Shoe Boards:
The Beautiful and the Practical

This shoe board showcases techniques and artistry that William Russell of Cincinnati, Ohio, developed over the years. Russell was a preeminent farrier and one of the first to extensively document the then-cutting edge techniques in the field. Writing an estimated 14 informational books between 1879 and 1907, Russell approached horseshoeing from a scientific, measured perspective – hence his most famous title, Scientific Horseshoeing. The museum holds the largest collection of this publication. You will find several more boards of Russell’s throughout the museum, cases 12 and 13 of his, in particular. His works were filled with detailed diagrams and illustrations supporting his approaches to caring for the horse’s foot. 

 

Shoe boards first began as a very practical way for farriers to show clients their available stock, techniques, and specialty shoes. You can see some of the more primitive, simplistic boards throughout the museum. Over time, they became an artistic and expressive outlet for farriers – often getting filled with ornate embellishments and shoes that demonstrate extreme skill (even if the shoes or ornamentation were not fit for actual use). That tradition continues to this day, where some farriers compete in board contests, vying for awards for individuality or talent.

 

DID YOU KNOW:

The earliest horseshoes can be traced to as far back as 400 BC. The materials were far different than what is seen today. Ancient Romans referred to them as “soleae ferreae”
or “hipposandals.”

WILLIAM RUSSELL AND HIS BOARDS

In front of you are Case 12 and Case 13 (disassembled and reassembled) of William Russell. They are 2 of 13 known cases created, and two of the largest.
See below for a description of Case 13, as well as the original illustrations of the cases in Scientific Horseshoeing.


 

Russell cases page 1.jpeg
Russell cases page 2.jpeg