America Loves the Welly
During the late to mid 1800's, officers in the military in America were very pleased with the full wellington boot and wore them in combat and at dress events. And although according to regulation, all foot soldiers and even the enlisted men were issued primitive lace up shoes, nobody wore the lace up shoes, as they were considered to be largely ineffectual and everyone wore the full Wellington which traveled west across the range and was equipped to serve the needs of the United States army as well as the nation.
For supplies that were drastically needed in the middle of the Civil War the the office of the Quartermaster Corp ordered materials from a multitude of different civilian contractors, at various prices. The term we know today as shoddy comes from this period and refers to the practice of using a specific type of woolen Ross cloth made from cast away sweepings from the floor of the mill. This cloth was often spun into coats and blankets and generally disintegrated when it first was exposed to moisture.
Similarly unscrupulous contractors produced many pairs of the military boots that were ordered, as well. When the Civil War finally came to an and, the federal government had somewhere in the neighborhood of 500,000 pairs of poorly constructed boots and other footwear. These boots were supplied to outposts and forts all through America, and they fell apart quickly, generally as soon as they were exposed to the severe desert climate and harsh terrain of the American west.
The soldiers stuck with defective footwear went to nearby civilian shoe makers to assist in replacing the worthless boots. This practice would establish the boot making industry in the American west. The Quartermaster Corp invested an extraordinary effort involving the testing of various boot designs during and after the war, including leg heights and thickness of sole as well as different possible types and uses of available leather. Many of these advances in the construction of the modern day boot were conceived by the American armed forces. The construction of these leather based materials early boot makers decided on for use in the making of the uppermost parts is specifically interesting. After experimenting with different types of leather and construction, the use of a special Spanish tanned leather was used. The leather was waxed heavily on the fleshy side and quickly became the established standard. Most pairs of cowboy boots in these early years were constructed in this same manner, as th design was so effective and relatively comfortable that there was little need to look beyond the American design.
By the 1870s the standard leather boots generally worn by frontier type horsemen and cattle wranglers was basically a slight modification of the current military issue. The pattern became known as the Coffeyville and it had a high Cuban heel that featured a secure being shaped instead of having a straight and featureless profile. Despite being generally considered to be a full Wellington, the front of the boot was many times grafted. Even though there was some considerable difference in the modifications and design, the popular boot used by cattle herders and range riding trail bosses was still very much a full Wellington boot.
By the 1880's the cowboy boot and the characteristics that define it was beginning to be seen as a distinctly separate style. In this period of early American cowboy boot customization, features such as high heels and stitch patterns began to appear. By the time the year 1900 rolled around, the customary design that was common in the day was the four piece boot and most popular design in manufacture at the time. The success of this design was largely due because the full Wellington was difficult to manufacture and results were often inconsistent.