Keeping the Tooties Warm
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
If you don’t know what this strange-looking box is, you’re not alone. If you lived in the 17th or 18th century, however, you’d recognize it immediately. It’s a foot warmer, a portable metal box for carrying fireplace embers to keep your feet warm.
Foot warmers were usually humble tin boxes decorated with little holes punched into the tin to create a design. The most common design was hearts. Since foot warmers held embers, they didn’t last long; they had to be discarded once the embers eventually burned holes in the bottom of the warmer.
Foot warmers were designed to do just that—to warm the carrier’s feet, especially during church services and freezing winter carriage rides. Embers were placed in a small tray placed inside the warmer and it was ready to go. Travelers and churchgoers simply placed their feet on top of the warmer and hoped that the soles of their shoes didn’t scorch or catch on fire.
The foot warmer pictured here is mine. I know it’s English because a pair of lions are picture on the front of the box. Lions were the trademark of the City of London. If you have an old piece of sterling silver, for instance, see if it has a stylized lion accompanying its makers’ mark. If it does, it was made in London.
This warmer was made around 1880 and it was an expensive one. You can tell that by its construction and sophisticated piercings. This warmer was made for the carriage trade, not for ordinary folks fighting off the chill of an unheated shout house or the wagon ride home.