Thursday, May 5, 2011


John Batterson Stetson born May 5, 1830 was an American hatter, industrialist and philanthropist who serendipitously though due to ill health toured the West in the 1860s, the result of which was his invention of the cowboy hat, as it is commonly known today.

He noted that wranglers were a sorry lot, at least with respect to their headgear, as they tended to wear coonskin caps or whatsoever they may have grown up with regardless of functionality. Hence he invented a fur-felt hat with a four-inch brim and a four-inch crown. The hat caught on with a vengeance, and has been used by people worldwide, including the military here and abroad.

I am the proud possessor of a couple of fine Stetsons. The one I am modelling above was a gift to me from BBBH. The tan one I have had a long time. Though I grew up in the West, I was never a wearer of hats, an oversight in my sartorial arrangement about which my father chided me relentlessly. Dad always wore a hat, though he affected a fedora rather than a Western-style hat. He wore either Stetsons or Dobbs hats, and I have two nice fedoras, one that he bought for me and one that was his. By stuffing considerable newsprint in the sweatband, I can actually wear his hat.

Stetson eventually built one of the largest hat-producing factories in the world, and at the time of his death he employed over five thousand people. He built housing, hospitals and parks for his employees and maintained a clean and safe work environment.

Stetson contributed a huge percentage of his wealth to philanthropic enterprises, building schools and giving generously to universities. The Stetson School of Law in Florida is named for him.

John Batterson Stetson 1830 - 1906 RIP


Vee said...

I think the fedora was as much a statement about polite society as it was about having a warm head - tipping the hat to the ladies, removing the hat as soon the threshold of a building was crossed. (No longer necessarily true for modern fedora wearers!)

vanilla said...

Vee, exactly. Dad taught me all the niceties of hat etiquette. I think his disappointment in me was that he did not get to observe his offspring as the paragon of polite behavior (i.e., copy of himself) that he had hoped to see. He probably cared less about whether or not my head was warm!

Ilene said...

I had a student who once wore a fedora to class. No hats were allowed. I asked him to remove his hat and he informed me that it was not a hat, it was a fedora. Either he really believed it or thought I would. Together we looked it up on the internet, and he was sorely disappointed to discover that it was, indeed, a hat.

vanilla said...

Ilene, that's great! Teacher uses internet to enforce school rule. Didn't you just love it when the kids seemed to really believe you would believe? I had a kid, bus misbehavior, not my student, who, when I asked his name said, "Bart Simpson." Yeah, and I'm Captain Marvel.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

It's a good thing most people wore hats. I actually don't like hats at all. My father wore a fedora. He was not from the west!

vanilla said...

Joan, I can affect the sartorial splendor that is the hat; but I fear I don't do much for the hat!