Monday, January 12, 2015

Why Donate "One Pair of Shoes" on "Potato Day"?

An 1890 newspaper article was strangely titled "Potato Day Report" and then listed the schools in the small town along with their totals:

Ward One: $3.74 in cash & $10.56 in vegetables.

Ward Two: four dozen eggs, fourteen chickens, eight cans fruit, one pound butter, three packages soda, four boxes crackers, three sacks corn meal, three sacks flour, thirteen cabbages, eight squashes, six pumpkins, two and one-half bushel sweet potatoes, seven bushels Irish potatoes, two and one-half bushels apples, one bushel turnips, two and one-half bushels beets, two and one-half bushels onions, three and two-thirds bushels corn...

And then... "one pair of shoes."

What? When everyone else was bringing in food and money, why did someone bring a pair of shoes?

After reading through the reports for the other wards, I came upon this sentence: We hope this means 100 pairs of shoes for 100 needy children.

Oh, so the point of this food and money drive is actually about shoes?

This was a small Kansas town in late November. It can get very cold! And snow! Kids NEED shoes!

This newspaper article from a few days earlier explained the concept of Potato Day:

Potato Day, Arkansas City Daily Traveler, Arkansas City, Kansas, 19 Nov 1890,
page 4, column 4, digital image accessed 11 Jan 2015
Kids needed shoes or they'd be compelled to drop out of school! That's a real need!

Right next to one of the Potato Day reports was this heartbreaking letter from a kind teacher about a needy family.
Letter to O. P. Houghton, Weekly Republican-Traveler, Arkansas City, Kansas, 05 Dec 1889,
page 6, column 2, digital image accessed 11 Jan 2015
...for three of my school children at this place I would solicit shoes and clothing. They now wear shoes their mother made them out of pieces of old cloth, and the little girl has a dress made out of an old wheat sack. They are all delicate children and look like skim milk pigs - if you will excuse the comparison.

Shoes of old cloth and a dress of an old wheat sack. It breaks your heard, doesn't it? I hope they got shoes, food & clothing from the Potato Day drive!

What is Potato Day? The only records I have found are in the newspaper at It started in the late 1880's and lasted 5 to 10 years. People in Kansas and Pennsylvania held Potato Days and possibly other states. For the most part, the intent was to provide food for the needy with only a few mentioning shoes for school children.

What an interesting way to provide not only food, but shoes, for the needy of this time!

At the left of photo is Cleveland "Cleve" Egelston/Eggleston taken circa 1905 in Oklahoma. Cleveland was the baby in the letter posted in the newspaper. Photo used with permission from Peggy of "Eggleston Family Tree" on Ancestry.

I actually looked for the four little Eggleston children on Ancestry and found them on several members' trees. There were six older children and two more yet to be born. Sadly, both 9-year-old Morgan/Margan and 7-year-old Willie died within a year or two of this teacher's plea for help.

Why am I interested in Potato Day? Basically, I was researching the "Ward Two" elementary school I attended as a child. It was called Lincoln School then, and I lived just across the alley. I guess I went down a 'rabbit trail', but this story does intrigue me!

Do we share common ancestors? I'd love to talk! Please write me at


  1. This is a new one for me! In one of the genealogy groups on Facebook, a girl posted a photo of her father wearing rags on his feet. He had shoes but they were for school and church only in order to make them last longer. When the kids came home from school, the shoes came off and the rags went on. My mother told the story of one of her best friends coming to school barefoot during the Depression.

  2. Hi, Thank you for sharing this informative content. I'm interested on how this works? because I have a lot of used shoes to donate. I'm looking forward for your answers. Again, Thank you!

    If you have much time, feel free to visit my website here:


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