edinburgh city, Scotland. Photo: Fotokon / Dreamstime.com

The scrapers came in different designs, but usually took the form of a horizontal bar with a sharp edge attached to the wall or the floor. Sometimes a small niche was built into the wall with the scarper across it.

Scrapers fell into disuse in the early 20th century when cars replaced horses and mud and excrement on the streets became a thing of the past. Once there were thousands of these scrapers across Europe. But during the Second World War, many scrapers were removed and melted to recover the precious metals. Many still survive.

boot scraper

Photo: Bilal Kocabas / Dreamstime.com

boot scraper

This old fashioned cast iron boot scraper has decorative squirrels on each end. Photo: Rosemarie Mosteller / Dreamstime.com

boot scraper

A cast iron boot scraper outside a Georgian house in England. Photo: Gary Perkin / Dreamstime.com

boot scraper

A quirky design for a shoe scraper, with shoes at either end. Photo: Plazaccameraman / Dreamstime.com

boot scraper

A boot scraper in York, England. Photo: Michael Livsey/Flickr

boot scraper

A boot scraper in Luxemburg. Photo: Jwh/Wikimedia Commons

boot scraper

A boot scraper in Brussels. Photo: Klever/Wikimedia Commons

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