Since the broadcast of Episode 15, Season 9 of The Curse of Oak Island (COOI), much has been made of the recovery of a rubber boot in the first “big can” core. The goal of putting down a core with a 10 foot diameter was of course to find evidence of the money pit, and hopefully the treasure buried there some time before 1795.

It shouldn’t have been encouraging, therefore, when the first significant find to come up turned out to be an old rubber boot. Well, perhaps not actually rubber, and we will come back to that in a minute.  The boot (Figure 1) was identified by a manufacturer’s mark as having been made by Kaufman footwear, a Canadian company based in Kitchener (formerly Berlin), Ontario, and that was in operation from 1907 until 2000. One of it’s brands, Sorel, lives on under different ownership, and is still well known in Canada.

Figure 1: The rubber boot recovered in the first “10 foot can”, and claimed to be possibly associate with the 1909 searchers and perhaps FDR himself

The COOI team was quick to point out that one of the many searcher expeditions to Oak Island ran from 1909 to 1912, and involved future US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). Using their now familiar possibilist reasoning, they suggested that it was therefore possible that the boot was associate with the 1909 work (Kaufman had been producing rubber footwear for a about year by then), and that it was even possible that the boot was used by FDR himself during the expedition.

While encouraging in a way, I suppose, even if all this was true, it wouldn’t get us any closer to a treasure. But let’s evaluate the claim. First, given the information volunteered by the COOI team, it is impossible to say whether this boot is associated with FDR, or with some other searcher from that expedition, or a later one.

Second, two factors lead me to strongly doubt this specific claim. 1) the boot material is very thin, like a film, very pliable, and very shiny. It seems more like vinyl than like rubber. Kaufman began making PVC (vinyl) footwear in the mid-1950s, and this wasn’t available at the time of the 1909 searcher expeditions. If it really is PVC, it is not FDR’s boot. 2) the reinforced rubber red band that covers the toe of the boot is a feature that I remember well from the Kaufman rubber boots of my childhood in the 1970s. Together, these two factors strongly suggest a later boot.

Figure 2: Kaufman boots from the 1912 catalogue. Note that the reinforcement at the toe is different from the example found by the COOI team

This 1912 Kaufman catalogue from the Internet Archive, linked through this fashion history blog, shows that early Kaufman boots were stylistically quite different (Figure 2) from the one recovered by the COOI team. Archaeologists often use style as an element for dating objects, or at least for putting them in chronological sequences (known as seriation), and to this archaeologist, the recovered boot looks much more like post-1950s Kaufman boots than earlier ones.

If anyone wants to do additional research on this and nail down the exact chronological range of that model, the University of Waterloo (right next to Kitchener, seems to have a pretty full set of Kaufman catalogues.

If we were to look for a searcher expedition with which to associate the boot, it would make a lot more sense to look at the Dunfield expedition, which dug a very deep and wide conical hole in the money pit area around 1965. The boot fits the date, and the nature of the activity does also. While looking for the treasure, Dunfield essentially dug a huge hole in the ground and then backfilled it. It seems likely that a stray rubber boot could have been part of the backfill, along with much of the wood and other material recovered in the big cans so far.

In summary, if we only consider the information that some Kaufman boots were available in 1909, it is possible that the boot is from the 1909 searcher expedition. It is even possible that it belonged to FDR. However, even adding a tiny bit of information, such as the apparent composition of the boot and its stylistic attributes makes this either impossible (if it really is PVC), or at least exceedingly unlikely (on stylistic grounds alone). In addition, there is a much more likely explanation that fits the available evidence much better.

We could likely rule out the FDR connection decisively, and evaluate the Dunfield connection by looking in more detail at the Kaufman catalogues available in Waterloo. If anyone does, let me know. I’d love to find out.

14 thoughts on “Oak Island Archaeology Update: Have they found FDR’s rubber boot?

  1. You are certainly correct the upper on that boot doesn’t look like rubber. Really hope some people with specific knowledge of Kaufman style and materials can contribute to this.


    1. especially when you see it flop around as he carries it to that table. Looks like PVC with some kind of very think nylon mesh glued to the inside. You can see a little corner of it on the upper part of the picture.


  2. If I lived closer I would definitely be looking at those catalogs.

    I do have a question: What do you think of the archeologist they have on staff? Laird didn’t disagree with COOI regarding the boot found. Seems like he went along with the opinion of it belonging to FDR.


    1. I think Laird and others are very heavily edited. It doesn’t look so much like he goes along, as it looks like he is staying out of it. And if you do get to that collection, please let me know. Thanks.


  3. As long as the show is putting well meaning people like you to task I feel it is still successfully connecting with informed people on an important entertainment level–that of a mystery which requires a mind tickling investigation, not unlike a Sherlock Holmes mystery. I am surprised that there are serious people who still go along with this foolishness, but then again who doesn’t like a fantastic story? With almost impeccable certainty we ought to assume that the writers of this show are clueless to anything but the aspirations of legions of deluded simpletons they assume are out there. Are they out there? “What would people generally like to believe?” is a big part of what this show is about. With a rubber boot that might be answered in the way they answered it with their presidential suggestion. Viewers are being groomed with similar suggestion after suggestion with little to no merit. If the possibility was remotely attemptable it would be a Roman boot from Ontario proving Romans were in Ontario and that all of history is a lie with complicit scientists in tow.

    Does anyone even know how FDR first heard about this story? He learned it from Masonic sources in NE who were given it by NS Masons at the great Masonic conferences of the late 19th century. The bearers of this story were the Archibalds of the Truro area who formed the first search group. This story has travelled in Masonic circles from day one. Masons have been the history keepers and chroniclers of it. There’s a good reason why that’s the case. The story itself is a Masonic story telling of an well known myth of utmost importance to the York Rite (the early flavor/type of US freemasonry).

    Focusing on FDR’s boot is not as productive as focusing on Erasmus James Philips’ footprint on this story. There is no reason anyone should expect to be discovering a Solomonic pit in NS that is not related to the presence of people there who were well immersed in this mythology. This is not true story in its first form. The flooding and collapsing pit tale with a stone placed above an unreachable vault screams out what is going on there–a call for you to explore this story which offers the greatest of all treasures when the seventh King has died. In fact, I think it is pretty clear that some commenters in NS understood that vey well in the late 1840s. Everything we have today is a mix of lies of omission and willful opportunism that started off again after 1860 when we do have documented evidence of the many published variants of the fictitious origin accounts that are not corroborated by evidence in any way.

    Archaeology is best used when it is in support of historical certainties. I do not know why archaeologists think it is reasonable to jump into this and be used for any transfer of credibility they may possess for being science based. Maybe because it is hard to earn a paycheck doing archaeology? End of rant.


      1. Start with Philips, Andre, go to his Wikipedia page. Look at his monument at Halifax. The stone they are interested in is symbolized by that one atop the three stepped levels that lead to Master Mason in his monument. The fourth level (the highest at this time in Masonic History) is that of the Holy Royal Arch which relates to Enoch’s shaft placed at the ninth arch. The stone’s dimensions are 27×27. Philips lodge still exists in NS. It’s King Solomon’s Lodge #54. Philips’s lodge was originally attached to a military regiment, the 40th, at Annapolis Royal, NS.. It was the first in the British colony. Among the membership were the men who would later plan and survey OI for inclusion in the grant to NE planter settlers in 1762. Philips died suddenly in 1760. The work at OI was done by Charles Morris, an officer in Philips’ regiment and an excellent naval surveyor. His sons would later assist in building a Masonic lodge in Halifax. We can discern that that Morris was intent on signaling something of Masonic interest because his plan incorporates a grid work involving 1080 feet. 27,54,81 and 108 (respective to the 4 levels) are the cues left behind for us to appreciate. The pit is there suggested by Masons and brought back to life by Masons later. The raising of the Master Mason to the 4th level is still done by reenacting the story of Enoch’s shaft and the discovery of the stone which is a symbolic identifier of a place upon which to rebuild a symbolic Temple. The project to settle NE settlers on lands stripped from the deported French had been proposed by Morris himself a few years earlier. There’s a very strong suggestion they saw the settling of the New Englanders as part of a great Masonic plan to establish Protestantism in the New Colony. I feel these people were living life on some higher symbolic level, which is not uncommon for the zealous of any faith.. With this you should be able to discover quite a bit. I doubt the whole thing goes very far beyond symbolism. Morris’ planning seems have been done on paper with compass and rule to highlight a very specific construction method which does produce 1080 as a key measure. In the end it revels nothing that is of interest to us today if you ask me. The point of the story is a relic of past times.


  4. The believers in this fantasy can’t help themselves in embracing the fallacy of Appeal to Authority whenever they name drop FDR to justify the fruitless search for a nonexistent treasure. And yes, I hate-watch this show simply for the comedic value. FDR’s boot… as if. Got a good laugh there.

    The funniest thing about the fabled origin story would be to ask who buries the Ark of the Covenant and leaves a tackle block hanging over the dig site from a tree? Yeah, there must be treasure there…


    1. The block hanging from a tree branch is not even original to the OI story. It’s a detail that somehow got borrowed from elsewhere in the retelling of stories later. It belongs to a another minor “treasure” island in Chester Bay called Hobson’s Nose. This detail is attributable to events recorded in ca. 1830. This makes sense because there are no known published stories prior to it of any treasure search in that Bay. A local History of the place in 1828 mentions nothing of the sort. After 1830 there is one, but not on OI. In 1849 there’s a parody written about a treasure search in Chester Bay that bears a lot similarities with the OI searches going on then, but it doesn’t have any of the early details that later stories do. The story evolved to be more detailed, it would seem. I believe this was the case because the original suggestion was dressed up to have details that would make it recognizable, to not say prophetic.

      The Ark suggestion doesn’t come out of nowhere. It has a place in the mythology of Enoch’s shaft/vault. That it was ever spoken of is proof that people did recognize the pit story and then made the leap into wondering about the contents of Enoch’s vault. The problem has always been that this is an allegory to begin with. in 1840 there were tons of Bible literalists all over NA. You could tap them for funding with this story. In fact, the early 1840s was a high water mark of interest in the stories of Second Coming. People were actively looking for signs of the end times. “The 7th must die” legend is related to the coming of the 8th King, the Anti Christ. The treasure after the final judgement is not far after that. I am leaning more towards thinking this is more sad than it is funny. Thomas C. Haliburton treated the subject matter with comedy bordering on the ridiculous.


  5. Thanks for that Luna. Have you checked out Richard Joltes’ site?

    According to Mr. Joltes, the earliest record of even a notion of treasure on Oak Island was a treasure license sought in 1849. Yeah, the year of gold fever. He also has documented the evolving iterations over the years as the tale passed from generation to generation. Needless to say, there’s absolutely no rational basis in history or otherwise, to believe there’s some treasure to be had there. Only that folks have been looking for one (but probably only since 1849, not 1795).

    On that site, there’s also a more rational explanation of the “box drains” that Dunfield dug up in the 1960’s (and found they didn’t extend past the beach). Joltes’ site has a more plausible explanation for them as being evidence of a past salt works. Of course they’re not “flood tunnels”, which were ruled out as a matter of Geology as far back as the 1860’s. I’d be interested as to what others might make of the salt works explanation, as it hasn’t seemed to gain traction… and they’re certainly not going to entertain such theories on Curse of Oak Island.


  6. Last night’s episode featured yet another outright lie from the narrator, but this one incredibly brazen, even for this show. It was in regard to Robert Dunfield, who the show spent most seasons ignoring, but for showing a stock picture of him operating an excavator with a cigarette butt dangling on his lips while describing to viewers his “destructive activities” on the island. Now the show is intent on digging where he had previously dug up a huge 100′ diameter pit down to over 140′ with the idea that he must have missed something.

    Now for the lie. The narrator tells us that Dunfield had to abandon his project when his hole filled up with water from a “man-made flood tunnel” extending from Smith’s Cove, as if that darned curse had foiled yet another treasure hunter. Wow. Just wow. Dunfield actually disproved the flood tunnel theory, but I’ll let this excerpt from Richard Joles’ site explain this in better detail:

    {In 1965, Robert Dunfield, a qualified and experienced geologist, applied modern survey techniques and open-pit mining methods to the island.

    He conducted spectrographic tests on the water from the Pit and showed it was coming from the ocean, not from the sea immediately adjacent OI.

    When his examination by closed circuit television of his 140-foot shaft failed to show any indication of a flood tunnel, he rode the bucket of an excavator to the bottom to confirm this personally.

    His measurements of the inflow of water into the Pit from above 140 feet (only 15 gallons per minute) demonstrated that nearly all the water intake of the Pit was coming from below, not from a flood tunnel above 140 feet.

    He conducted dye tests, which failed to disclose a connection to the adjacent sea.

    In June 1966 and February 1967, he wrote a number of letters regarding his work on Oak Island and concerning the idea of a flood tunnel stated:

    “We resolved the water problem completely beyond a shadow of a doubt. Water enters through a natural course and caves typical to the limestone and gypsum of the Windsor formation.”

    His final stated position on this matter:

    “This deceives the theory of man-made flood tunnels from which water defeated searchers for the past 170 years.”}

    Lies upon lies upon lies. That’s the Curse of Oak Island legacy.


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