In the days before automobiles, when streets were meant for horses and their carts mostly, walking through mud and excrement was an unavoidable part of life in the cities. However, what was unacceptable then, and is still now, is treading into homes with muddy boots. But a simple doormat was not enough to get rid of the filth that stuck to ones shoes. What was needed was a shoe scraper. These were made of cast iron or wrought iron and were attached at the entrances of many decent homes, churches and hospitals in cities across Europe and the Americas. Visitors would scrap the mud off their shoes on these simple devices before stepping into the building. The French called them ‘décrottoir‘. Others called them simply ‘boot scraper.’
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An antique boot scraper in a German city. Photo: Dirk E Ellmer/Dreamstime.com