Work boots and brogans of the BC gold rush

Good boots were essential to a gold miner. S.G. Hathaway describes packing his load of supplies along the Harrison-Lillooet trail in 1862:

After sailing up the Fraser River about 45 miles we turned into Harrison river, & 5 miles brought us to where it widened into a beautiful lake [Harrison]  from one to 6 or 8 miles wide & 45 miles long. I wish you could see it. Snowy mountains & rocky cliffs rising straight up from the water, shutting out all the world but the blue sky overhead; islands and sharp points running out into the lake- making a picture of wild grandeur different from anything I ever saw before. We got to the upper end at 10 o’clock at night, where there is a shanty village called Port Douglas. Got our things ashore & blundered around in the dark to find a spot to camp, which we did without much trouble. From Douglas there is 29 miles of land travel to the next lake [Little Lillooet Lake], where we are now.

The next morning after landing we loaded the mule & made up packs for ourselves, each one carrying from 30 to 40 pounds, & away we went. It was very warm, my pack bore down heavy & my boots – iron heeled, soles nearly an inch thick & driven full of round-headed nails – gave my poor feet a sorry rasping. I had too much clothing, & was soon drenched in sweat. We staggered along some 4 miles & stopped for dinner & a few hours rest; then we bucked to it again & stopped for the night after making altogether about 10 miles.

Hobnailed boots were made with very thick soles that were almost completely covered with hobnails and the stout heels were protected by a horseshoe-shaped iron tip.

Another name for hob nails is clout-nails: short nails with large heads for the soles of strong shoes.

A notice for an auction in Victoria dated July 15, 1861 had a list of items for sale including:

full nailed calf boots
full nailed calf and kip boots with steel heels
heavy grained leather boots
kip and calf boots with two rows of nails
kip and calf brogans

Brogans: a heavy, coarse shoe described as being ‘between a boot and a shoe’. Hobnailed boots of this style were made by Irish craftsmen –– bootmakers called ‘Greasai Bróg’ in Irish; hence the name Brogans.

Kip is the hide of a small or young animal, i.e. calfskin. So kip brogans might be brogan style shoes made from calfskin.

Frank Beegan, boot and shoemaker in Victoria, had an advertisement in September 4, 1860 for: “New Boots $11  Footed Boots $8   made of best calf skin”

Up until this period, it was not uncommon for men to buy boots which were made on straight ‘lasts’ and therefore were interchangeable between right and left feet, supposedly for longer wear. These boots were referred to as ‘square-toed’ boots.