This pair of boatman’s boots came from a sunken canal boat on the Dismal Swamp Canal of Virginia and North Carolina. They were found in river mud and were cut down to allow for easy removal.  They are most likely a pair of old mid-19th century Wellingtons, modified by the user.

“Sometimes we just dry them out to minimize fungal degradation during storage,” says Nathan Henry, the conservator who restored the leather boots.  “If we do treat them we use low molecular weight PEG.  Sometimes the results are good but often, when using PEG, the leather stays too hard and brittle to allow any reshaping of the shoe if it has become deformed (and they always have). They often look only a little better than the dried out shoes and you always have to worry about fungal attack.”


“For this pair of boots we cleaned them with the Leather Detergent Concentrate followed by several applications of the Leather Rejuvenator. The leather is a good deal more pliable.”

“Not too bad for shoes that have been underwater a century or so.”

Nathan Henry is an Assistant State Archaeologist and Conservator at the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the NC Office of State Archaeology.

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