A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"The Shoe With A Memory"

Johnston & Murphy's Handmade 100s

Johnston & Murphy can trace its roots back to the rich tradition of English shoemaking by way of William J. Dudley and his eponymous shoe company which was founded in 1850 in Newark. Dudley, a European immigrant and master craftsman, was schooled in the classic British tradition. In 1880, Newark businessman James Johnston joined the company as Dudley's partner. In 1881, founder William Dudley died, and Johnston assumed control of the company under a new name, The James Johnston Company.
In 1884, William A. Murphy, another prominent Newark businessman from a distinguished family was intrigued by the success of Johnston's local shoe company. A partnership was formed, and the company became known as Johnston & Murphy.

Today, most of Johnston & Murphy's offerings are produced off-shore, but there was a time when the company produced footwear that rivaled anything produced by the factories in Northampton, England. While the Aristocraft line produced fine examples of American craftsmanship, it was Johnston & Murphy's Handmade 100s that were worn by men of discerning taste, from American Presidents to members of the Rat Pack.

Discontinued after Johnston & Murphy's US production facilities were closed, here are some pictures of an American classic that has gone the way of the DoDo bird.

The box was lined with red velvet and opens with yellow drawstrings.

Black Wingtip with "Spade" or "Shovel" Soles

Note the semi-Cuban heel, bevelled with a slight fiddleback feel to the waist.
You just don't see bevelled waists on American-made shoes today - Alden of New England is probably the last of the premier American shoe-makers and I don't think I've ever seen any kind of waist suppression on any of their models.

The inner heel lining has the J&M Aristocraft label with "HAND-MADE" stamped underneath.

Light Brown Wingtip

I am an admitted broguing addict but the medallion here is out of this world.

Dark Brown Wingtip

These were actually stamped as factory seconds, although I never could tell what was wrong with this pair. Note the channeled soles.

More medallion. I just can't get enough. Sorry - moving on.

I'd love to see other Handmades that are floating around out there. If you've managed to corral a pair or just snapped a quick pic with your phone as one went running by, feel free to post a pic or send an email - I'm sure there are others out there!

Edit 3/10/11: Someone asked what a bevelled waist is and I apologize for not clarifying in the post. The waist is the area where the sole narrows out before the heel. A bevelled waist will be much narrower and will fit very closely to the upper of the shoe - when done well, you should not be able to see the top of the sole or any stitching. The sides will be angled inward rather than straight down or perpendicular to the ground. A "square" waist will basically look the same as the rest of the shoe.


  1. An interesting blog for any shoe aficionado. A great start Dan.

  2. Interesting post! Was Dudley originally from Northampton? Did he learn the trade in the old country?

  3. Thundarr - many thanks.

    Esteban - Glad you liked the post! According to Johnston & Murphy's website, Dudley was "a master craftsman who had been schooled in the classic tradition of English shoe making." I'm not sure if that means he was originally from Northampton, but clearly he learned his craft in England before arriving at Ellis Island.