Late in January 2009, Pete, a detectorist living in Thornaby near Stockton-on-Tees, found something that closely resembled yet another tractor part. He told me that all bits of metal like that usually end up in the scrap bin or the bucket marked ’unidentified’. This item looked so insignificant, he almost slung it in the hedge without a backward glance. I’m pleased he didn’t. No doubt he is too! I am reminded of that good piece of advice given to me when I first started detecting, and that was to never throw anything away.
From Discomfort to Scholl’s Foot Eazer (sic)
Back home, and after cleaning off a hundred years of crud and rust, Pete noticed an inscription saying, Dr. Scholl’s Foot Eazer (sic). You can’t get a better clue to what was uncovered in that Northern field! Mention the name Dr. Scholl and most people think of sensible shoes and remedies for somewhat embarrassing foot ailments. After trudging the fields all day, clambering over rough plough and your feet are killing you, who are you going to call? Dr Scholl, of course, the one-brand solution to the detecting fraternity’s corns, blisters and bunions. And here’s a contemporary advert. The spelling of eazer should give you a good clue as to where the artefact was produced, and why so many are found in America.
Shortly after qualifying as a doctor in 1904, at 22 years of age, Scholl patented his first invention: the Foot Eazer. It was a revolutionary product at the time – an insert placed in shoes to reinforce and support the foot arch.
Patented 1904. Pictures Etsy
It seems fitting that one of America’s premier inventors of corn, callous and bunion pads began his career as a shoemaker producing his eazers by hand, aided only by a single assistant, a German-born shoemaker named Sam Berman. In 1910, the resourceful Scholl produced the rather intimidating metal clamping device pictured below, making production easier.
“Depending on which resources you choose to pull from, William M. Scholl was either a medical revolutionary or a quack; a compassionate educator or an ambitious opportunist; a sober, god-fearing man or a cafe-society skirt-chaser. The truth, as ever, is probably a nice even mixture of all of the above. But one thing’s for sure: Dr. Scholl was a hell of a lot more than a mere brand mascot. Growing up in a puritanical country that found the bare human foot far too taboo to ever boo-hoo about, he single-handedly (or single footedly) changed that dialogue forever—encouraging people to take ownership of their foot pain and not resign themselves to constant misery as the Victorians had. Along the way, Scholl also basically drew up the blueprint for how to build and promote a new over-the-counter commodity, internationally, in the 20th century.”Chicago Museum
Guaranteed Snake Oil? Detectorists take note
Now take a good look at the ‘miraculous’ invention found by Pete [middle one – I think] then imagine sticking it in your wellies. I’m no medical expert, but I reckon that device might just be responsible for some of the ailments it was professing to cure! I can’t help but think Dr Scholl’s life-long mission to improve the health, comfort and wellbeing of people through their feet was probably more mercenary than philanthropic! But, as I showed in a previous article Snake Oil Surprises (TheSearcher, January 2008) the early 1900’s was a period rampant with pseudo-medical quackery. I’m not sure the good doctor would get away with such claims today.
The device found by Pete is certainly a fascinating piece of social history as it was the first ‘arch support’ invented and patented by Dr. Scholl. [shown left] And how did it get that name? Legend has it that a grateful customer was heard to exclaim, “Say, that’s a real foot-easer!” So, thank you Pete, for sharing your unusual find with us all.