Let’s set the Wayback Machine to 1892. Here we’re going to see the beginnings of the urban/rural divide in regards to barefooting.
I suspect that’s where it all started.
I think we’ve mentioned before that it was probably urbanization that brought about the idea that there was something wrong with bare feet. Long after most kids started wearing shoes almost everywhere in the cities, rural kids still reveled in going barefoot all summer long and in the spring begged to go barefoot long before their mothers would allow it.
This story illustrates, I think, that dichotomy. On a railroad you are supposed to have money, and if you have money you ought to be buying shoes. So while we see the indignation of the customers in this “developed” world, at the same time in rural areas the kids would be totally barefoot and that would be completely acceptable.
Anyways, this story appeared in 1892, pretty close to the cusp where bare feet started disappearing.
A BAREFOOTED BOY
His Father Keeps Him Stockingless to Keep Him Well.
The indignation of the passengers on a western Maryland railroad train was somewhat unnecessarily excited near Baltimore by the unusual spectacle of a richly clad boy of five or six years, whose legs and feet were perfectly bare, although the winter morning was a cold one. The child was accompanied by his mother and sister, both of whom were richly dressed, and the sudden conclusion was formed by the passengers that the family had spent so much money in wraps, dresses and coverings for the bodies and shoulders of the elders that nothing had been left wherewith to provide a protection from the inclemency of the weather for the boy’s extremities.
The appearance and conduct of the three, which indicated culture, wealth and, on the part of the mother, parental solicitude for the welfare of her offspring, and on the part of the boy perfect content and comfort and apparent obliviousness to the fact that his feet and ankles were bare, hardly seemed to accord with the hastily formed suspicion of the curious spectators. On inquiry it was ascertained that the boy was the son of a prominent physician who had lost one child after another with throat diseases until he hit upon the idea of turning his children out barefooted, as children went before stockings and shoes, which retain the moisture of the foot and the moisture of the ground, were invented.
The physician’s experiment proved to be a perfect success. The barefooted boy was the picture of health. At Union station he ran up the cold boards and ice covered bricks laughing and singing and totally unaware of any discomfort. By adopting the barefoot method the Maryland physician has succeeded in raising a family of healthy boys and girls. Winter and summer his children of both sexes have gone shoeless and stockingless. People look on with curiosity and amazement, but the doctor is perfectly satisfied with the results.
Indian mothers made their babies hardy by plunging them in the ice covered streams. Physicians of today say that the best remedy for cold feet is to plunge them into cold water. The warmth, comfort and exhilaration which come from the attraction of the blood to the extremities exceed any physical delight to be extracted from toasting one’s toes at the open fire, the register or the steam radiator. It seems to be Mother Nature’s way of teaching us that we must endure before we enjoy and that the greatest joy comes through endurance.