These shoes are most likely Martha Stevens’s wedding shoes. Unfortunately little information remains about Martha specifically other than her generous donations to charity and family upon her death, but she married John Stevens and resided in Ashford, Connecticut. The shoes were special enough to bequeath to her relative and the executor of her will, Increase Sumner. His son, General William H. Sumner, in turn gave the shoes to the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1872. The shoes received special mention in the Stoddard family history, where author Elijah Stoddard noted “a family relic of Mrs. Stevens, a pair of old-fashioned high-heeled shoes, of rich material” in the Sumner family.
Winthrop Gray, from a family of Lynn, Massachusetts cordwainers, moved to Boston to set up his shoemaking business. He placed his shop near a local tavern, the Cornfield, which in 1763 was on Union Street. Only in business for a few years, Gray went on to serve as a Captain in the Continental Army from 1776 to 1779 then in 1781 as inn holder of the American Exchange Tavern on State Street in Boston. At only age 43, Gray died the following year.