A well-known covering for the head, and distinguished from a cap or bonnet by a brim. They are made by various methods, according to the nature of the substance of which they are composed; but by far the greatest number are formed of the fur of different animals, by a process called felting: this manufacture has of late years become of considerable commercial importance, and numerous improvements have been introduced into it. The materials for making hats are chiefly rabbits' fur, cut off* from the skin, together with wool and beaver, to which may also be added mole fur, and kid hair. These are mixed in various proportions, and of different qualities, according to the value of the hats intended to be made; but the beaver is now wholly used for facing the finer hats, and not for the main body or stuff". The first process in the manufacture of hats is termed bowing, which has for its object to separate the fibres, and break up any clots, so as to form the whole into a kind of light down: it is performed as follows - the workman is provided with a pole of ash, or white deal, about seven feet long, having a bridge at each end, over which is stretched a catgut about i of an inch thick; and a portion of the material being laid upon a hurdle of wire, he holding the bow horizontally in his left hand, nearly in contact with the material, gives the string a pluck with a wooden pin, held in his right hand.

The string, in its return, strikes the fur, and causes it to spring up in the air, and fall in a light open form, at a little distance from the mass. By repeated strokes, the whole is subjected to the bow; and having thus fallen together in all directions, it forms a thin mass or substance for the felt. The quantity thus treated at once is called a batt, and never exceeds half the quantity required to make one hat.

When the batt is sufficiently bowed, it is ready for hardening, which is the term for the commencement of the felting. The prepared material being evenly disposed on the hurdle, is covered with a linen cloth, and pressed backwards and forwards in its various parts by the hands of the workman. The pressure is gentle, and the hands are very slightly moved backwards and forwards, at the same time, through a space of perhaps a quarter of an inch, to favour the hardening entangling of the fibres. In a very short time, the stuff acquires sufficient firmness to bear carefully handling. The cloth is then taken off, and a sheet of paper, with its corners doubled in, so as to give it a triangular outline, is laid upon the batt, which last is folded over the paper as it lies, and its edges, meeting one over the other, form a conical cap. The joining is soon made good, by pressure with the hands on the cloth. Another batt ready hardened is in the next place laid on the hurdle, and the cap here mentioned placed upon it with the joining downwards.

This last batt being also folded up, will have its place of junction diametrically opposite that of the inner felt, which it must therefore greatly help to strengthen.

The principal part of the intended hat is thus put together, and now requires to be worked with the hands a considerable time upon the hurdle, the cloth being also occasionally sprinkled with clear water. During the whole of this operation, which is called basoning, the felt becomes firmer and firmer, and contracts in its dimensions. The use of the paper is to prevent the sides from felting together. The basoning is followed by a still more effectual continuation of felting, called working, which consists in plunging them into a cauldron containing water slightly acidulated with sulphuric acid, and then working them upon some planks forming the frustrum of a cone, meeting in the cauldron at the middle. The imperfections of the felting now appear; and the workman picks out the knots and other hard substances with a bodkin, and adds more fur upon all such parts as require strengthening. This added fur is patted down with a wet brush, and soon incorporates with the rest. Towards the close of this working, the beaver for the nap is laid on.

By these means, the substance of the hat is formed into a felt of close texture, pliable, and capable of extension (although with difficulty), in every direction, but the figure is still conical; the next thing to be done, therefore, is to give it the required shape. For this purpose the workman turns up the edge or brim to the depth of about an inch and a half, and then returns the point back again through the centre or axis of the cap, so far as not to take out this fold, but to produce another inner fold of the same depth. The point being returned again produces a third fold, and thus the workman proceeds until the whole has acquired the appearance of a flat circular piece, consisting of a number of concentric folds Or undulations with the point in the centre: this is laid upon the plank, where the workman, keeping the piece wet with the liquor, pulls out the point with his fingers, and presses it down with his hands, at the same time turning it round on its centre in contact with the plank until he has by this means rubbed out a flat portion equal to the intended crown of the hat In the next place he takes a block, to the crown of which he applies the flat central portion of the felt, and by forcing a string down the sides of the block, causes the next part to assume the figure of the crown, which he continues to wet and work until it has properly disposed itself around the block.

The brim now appears like a puckered or flounced appendage round the edge of the crown; but the block being set upright on the plank, the requisite figure is soon given by working, rubbing, and extending this part. Water only is used in this operation of blocking or fashioning; at the conclusion of which it is pressed out by the blunt edge of a copper implement called a stamper. Previous to the dying, the nap of the hat is raised or loosened out with a wire-brush or carding instrument. The fibres are too rotten after the dying to bear this operation. The dying materials are logwood, a little oak bark, and a mixture of the sulphate of iron and of copper, known in the marts by the common name of green copperas and blue vitriol. The hats are boiled with the logwood, and afterwards immersed in the same solution. The dyed hats are, in the next place, taken to the stiffening shop. One workman, assisted by a boy, does this part of the business; he has two vessels or boilers, one containing the grounds of strong beer, and the other containing melted glue, a little thinner than what is used by carpenters.