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Boot Shop, Ratcliffe Highway


Number: 379
Date: 1887/1888
Medium: etching (?)
Size: 127 x 178 mm
Signed: unknown
Inscribed: unknown
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 1
Known impressions: 0
Catalogues: K.-; M.-; T.-; W.-
Impressions taken from this plate  (0)


boots, clothing, shop, street.


A print was listed during stocktaking in Whistler's studio, as follows:

'Scales' [?] (1887/1888, Whistler). 2
'[Soales?] - Boot Shop Radcliffe Highway' (1890/1892, Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896)). 3

Since the name of the shop is illegible, the descriptive title recorded by Whistler's wife,Beatrice Whistler (1857-1896), forms the basis for the current title. However, the correct spelling of the street is Ratcliffe, making the most accurate title 'Boot Shop, Ratcliffe Highway'.

2: List, [August 1887/1888], GUW #13233.

3: List, 1890/1892, GUW #12715.


Not known.


Ratcliffe Highway, running from East Smithfield to Shadwell High Street, in the parish of Stepney in London, was a notoriously squalid slum where Whistler had etched a tavern scene years earlier, Ratcliffe Highway 065. It was later renamed St George's Road but continued to be remembered by the old name.
The name of the shop-owner is only partially legible, and the date of the etching is unknown. Among boot and shoe manufacturers in 1880, there was a George Searle with shops at 134 Bow Road, E., 177 Salmon's Lane, Limehouse, and 763 Commercial Road, E.C. in 1880. In 1886, there are hundreds of bootmakers listed, including, for instance, an R. Scoones & Co., at 2 St Peter's Alley, Cornhill, E.C., and Fred. Jacob Schuh, at 16 Alvey Street, Walworth, S.E. At a later date - 1892 - there was a George Schierer at 29 and William Stahm at 187 St George's Road. There does not seem to have been a shoe- or boot-maker called 'Scales' (which is perhaps closest to what Beatrice Whistler recorded in her scrawling hand-writing) although Scales & Co. were general merchants at 9 Fenchurch Street, E.C. and Thomas Scales had a chandler's shop at 5 Craven Street, Hoxton, in 1892, and both could well have sold boots. The shop could also have been a second-hand shop, and specialised in seaman's boots. 4

4: London Postal Diirectories, 1880, 1886, 1892.


Whistler worked on a number of East End scenes in London in 1887 including St James's Place, Houndsditch 255 and After the Sale, Clothes Exchange, Houndsditch 357, but none that look like a boot-shop. There is one small etching, The Bonnet-Shop 254, which does have a notice advertising cheap boots, as well as a fine display of bonnets, but since no boots are actually visible it seems unlikely that this is the subject.