Sandusky’s popular symbol, the Boy with the Boot, recently made the news when it was revealed that the city of Wadsworth had made a request to borrow Sandusky’s statue for an upcoming community celebration. The Register article touched off a vigorous discussion about the Boy. It seems that the Boy with the Boot brings out strong feelings among Sanduskians – both positive and negative.
There is no doubt that the Boy with the Boot has a long history in Sandusky, and, as with most community icons, it has inspired many stories, some true, some questionable, and some not quite correct. Many readers probably will have already heard most, if not all, of the facts and fictions I will repeat here, but there is not much new to say about our Boy. But it never hurts to try.
The story of the Boy with the Boot in Sandusky starts with Voltaire Scott, proprietor of a popular hotel and saloon on Water and Wayne Streets. You might have heard that Mr. Scott was a German immigrant who returned to Baden, Germany to purchase this custom-made statue and bring it back to Sandusky. In fact, in 1958, the city dedicated a plaque in Washington Park that stated the Boy was brought to Sandusky from Germany in 1876. Unfortunately, that is not correct. According to his obituary in the Register in 1899, Voltaire Scott was born in Black Rock, N.Y. (now part of Buffalo) in 1834 and came to Sandusky “when quite young.” He succeeded his father in the hotel trade in Sandusky, managing the business called “Scott’s American Hotel,” among other names. Around 1895, at the foot of Wayne Street, across from his home and business, was an undeveloped lot along the waterfront. As with other waterfront spaces, the city government at the time encouraged private business owners to develop small parks as a contribution to the city. So Scott Park was created.
It is true that Voltaire Scott went outside of Sandusky to buy statues for the park, but he stayed on this side of the Atlantic Ocean to make the purchase. Scott acquired the statues from J.W. Fiske and Company of New York. (Some reports say that the model for the Boy with the Boot came from Europe, but the accuracy of this is doubtful.) The Fiske company was noted for making cast iron and cast bronze statues for parks and gardens. An article in the July 4, 1895 Register described Scott’s plans for an elaborate design for his park, including statuary and electric lights. Among the statues for the park were “Venus Rising from the Ashes” and the “Unfortunate Boot,” described as “a little boy holding in his right hand a boot.” This little boy, cast from zinc, was in the center of a fountain, surrounded by statues of Venus and of dolphins. Incandescent lights were placed above the fountain and on the ground below. Scott Park, with the “Unfortunate Boot” as the centerpiece, opened to the public in August 1895.
You also might have heard people speak of the Boy with the Boot with pride because it is a unique and treasured symbol of Sandusky. It is certainly a local treasure, but unique? Not really. The Sandusky Library archives contains scrapbooks and papers of a researcher, Allena Leibach, of Boy with the Boot statues in many parts of the world, including Seattle, Wallingford, Vermont, Hershey, Pennsylvania, El Paso, Texas, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Cleethorpes, England, and Kleve, Germany, among others. Recently, a researcher from Fresno, California contacted me for information about Sandusky’s Boy with the Boot, to compare with that city’s Boy.
Another story you might have heard is that the Boy with the Boot, now in Washington Park, is just a copy of the original. That one is true. Sandusky’s Boy has experienced many ordeals since his arrival in town some 118 years ago, so making a copy seemed to be a wise decision. The first great hardship was the tornado of 1924. The Boy was still in Scott Park at the time, which was squarely in the path of the great tornado that devastated Sandusky and Lorain. It was said that when the Boy was recovered from the tornado debris it was placed into storage until it was placed in Washington Park in 1930. However, an article in the April 5, 1927 issue of the Sandusky Star-Journal implied that the Boy with the Boot and his sister statues were still in the park at that time.
The Boy’s time in Washington Park was relatively uneventful, until the early 1990s, when vandals struck at least twice. Once, in 1991, his head was knocked off by unknown criminals. Some in town blamed Bart Simpson for that act. In 1992, the city commissioned a bronze replica of the boy, to be placed in the park as a substitute for the original Boy. With the help of local businesses and community members, Voltaire Scott’s boy was given a secure permanent home in the Sandusky City Building on Meigs Street. His stand-in continues to serve the public at Washington Park.