World's oldest basketball shoes (hoax!)


These may be one of the oldest pairs of basketball sneakers in the world. The shoes were manufactured by the Colchester Rubber Company which shut down in 1893. Vintage clothing dealer Gary Pifer paid 50 cents for them at an estate sale in Vista, California. From CafeTerra:
  2Oxh8Abqcfs Sk2G5Myn3Ti Aaaaaaaaekk Wpx33L3Yazo S400 Sneakers "In a instant, I knew this discovery would be re-writing basketball and sneaker history, as these sneakers are 25 years older than the 1917 Converse All-Stars", added Pifer. The Colchester Rubber Co. was located in Colchester, Connecticut and was in business from 1888 to 1893.
"World's first basketball sneakers 116 years old found at an estate sale"

UPDATE: Hey, looks like this story was a marketing ploy! (Thanks, William Gibson!)


  1. They do look so modern and contemporary. The design has obviously endured.

    Some sports shoe manufacturers have their own in-house archives/museum of models of shoes and the development of designs.

  2. I realized growing up in Connecticut that so many wonderful things are there or came from there; Winchester Rifles, Hedge Funds, Fairfield County, George W. Bush, etc. This is just one more reason to say how proud I am being a Yankee.

  3. Winchester Rifles, Hedge Funds, Fairfield County, George W. Bush, etc.

    You forgot lawyers!*. Litchfield had the first US law school

    I also blame Connecticut.

    * – lawyers being both the cause and solution to the above mentioned problems.

  4. I’m calling BS on this. It doesn’t pass the smell test.

    The only “proof” these shoes date to 1892 comes from the guy who “discovered” them–then started selling “replicas” via mail-order catalogs.

    There’s no historical evidence to back this story up. There are all the red flags of a hoax: No provenance, no historical record, companies that no longer exist. NPR got suckered by it four years ago.

    Brilliant marketing, poor history.

  5. yeah, I’m feeling totally duped. The shoes in the photo are obviously modern. They are made from who probably created the whole “first shoe” story to promote their “replicas”.

    They still look good though.

  6. The near-pristine condition of the rubber alone is enough to make me doubt that the shoes in that photo are really 116 years old.

  7. Natural rubber is very long-lasting. Black rubber not so much. The black is added to make the rubber wear out faster so that you’ll buy new shoes and tires.

  8. @ Antinous #17:

    Do you have any data behind that claim? I’ve had plenty of rubber products that didn’t have any black added and they seem to wear out just as fast.

    1. It’s a planned obsolescence horror story I’ve heard since the seventies. It could be an urban legend, I suppose. I can’t find any citations.

  9. basket ball was invented in 1891, and these shoes were made in 1892 specifically for a sport invented just a year prior?

  10. Looks like a nice alternative to Chucks, but expensive. I still want to get a pair of those Chinese Worker shoes, but w/o the obnoxious logo…anybody know where you can buy ’em?

  11. @ #17

    The complete opposite is true. Black pigment (specifically ‘carbon black’) in rubber actually increases strength and has for over 100 years. This discovery was tied to early vulcanization methods. Black also improves UV resistance. It also makes color consistency very simple due to varying formulas of natural and synthetic rubbers, which are sometimes layered through a tire. Lastly, they also hide dirt. Even white walls are a nightmare to keep looking clean. Can you imagine the frustration of an all white tire (which have historically been available, such as on early Harley Davidsons)?

    It’s not in a tire company’s best interest to make a quickly wearing tire anyway. There are far too many opportunities for legal action if a tire fails because the manufacturer intentionally made them weak. Besides, you can buy ‘soft’ tires for high performance applications. These tires are gummy and grip the road surface. But they do not last one third as long the tires on your grocery getter.

  12. I would totally just wear them daily. How cool is it running around in 116 year old shoes? (Although I, too, believe it is a hoax.)

  13. keeping in mind primates have always lied but a webbed world changes what is potentially at stake.

  14. I am the owner of the sneakers. Yes they are real. Converse has known about the sneakers for
    4 years. Calling them a hoax without meeting me
    or seeing the actual sneakers is very lame.
    So I will invite David Prescovitz to come to
    Oceanside, Ca. to view the Original Basketball
    Sneakers, and while he is here, I will show him
    other original Colchester Rubber Company’s
    1880’s Tennis Sneakers, Rubber Work Boots, Original, Catalogs, Advertisements.
    So as a hoxer, I figured out an old obscure
    Company, hatched a plan, Came up with the old
    Baksball sneakers idea then with no footwear
    I was able to create a old looking shoe, by using natural gum rubber, I was able to inject red mold into antique twill and button weave adobe color canvas along with adding mold to the cotton and culloid shoe laces and tips. Then I was able to vulcanize the sole
    into a solid slab of rubber leaving in the impurities, Then I poured melted Rubber into a hand carved turkey feather design mould while hand carving the cooling rubber with finner details.
    Earth to David, I may have a Moderate IQ, But I aint that smart. It was much eaiser, finding the
    Original 1892 Sneakers.

  15. I think the Colchester’s are much better looking than the William Gibson sneakers and a hell of a lot cheaper. I believe the story is true.

  16. I have a pair of original Colchester Rubber Company Sneakers (in Black/ very good condition). They were my Grandfathers. I will sell them when I find out their worth. Anybody know?


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