Scenes and Buildings - Carl Worner

Full Pictures and Close-ups: Izen Shoemaker Shop

Height Bottle Markings
14" large seltzer or "bar" bottle
Description, including signature and date

This large Worner bottle contains a shoe repair shop and was made for Samuel Izen of Chicago in 1907. The sign reads "Expert Shoemaker." Little shoes hang from the walls and shelves, and one of the shoemakers is holding a threaded needle. The other sits at a sewing machine. A sign at the bottom reads, "A Good Shoe will Save You a Doctor Bill." The current owner of the bottle, Mr. Izen's grandson, wrote about the making of this bottle and its repair.

closeup of Worner painting

Scenes by Carl Worner, 21 -
Scenes and Buildings Not by Carl Worner
Mr. Izen's Story:

"My grandfather, Samuel Izen, came to Chicago from Russia with his 17 year old son Julius around 1903. They opened a very small shoemaker's shop on the near south side in the vicinity of Maxwell and Halsted Streets. He lived in back of the store to save money so that they could send for the rest of the family - my grandmother Peltie and the children Rose, Max, my father Morris, Molly, Ben and baby Libby.

"My father and mother opened a Florsheim shoe store on North Avenue near Crawford (now Pulaski Road) in 1923. The businessmen in that area flouished because the Pioneer Trust and Savings Bank on the corner was one of two banks that remained open during the great depression. IZEN'S SHOES is still in that location. It retains the Izen name even though it is owned by people who bought the business from our family.

"When dad owned the store, prominently displayed in the window or on a safe shelf near the cash register, was a charming miniature shoemaker's shop made of wood. It was all miraculously stuffed inside a 14 inch high bottle.

"In the last months of my father's life, I remember his sitting in bed cradling the bottle as he reminded me of how it was made. Dad was 14 years old when an immigrant came into his father's shop. He bartered for a pair of shoes in exchange for making a shoemaker's bottle. He would barter the same way in grocery stores, butcher shops and other businesses. Dad watched him delicately place each piece into the bottle with a long tweezer. It took him all day as he carved scraps of wood from discarded crates and cigar boxes.

"Dad told me how the mysterious stopper was installed. The stopper was hollow. The cross section was in two pieces attached to strings. While loosely hanging, they were inserted into the bottle. Pulling and securing the string brought them up horizontally.

"One day, in 1955, while walking on 5th Avenue around 46th street, I noticed a collection of bottles in the Seaman's Bank window. Each contained model ships with the exception of one, a shoemaker's shop that nearly identical to my bottle!

"I inquired if I could purchase the shoemaker shop to pacify a family dispute over the ownership of the Izen bottle. They thought it was one of a kind and would not part with it.

"When my father died in 1960, my mother gave me the bottle to take back to New York. Several of the pieces had come unglued and the back paper had fallen apart. She felt I was the only one who could get it repaired. I took my bottle to a shop on Madison Ave. that advertised "WE FIX ANYTHING". Even after I explained the puzzle of the stopper, they would not touch it. I gritted my teeth and decided to fix it myself.

"Holding my breath, I drilled into the top of the stopper. Just as dad said, the two pieces flipped down, and I was able to pull it out! With painstaking care I re-glued the sewing machine, the cobbler's bench and even the thread in the shoemaker's hand. I removed the fallen pieces of the paper backing, but I could not remember what the signs on it had said.

"I returned to the Seaman's Bank. They brought out the bottle now stored in their vault. As I copied the sign, the caretaker pointed out something I had never seen. A signature on the underside of the wooden floor: "Carl Worner 1907." When I returned home, I discovered a smudged signature on my bottle: "Carl W---ner 1907."

"At the bottom of the bottle is a sign saying "A good shoe will save you a doctor's bill." I've often wondered, was that part of Carl W's whimsy or did he get it from a sign in my grandfather's shop?

"The Izen 'Expert Shoemaker' bottle is a treasured part of our family history."