History of Felt hats & Straw
hats - Stetson hats
Batterson Stetson was born in East Orange, New Jersey in 1830. His
father, Stephen Stetson, was a successful hatter and taught his children
the hatting trade.
John Stetson developed tuberculosis as a young man,
and headed west to St. Joseph, Missouri, hoping to recover. He was
rejected when he attempted to join the Union Army in the early 1860s,
due to poor health; and began working as part owner of a brickyard.
When the river flooded and washed this business away, he joined a
group headed west seeking their fortunes mining for gold. One year
searching for gold was enough for Stetson; and in 1865, he returned
to Philadelphia to try his hand at the hat manufacturing trade.
Stetson rented a small room at Seventh and Callowhill
Streets, purchased tools and fur, and took on two workers. With the
Eastern hat market difficult, Stetson turned his attention to the
Westerners. Extending his credit, he made a western hat for each
Southwestern dealer in the Boss of the Plains style he had invented
during his trek west. Western hats offered by Stetson from
1870 to 1900 included the Boss of the Plains, Alaska, Columbia, Dakota,
Railroad styles. He had made the right choice, and by
1872, he was also marketing his dress hats in his own catalog. As
century began, he had the world's largest hat factory, with 25
Although John Stetson died in 1906, his company
continued to prosper. Stetson followed men's fashions into the twentieth
century, manufacturing the top hat, bowler, homburg, fedora,
and trilby. Stetson also began manufacture of straw
hats in both western and dress styles, including the Stetson Premier
Men's hats didn't change much during World War
II years. By the early 1950s, there were fewer dress hat wearers,
and Stetson has since focused primarily on their western hats. Pop
music symbols are responsible for some resurgence in dress hats,
and movies brought back another fedora with Harrison Ford as the
swashbuckling archaeologist Indiana Jones.
History of Straw hats and Felt hats furnishes
enlightening detail, beginning with interesting accounts of dress hats
in the early years, through the roaring 20's gangster fedoras, includes
features on golf and movie celebrities' hats, and highlights some original
and contemporary hatmakers.