Shoe Fitting X-Ray Device

In the late 1940's and early 1950's, the shoe-fitting x-ray unit was a common shoe store sales promotion device and nearly all stores had one.  It was estimated that there were 10,000 of these devices in use. This particular shoe-fitting x-ray unit was produced by the dominant company in the field, the Adrian X-Ray Company of Milwaukee WI, now defunct. Brooks Stevens, a noted industrial designer whose works included the the Milwaukee Road Olympian and an Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, designed this machine. [Large image 27K]

Shoe Fitting E-Ray Unit

The primary component of a shoe-fitting x-ray unit was the fluoroscope which consisted essentially of an x-ray tube mounted near the floor and wholly or partially enclosed in a shielded box and a fluorescent screen. The x-rays penetrated the shoes and feet and then struck the fluorescent light. This resulted in an image of the feet within the shoes. The fluorescent image was reflected to three viewing ports at the top of the cabinet, where the customer, the salesperson, and a third person (your mother?) could view the image at the same time.

The radiation hazards associated with shoe fitting x-ray units were recognized as early as 1950. The machines were often out of adjustment and were constructed so radiation leaked into the surrounding area.

By 1970, shoe fitting x-ray units had been banned in 33 states including Minnesota and strict regulation in the remaining 17 states made their operation impractical. Believe it or not, this particular shoe-fitting x-ray unit was found in 1981 in a department store in Madison, West Virginia.  It was still being used in the store's shoe department! When it was pointed out to the store managers that it was against West Virginia law to operate a shoe-fitting x-ray unit, they donated it to the The U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

On permanent loan from the U. S. FDA, the power supply is disconnected on this shoe-fitting x-ray unit. Photos by B. Gaukel and J.J. Gaukel.

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updated 4/13/13