Boy with the Boot, not unique

Ron Davidson
Aug 12, 2013

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.
 

Comments

Lissa4u

You state "In 1992, the city commissioned a bronze replica of the boy, to be placed in the park as a substitute for the original Boy." That's not what I remember happening. As I recall, a company heard about the statue being be-headed and donated the new one to the city. I don't remember it being commissioned.

Licorice Schtick

Maybe it depends on the definition of "donated."

Erie Countian

Thanks for another interesting and informative article, Mr. Davidson! Somehow, it just doesn't seem right to see "our" boy pictured in those other towns, and even weirder to see him painted in color!

Licorice Schtick

Some of the other guys had him first. Probably sold all over the world at hardware store. Still special to us, though.

Factitious

Coincidently, earlier this year I humored some curiosity and did some surfing. The searches went best with "The Boy with the Leaking Boot."

In addition to the cities mentioned in the article, it seem he can can be found in:

Caracas, Venezuela (edit, added)
Council Bluffs, Iowa
Ellenville, New York
Helena, Montana
Houlton, Maine
Menominee, Michigan
New Orleans, Louisina
Penrose, Colorado
Polk, Pennsylvania (edit, added)
Salida, Colorado
Santa Clara, Cuba
Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Stockholm, Sweden
Toronto, Canada
Wausau, Wisconsin
Wellsville, Ohio
Wichita, Kansas

"Our" boy gets around.

http://tinyurl.com/bootboycuba

An authoritative reference:

http://tinyurl.com/PolkBootSI

The Answer Person

If you read Sandusky history you will see an article that tells that Scott Park was removed because it "impeded traffic flow". Decade after decade Sandusky never learns from its' own history. How is that? They built the Schade-Mylander Plaza didn't they? duh....

MrSandusky

Years ago when I worked at the Library it was taboo to say that our Boy With the Boot was not unique. I am glad that people are starting to open their minds a bit. I wonder how many people know that Sandusky's Boy With the Boot was mentioned in MAD Magazine?

Truth or Dare

Was just in Wadsworth yesterday. Anyone ever been there? They have a quaint little downtown area, 1.4 miles off of 76 East, on State Rte. 94. Very friendly merchants! There is a Great little Italian Bakery, makes cookies my Grandmother use to make, and omg the canolies ! Had lunch at an actual Diner. Their daily dinners, all under 7-8 dollars. You could get a half roasted chix dinner w/2 sides, cup of soup or one trip to the salad bar for $ 6.95.

Our Commissioners said no. The next best (closest) thing would be to contact someone in Hershey, PA., at the Hershey Plant. I'm to understand The Boy also resides in the Hershey Gardens, which wasn't on the above list.

Morningbreezes1

Hershey, Pa. was mentioned in the story.

Licorice Schtick

Between the story and the comments we know there are at least 25 of these bad boys out there.

Museums lend one-of-a-kind gazillion dollar works all the time. Makes us look a little foolish and small to think our little artifact is too special to lend to a worthy purpose. Did Commissioners give too much credence to the kneejerks from a few gadflies, or is this whole town really that bad? I sincerely think it's the former.