An X-Ray at the Shoe Store
By: Scott Gampfer, Associate Vice President for Collections and Preservation
The library’s Ephemera Collection contains an interesting piece from the 1950s. It is a child’s inked footprint from Stahley’s Shoe Store in 1954. The piece also advertises that Stahley’s offered “X-Ray Shoe Fitting,” a common service in shoe stores starting in the 1920s and peaking in the 1940s and 50s. The shoe fluoroscope, or x-ray machine, allowed a customer to stand on the machine’s platform and place their feet into an opening located above an internal x-ray tube. The customer and shoe salesman (and a child’s parent) could then look into viewing ports and see the position of the bones of the feet within the outline of the shoe. Supposedly this allowed for more precise fitting of shoes to a customer’s feet. In reality it was more of a marketing gimmick than a scientific device. It is estimated that in the 1950s there were in excess of 10,000 of the machines in use in the United States alone.
As early as the 1940s experts began to question the possible radiation effects on customers, especially children, and shoe store employees who were subject to cumulative effects of repeat exposure. By the late 1950s states began to respond with regulations on the operation of the machines or outright bans on their use. By the late 1960s the machines had all but disappeared in this country but continued to have a life outside the U.S. for several more years.
Stahley’s Shoe Store was located at 4148 Hamilton Avenue in Northside.
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