1916 ad

Ground Gripper Shoes were a national brand of "surgical" shoes, sold in Oakland beginning about 1916. Early ads touted them as a "medical cure for flat-foot". 3

Today the shoes would probably be labeled corrective or orthopedic. Ground Gripper Shoes date back to 1910, when Edward W. Burt of Massachusetts filed for a patent for therapeutic shoes; on February 14, 1911, he was granted US patent #984506. 1 There were a number of styles for men, women, and children listed in a c.1912 pamphlet. 2

In Oakland, the first Tribune appearance was a 1916 ad for Huston Brothers Ground Gripper Shoe Store at 580 - 14th St., which also listed 3 stores in Berkeley. 3 At some point they moved to 1506 Broadway. By 1922, the business had been moved to 520 - 16th Street; 4 a few years later in 1927, they moved around the corner to 1606 San Pablo Ave. 6

By 1929, C.H. Fontius was listed in the ads; 7 by 1930, he had moved the shop to 1746 Broadway. A 1934 ad gives the 1746 Broadway address for Foot Health Headquarters, but no mention of C.H. Fontius who had returned his focus to Los Angeles. It also lists other brands of orthopedic shoes, including Cantilever. 11 From that point on, different shoe stores like Stewart's list Ground Gripper Shoes and other brands; the era of Ground Gripper Shoe-named stores in Oakland was at an end. A 1956 ad for Stewart's and a 1959 ad for Littlejohn's Foot Service are the last mentions of Ground Gripper in the Tribune, but elsewhere in the country the name appears as recently as the 1980s. It's unknown how the more modern shoes are related to the originals.

There's a "ghost sign" on the side of the Tapscott Building, featuring the distinctive shoe and bones drawing seen in the 1916 ad. Given the dates of the moves, the sign was probably painted between December 1922 (when the Tapscott Building was first occupied) and May 1924 (when the San Francisco store had moved from 687 Market St. to 160 Powell St.) 10

1911 patent 11924 51930 81932 9

Links and References

  1. Therapeutic shoe US Patent #984506
  2. Ground Gripper Surgical Shoes, ca. 1912 antique-gown.com
  3. ad Oakland Tribune July 7, 1916
  4. ad Oakland Tribune December 3, 1922
  5. ad Oakland Tribune June 3, 1924
  6. ad Oakland Tribune November 14, 1927
  7. ad Oakland Tribune October 15, 1929
  8. ad Oakland Tribune March 10, 1930
  9. ad Oakland Tribune March 16, 1932
  10. A New, But-Not-So-New, Sign In Downtown Oakland sfghostsigns.org
  11. ad Oakland Tribune February 11, 1934