.....December 2006 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
A new book review was posted in the review section."Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter" published first in 1905 
Top Hats
Original Stove Pipe Hat
The top hat originates to the beginning of the nineteenth century. Primarily made of beaver felt, the top hat evolved into many different heights and styles throughout its two hundred year history. Top hats are currently made from fur felts, silk, and wool felts. During the middle part of the nineteenth century it became fashionable to wear a silk top hat, which caused the decline of the beaver trade in the United States. Silk top hats also became collapsible, allowing a gentleman to store it in his coattail while attending the opera.

Top hats are worn today for formal and special occasions, but they used to be everyday toppers during the eighteenth century. The "derby hat" surpassed the top hat in popularity during the late nineteenth century as everyday wear. Perhaps the most recognized style of top hat was the one worn by Abraham Lincoln, who used to store his papers and wallet in his hat. Abraham Lincolnís top hat was so tall that in the summer of 1862 a would-be assassin missed his head and shot a hole through his top hat. 

Top Hat styles of the 1800's

Wool Top Hats

New York Top Hat

The Coachman

Stove Pipe Hat

English Mad Hatter

Derby and Bowler Hats
The bowler or derby hat was introduced in the 1850ís. The derby hats importance is that it was worn by virtually every class of society. This is the first hat credited for being mass produced and priced to meet everyone's budget. The derby hat replaced the top hat in the late nineteenth century as the most popular hat for men, and remained popular for almost seventy years until their decline in the 1920ís to the fedora.

The derby hat came in many different styles from the low-crown to the stingy brim. The bowler started out as a protective hat for coachmen and gamekeepers. They were stiffened and protected against branches and other obstacles, while riding on horses. Eventually the derby style caught on and became fashionable. The term Bowler is an English name for the hat. The Americans started calling the hat a derby when the Earl of Derby wore the hat at the Derby races. 

The Cowboy Hat
The son of a Philadelphia hat maker created the first cowboy hat in 1865.  His name was John B. Stetson, now known as the inventor of the cowboy hat.

As the story goes, John B. Stetson and some companions went west to seek the benefits of a drier climate.  During a hunting trip, Stetson amused his friends by showing them how he could make cloth out of fur without weaving.  Stetson used the fur from hides collected on the hunting trip.  Kneading the fur and working it with his hands, dipping it into boiling water, spreading it out, kneading it, and dipping it again, he created a soft, smooth piece of felt.  Using a technique that has been known since the beginning of modern civilization, Stetson amazed his friends by using the only material he had at hand--fur.

Stetson made a unusually large hat out of this fur-felt.  He then wore the hat for the remainder of his hunting trip. Although initially worn as a joke, Stetson soon grew fond of the hat for its ability to protect its wearer from the elements. It had a wide brim for protection from the elements, a high crown to keep an insulating pocket of air on the head, and a waterproof lining so the hat could be used to carry water. He and other cowboys of the west ended up liking the idea so well that Stetson soon manufactured and sold a hat true to his original idea.  Since his hunting trip, J.B. Stetson intended his new hat creation to be for the cowboys that he came to know in the west. Thus, the creation of the first cowboy hat.

The hat was first sold in Central City, Colorado in 1865 under the name "Boss of the Plains," more commonly known as the "ten-gallon cowboy hat". Later, Stetson's cowboy hat was renamed the "Stetson", after its inventor.

"Boss of the Plains"
In 1869 Stetson returned to Philadelphia to found his hat company, which produced high quality hats for outdoors use. By 1886 Stetson's hat company was the largest in the world, and had mechanized the hat-making industry.

The term "Ten Gallon Hat" is the result of a linguistic mix-up. "Galón" is the Spanish word for "braid." Some vaqueros wore as many as ten braided hatbands on their sombreros, and those were called "ten galón hats." English speakers heard gallon. 

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