Information about the Wellington Boot, history and style

The Wellington Boot and the American Cowboy

Leading up to and after the end of the Civil War, American cowboys used any type of boots they could get their hands on with their meager incomes, or whatever footwear they may have been issued during the war and had the good fortune to survive with boots intact. An example of one of the most popular choices was the Wellington boot, originally of British manufacture and design. The design and subsequent sale of the first Wellington boots dated back to 1810 and were made popular by the famous Arthur Wellsley, first crown duke of the Wellington House. Wellington had attained great fame and notoriety following his routing of Napoleon's army at the battleground of Waterloo, and his use of the boots became widely known. The Wellington style of boot was a plain and simple boot that came in the colors of black or occasionally brown leather. These boots were generally marked by their design, featuring side seams, square or sometimes gently round toes, one inch stacked straight heels, and leather straps. The pull on straps were the standard feature of boots in that time period, as they were helpful in pulling the boots on and off.

American cowboys on the trails and ranges at that time were sometimes also known for wearing a boot called the Hessian, a boot that was cut below the knee with the shape of a V cutaway on the boot front. This Hessian style boot became popular in England around 1785 by Germans imitating the footwear of Hessian soldiers, who were named for Hesse the city state in Germany. Texas became a central area for redesign and modifications of Hessian and Wellington boots, as well as whatever other boots were available at the time. During the 1860s and 1870s various military boots continued to be reproduced with varying changes in hundreds of variations, improving upon the classic designs and producing new and improved boots and footwear. During these decades in Texas as well as Kansas, the roots of modern boot design and manufacture were slowly being grown in the American south. Most of these boot makers in the southern area were in fact of British or German descent, and many became wealthy as business took o due to the show business industry of the time's love of the American cowboy and the need for boots in the wardrobe departments of theater productions worldwide.

The adaptation of the Wellington and Hessian boot styles and designs to the needs of new and different regions was not a new accomplishment in those days by any means. The Wellington and Hessian boots had been shipped to boot makers and cobblers all over the world and modified as needed by the local population, for local and regional needs. This custom of adaptation and modification is as old as civilization itself, as even the deities of other cultures have been adapted from one culture to another in times past.

With the popularity of the Wellington boot of the day, as well as the Hessian designed boot, the demand far outstripped the supply of available footwear in America, and cobblers and related boot makers were hard pressed to produce the number of new boots required to meet the needs of a burgeoning population in the new world.