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Baring the Sole: The Rise and Fall of the Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope

Jacalyn Duffin and Charles R. R. Hayter
Isis
Vol. 91, No. 2 (Jun., 2000), pp. 260-282
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/236916
Page Count: 23
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Baring the Sole: The Rise and Fall of the Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope
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Abstract

One of the most conspicuous nonmedical uses of the x-ray was the shoe-fitting fluoroscope. It allowed visualization of the bones and soft tissues of the foot inside a shoe, purportedly increasing the accuracy of shoe fitting and thereby enhancing sales. From the mid 1920s to the 1950s, shoe-fitting fluoroscopes were a prominent feature of shoe stores in North America and Europe. Despite the widespread distribution and popularity of these machines, few have studied their history. In this essay we trace the origin, technology, applications, and significance of the shoe-fitting fluoroscope in Britain, Canada, and the United States. Our sources include medical and industrial literature, oral and written testimony of shoe retailers, newspapers, magazines, and government reports on the uses and dangers of these machines. The public response to shoe-fitting fluoroscopes changed from initial enthusiasm and trust to suspicion and fear, in conjunction with shifting cultural attitudes to radiation technologies.

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