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A quick glance back to non-slip, twin-grip Cat's Paw rubber heels

Bob Cox • Mar 23, 2020 at 12:00 PM

Supposedly, if you put your hand up in a flat fist and made a swipe like a house cat battling an imaginary ball of string in show repair cycles in mid-century America, the room would chant back “Cat's Paw!”

The cult status of the rubber heel and sole manufacturer has long been a part of the American lexicon. Amelia Earhart supposedly died wearing a part of Cat's Paw-heeled loafers.

Cat's Paw was found in Baltimore as Cat's Paw Rubber Company in 1904. The main draw of the heel was in its no-slip rubber pads embedded in the heel.

These little white studs were made of a different material and recessed slightly into the rubber. The wearer's weight would extend the pad and add extra traction.

Famed German graphic designer Lucian Bernard designed the logo in 1941. The swiping cat on the bright red box sums up everything we would like to imagine about post-war American quaintness. It was ripped off wholesale by Black Cat fireworks.

Aside from the telltale white dots, Cat's Paws also have these asymmetrical semi-circles at the rounded edge of the heel. They almost are instantly recognizable on vintage footwear, but one of the most compelling reasons for continued interest in this otherwise blip of a mid-century brand is the packaging.

An advertisement from that era wanted its patrons: “The moment you have a pair of Cat's Paw Cushion Rubber Heels attached to your shoes, you felt a greater degree of safety. Because of the Friction Plug, a patented feature that positively prevents slipping on wet sidewalks or pavement – and makes them wear much longer.

The extra quality of rubber affords greater resiliency. There are no holes in the heels to track mud and dirt into the house. And, best of all, they cost no more than the ordinary kind.

The name is easy to remember. Get a pair today. Send in the name of your shoe. Send us the name of your shoe dealer and we will mail you a Cat's Paw for free.

The ad ended by saying: “The Foster Rubber Company, 105 Federal Street, Boston Massachuettes.” The Canadian office was located at Eastern Township Bank Building, Montreal.

On a local note: I recall there were two shoe repair businesses that sold the Cat's Paw brand. The one I traded with the most was located at 127 Spring Street, G.F. Seavers Harness Shop.

The other was a small one located in the archive walk-thru from East Main to West Main. I recall going in it and being given a sheet of wax paper so I could wait on my shoe repair without getting my socks dirty. Those were the golden days of Johnson City. Where did they all go?

Reach Bob Cox at [email protected] or go to www.bcyesteryear.com.