Transylvania County Library logo
Plummer’s Department Store x-ray shoe fitter.

The x-ray
shoe fitter was a fluoroscope machine used to aid in the fitting of shoes.  Three different individuals, all from
Milwaukee, claimed to have invented the machine in the early 1920s.  The X-Ray Shoe Fitter Corporation of
Milwaukee was one of the two largest shoe-fitting fluoroscope manufacturers in the
world.

To use the
x-ray shoe fitter the customer would stand on a step at the base of the machine
with their feet in two openings.  They could
view the bones of their feet inside their shoes by looking into a viewing
porthole. Shoe stores
advertised the x-ray shoe fitter as a method of getting the best fit and
therefore, the longest lasting shoes. 
Although it did not actually help in properly fitting shoes it was
popular with kids. 

By the late
1940s studies began warning of the long-term effect of radiation.  The amount of radiation varied greatly among
the machines.  Most customers tried on
several pairs of shoes before selecting a pair adding to the amount of
exposure.  Children, who are more
sensitive to radiation, particularly enjoyed viewing their feet even if they
were not buying shoes.  Salesmen were
also at a high risk from frequent exposure as the machines leaked a great
amount of radiation.

Additional viewing portholes allowed the salesman and a parent

to also view the fit of a child’s shoes.

In the early
1950s Plummer’s Department Store in downtown Brevard had such a machine.  Locals who were children at the time tell of
the fun they had viewing the green images of their wiggling toes inside their
shoes.  It provided entertainment for
restless youngster while their mother’s shopped.

As the
dangers of radiation exposure grew and regulations increased x-ray shoe fitters
disappeared from shoe stores.  The fluorscope
machine from Plummer’s Department Store is now part of the Transylvania
Heritage museum collection.

Photographs
and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina
Room, Transylvania County Library.  Visit
the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about
our history and see additional photographs. 
For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected]
or 828-884-1820.

search our catalog

search our events

search our website

search our catalog

search our events

search our website

(828) 884-3151

212 S Gaston St, Brevard, NC 28712