Whatever happened to the Homer White shoe?

The Big Shoe used to be displayed at the entrance to White's Shoe Store on Main Street.

The Big Shoe used to be displayed at the entrance to White’s Shoe Store on Main Street.

People of a certain age remember this shoe as the E. Homer White shoe, displayed in front of the store for years. But maybe it could be called the Cannon shoe? And just how old is this shoe?

According to lawyer-historian John E. Jacob Jr., “James Cannon came to Salisbury in 1861 and opened a general store, but soon shifted to shoes, as ready-made shoes became popular as the result of the Civil War. It was he who first had the giant shoe in front of his store that later belonged to the E. Homer White Shoe Company. I remembered this shoe in front of the store until the fire in 1979.”

As shoes go, this one is bigger than the average shoe (about three feet long and a foot or so high, and quite heavy). And while it may look a little worse for wear, it is actually in excellent condition for a shoe more than one hundred years old. Please don’t ask to see my shoe closet.

Today, the shoe’s home is the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University.  It has been exhibited before a time or two, and happily it is now protected from the elements.

Recently, I was on a mission to see that shoe close up and take photos of it. So with a friend in tow who also wanted to see the shoe of his childhood memory, off to the Nabb Center we went.

But I caution readers who might want to view the shoe, call first.  Some of the larger items are stored off-site and it may take a day or two for staffers to arrange for you to view this shoe.  They are happy to help but need some notice.

At first I was a little disappointed that part of the high top of the shoe was flattened, the shoe had lost its shine, and there was a repair or two.  But then I remembered the shoe is well over a hundred years, so it is quite remarkable it has survived. As I took photos of it, I came to admire the wear and tear of this historic object.

The big shoe may have been acquired in 1896, the year of the first mention of the shoe that I could locate, in an ad for Cannon & Dennis, proclaiming “Look for the Big Shoe.”

By 1897, the business became the Cannon Co., advertising men’s, women’s and children’s shoes in ads with the same mention of the big shoe.

Edward Homer White Sr. was born in Powellville in 1877. He likely arrived in Salisbury sometime before 1905, the year of the ad located for Dickerson & White, successors to Salisbury Shoe Company. By 1907, the store was identified as the E. Homer White store. In that year, he married Lella Amiss Morgan of Norfolk, settled on Parsons Street and began a family. In 1908, his advertisements refer to “The Big Shoe Store.”

It is not entirely clear who first acquired the shoe and when, but there is no doubt, it is an old shoe.

I gratefully thank the Nabb Center for showing this to us. It is comforting to know that the big shoe just might last another 100 years.

Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury and is writing a book about the community’s history. Contact her at lindaduyer1@yahoo.com.

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