This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Hats And Caps. There is but little relating to hat-making recorded in history, although their partial use may be traced back to the time of ancient Greece, probably as early as the age of Homer, when they were worn, although only by the better class of citizens when on a distant journey. The same custom prevailed among the Athenians, as is evident from some of the equestrian figures in the Elgin Marbles. The Romans used a bonnet or cap at their sacrifices and festivals, but on a journey the hat with a brim was adopted. In the middle ages the bonnet or cap with a front was in use among the laity, while the ecclesiastics wore hoods, or cowls. Pope Innocent, in the 13th century, allowed the cardinals the use ot scarlet hats, and about the year 1440 the use of hats by persons on a journey appears to have been introduced into France, and soon after became common in that country, whence probably it spread to other European nations. Hatters at the present day ascribe the honor of the invention of felting, and of its prospective introduction to that of hat-making, to the old renouned monk St. Clement, who, when marching at the head of his pilgrim army obtained some sheep's wool to put between the soles of his feet and the sandals that he wore, which of course became matted into a solid piece. The monk, philosophizing upon this circumstance, promulgated the idea of its future usefulness, and thus it is said arose the systematic art of felting and hat-making. [See Felting] The first authentic accounts of regular hatters appeared in the Middle Ages - in Nuremberg in 1360, in France in 1380, in Bavaria in 1401 and in London in 1510. The hatting trade of the United States is noticed first in the representations made by the London Board of Trade to the House of Commons in the year 1732, in which they refer to the complaints of the London hatters, regarding the extent to which their particular manufacture was being carried on at that time in New York and the New England States. A look at the fashions and styles of hats of ancient times is interesting as well as amusing. So capricious is the the fancy of man that nothing is immutable, all is change, and hats have been of all conceivable shapes and colors, and dressed with the most fanciful decorations, plumes, jewels, silk loops, rosettes, badges, gold and silver bands, etc. The crowns and brims have been of all possible styles from the earliest period. It would appear that nothing is left for the present and all coming time, but the revival of what has already been, even to the fantastical peaked crown that rose half a yard above the wearer's head. In the 15th century hats in Great Britain were called vanities, and cost twenty, thirty, and forty English shillings apiece, which were large sums of money at that early period. The most extreme broad brims were worn about the year 1700, shortly after which the three-cornered cocked hat came in. It is a singular historical fact that for a thousand years every distinct hat style has endured an even century - with one exception. The elegant soft hat of the Spaniard has remained the same from the earliest period to the present day, while among all other nations a transformation in the style of hats has taken place every one hundred years. Comfort in the wear seems to have given place at all times to fancy and the demands of Fashion. On the 23d of each November occurs the hatters' annual festival, that being St. Clements day, the patron saint of the trade, and is celebrated in an appropriate manner in Europe and America by all manufacturers.
Hat Making was long considered a business to which machinery never could be applied, but the inventors have dispelled this illusion, and machinery is now employed in all the most important departments of the manufacture. The reason this idea obtained such general credence was, first, on account of the close attention necessary while the hat is under the operation of sizing; second, the known impossibility of napping or ruffing a hat by any means of machinery; also the acknowledged failures in several attempts to substitute carding for that of bowing, and various futile attempts with the irons in the finishing and shaping departments. The innovations of machinery, however, have now obtained a sure footing in all large factories. In the United States the largest centre of hat manufacturing is at Danbury, Conn., where there are made of all sorts about 6,000,000 a year. This city makes two-thirds of all the fur hats worn in the United States, and has nearly as many hatters as all the other cities in the country combined. Some hats, most of them for women and children, are made of wool, which is cheaper, but does not wear so well as fur. But by far the larger number of men's stiff and soft hats are made of fur. The best fur for this use is that of the nutria, a South American water animal, something like the beaver, but not so large. The steadily growing demand for nutria fur for other purposes has raised the price of it so much that it is now used only in the finest grade of hats. Next to the nutria the most expensive fur that hatters use is that of the Russian and German hare and musk-rat; then comes the fur of the coney. Saxony and merino wool are used for fine wool hats. For the past few years the current prices of hatters' furs have undergone rapid changes. The following table gives the comparative values of the different descriptions for a series of years. Numerous as are these various names, most of the animals mentioned produce five or six different qualities of the fur from particular parts of the same skin, which vary greatly in price and value.
Av'ge for 15 years.
Triple Ring }....................................
Double Ring }Nutria........................
Double Ring }..................
$2 25 8 35 2 65 2 10
2 20 1 87 1 15
85 1 75 1 55 1 32 1/2 1 60 1 35
47 1 10 1 25 1 20 1 75
$3 37l/2 3 60 3 40 3 00
3 00 2 40
1 75 95 60
2 30 2 20 2 05 2 20 1 70 1 40 1 85
65 1 60 1 80
$4 50 3 20 2 75 2 45 2 15 2 65 2 10 1 3754
45 1 95 1 85 1 65 1 85 1 30 1 00 1 15
45 1 40 1 50 1 50 180
$ 3 60
3 65 1/2
2 76 1/2
2 04 1/2
CB do .................................
1 25 1/2
Coney Sides, Scotch____________..........
Coney Tails, English.......______________
1 59 1 47
Garrenne Coney .......................
Av'ge for 15 years.
1 20 92 85 60 80 55 30 25 95 85
2 00 1 15
45 70 55 45 25 20 50 20 35
42 27 1 10 1 20 1 15
2 75 2 25 1 00 1 05
85 90 17 25 85 30 45
No. 1 Coney................
Coney Tails, French.............
SPT White Coney....................
Kettle Roundings............ ..........
Coney Waste................. ___
Brown Coney Extra........____.......___
Coney Cheek, English..................._..
The skin is cut from the fur by a machine with revolving knives, which cut it off in shreds. The fur is left full length, and as it rolls away from the knives it preserves the general outline of the skin. The fleeces of fur are folded and packed, a number together, in small sacks or bundles. Formerly the greater part of the fur used here was imported already cut, but we are now competing with foreign countries in fur-cutting, and about half the fur used in this country is at present cut in New York, Brooklyn and Connecticut. In making hats different kinds of fur are mixed well together. Various hat manufacturers have various mixtures which they keep to themselves; each strives to attain the best results in finish and durability with great economy. In the process of making a felted fur hat, the bundles of fur are first opened, and the fur in the combination and proportions deemed best for the kinds of hats to be made is laid in a big mixing box. Thence the fur is put into a simple machine in which it is still further mixed. Then it goes to the "picker room" where it is "blown." In this operation the fur is freed from bits of skin, hair and other foreign substance. A minute fragment of skin on the surface of a hat would damage it. The fur goes in at one end between iron rollers to a picker, which makes 2,400 revolutions to a minute. The picker is a small horizontal cylinder with short wire teeth. There is a series of rollers and pickers interspersed with blowing chambers. The pickers straighten out the fibers of the fur, which drop on a sieve. The hair, bits of skin and soon, including sometimes coarser bits of fur, drop through. From the picker the fur goes into a blowing chamber. Here it floats about softly, in appearance not unlike a drab foam, and is still more thoroughly mixed. It goes on through a series of rollers and pickers and blow chambers, and comes out at the farther end of the machine a sheet of fur uniform in color and appearance, something like drab cotton wadding, except that there is no glaze on the surface. It holds together, but is easily pulled apart with the hands.
The fur now goes to the forming room where the hat bodies are made. It is weighed out according to grade used, and the size of the hat to be made. From three to five ounces is the usual amount of fur used in a hat. The weighing is done with accuracy, the weights varying by fractions as small as the sixteenth of an ounce.
The process in use for centuries by our forefathers of forming a hat body, was by "bowing" by hand. [See Bowing] This has been entirely superseded by the "forming" machine. At one end of the forming machine is an apron upon which the fur is spread to be fed into the machine; at the other end is the trunk, which is the part in which the hat body is formed. The trunk looks like a tall, substantially-built water pail, with a fixed, rounded cover. It is about 7 feet in height, about 2 feet in diameter at the bottom, flaring to 3 1/2 feet at the top. In the front of the trunk there are two small doors which open all the way up and down, affording the freest access to the interior. At the bottom of the trunk and in its center is a little turn-table which turns round about 75 times a minute. Underneath is an apparatus which produces in the trunk a constant and uniform draft downward. A hollow cone, made of perforated sheet-copper with the top rounded, is set on the turn-table. The perforations are as thick as the holes of a pepper box. When the doors of the trunk are closed the draft draws the air through the perforations of the cone.
The apron is a flat table about 2 1/2 feet square, attached to the trunk. The workman takes a portion of fur and spreads it upon the apron and feeds it evenly into the machine. It goes through picker and brush. The picker makes 5,000 revolutions a minute. It picks the fur and throws it in separate hairs to a blower, running at a high speed, which blows it in at the top of the trunk, where it floats like a shower of haze or fur. Then the draught is turned on from the bottom and draws the floating fur down to the cone. It does not go through the perforations, but it completely covers the outside of the cone and clings to it, held by the draught. By means of simple dampers the draught may be so regulated as to make the fur light upon the cone where it is most wanted. For most hats greater thickness of fur is required in the brim. The fur can be drawn to the cone and held to it in a deposit that is thin on top and increasing in thickness down the sides to the base all round. While the draft is on, it is difficult to pull any of this fur away; if the draft is stopped, it is easy to pick it off with the fingers. It takes but a minute or so for all the fur to settle on the cone. The workman then opens the door of the trunk and throws over the cone a wet cloth which completely envelops it. Over the cloth he places a cone-shaped tin cover like an extinguisher. The two cones (the perforated one placed originally on the turn-table and the tin one placed over the wet cloth), with the fur and cloth between, are taken from the turn-table and put in a tub of water. They are allowed to remain in the water a few minutes, when they are lifted to a table, where the tin cover and cloth are taken off. The hat body has already begun to shrink. It starts to roll off of itself. It is quickly removed from the original cone, straightened out and skillfully folded, wet and limp. Next the hat body is taken to the hardening room, where it is examined. It is at this stage about 2 1/2 feet tall, and without the sign of a brim. When it has been examined it is rolled up. The rolling makes the fur stick together, and the body goes on shrinking. Then it goes to the sizing room, where the hats are felted. Five hat bodies are laid together and made up in a roll. The roll is dipped in a tub of hot water, and then rolled up in linen canvas, dipped into water again and laid on the lower rollers of the sizing machine just over the top. The sizing machine has 3 revolving wooden rollers, two side by side, and one a few inches above. The hat bodies are rolled between them and pressed gently, at first by the lower rollers only. The hot water, the motion, and the gentle pressures make the bodies shrink and felt. They are unrolled and again folded and dipped, and rolled up. After going through three machines in this manner, they get to one whose top roller is so adjusted as to help in the pressing and rolling. The hat bodies are shrunk to proper sizes and proportions, all the manipulations requiring care and skill.
The hat body, folded flat, now measures about 10 1/2 inches from the center ot the crown to the edge of the brim; standing like a cone; the diameter of the base is about 10 1/2 inches. In the next operation the hat body is laid on a table, and with one sweep around the rim with a sharp knife the edge is made uniform and smooth. The hat is then dryed and shaved. In felting the hat body the hairs that may remain in the fur works to the surface. The hat body is put on a turning machine, and the outside is shaved smooth by knives that work something like the cutters of a lawn-mower.
The hat thus far followed is to be a stiff hat, and it goes next to the stiffening room where the brim is to be dipped into shellac. This is done by hand very quickly and with great accurracy. Then it is passed up between rollers which squeeze it and leave in the brim just the needed quantity of shellac. The crown stiffening is applied on the inner side with a brush, by hand. Then the hat goes into the steam-box. The steam drives in the shellac, and the hat is put in a weak acid to "set" the stiffening. Next the hat goes to the blocking room. It is placed on a " star," which is a frame of curved ribs radiating outward and downward, the general outline being something like that of the crown of a hat. Over the star is its counterpart, the tip machine, which is movable up or down, and works the upper part of the hat body into shape, being heated. The next star is larger and on this the crown is brought nearer into shape. Then the hat goes to machines which stretch and shape the brim. The hat looks now something like a soft crush hat that has been stiffened. It is put into a vat of dye to be colored, and from there it goes to the blocking machine. After a hot bath it is put on a form. A shaper which has a lever attached is brought down over the hat. It flattens the brim and shapes the crown for the last time, except on the top. After removing the shaper the hat is cooled with a stream of cold water and is put on a whizzer, which revolves it rapidly and expels most of the water from it. Then it goes to the drying room, and the next day to the squaring-up room, where the hats are assorted by sizes and squared up with shellac inside. They are then ready for the finishing room. The hat, whether soft or stiff, is put on a block and sponged, ironed, brushed, sand-papered and singed. Here the crown is brought into final shape at the top. The brim is finished as to its surface, but is still left perfectly flat. The finer hats are finished by hand, and the coarser one by machine. The ironing of a machine-finished hat is done by an iron attached to a movable arm, and heated by gas fed into it by flexible rubber tubes. As the hat turns on a block the iron adjusts itself with great accuracy, finishing its work at the centre of the crown and then dropping away. The hat then goes to the rounding machine, which cuts off the edge of the still flat brim and leaves it just the desired dimensions. The edge of the brim is stiffened with a preparation of shellac cut with alcohol, and the hat goes to the curling room. It is placed, brim downward, on a form which revolves slowly on an upright axis. Two little steel arms, one on each side, turn the edge of the brim over, and two irons, one on each side iron it down as the hat goes around. Then the hat is put in a round curling machine which curls the edge of the brim and gives it a little dip at the ends. The edge is planed smooth by a machine in the shaping-room. It is then laid on an iron table heated by steam. This heat makes the hat pliable. The brims of the finer hats are brought into a final shape by hand; others are placed, crown downward, on shaped "forms" that support the brim. Suspended over each of these forms, covering the brim, is a bag of sand. When the bag is dropped it shapes the brim to the form. An endless wire of exactly the right size and shaped to follow the curves of the brim, is inserted under the turned-over edge. Then the hats are sent to the trimming room. The work here is all done by women. The edges are bound, the crown lined, and a split sheep-skin sweat-band attached. They now are inspected carefully and brushed by a machine, after which they are ready to be packed in cases containing from three to six dozen.
In the manufacture of soft hats the process is the same as stiff hats up to the final shrinking of the bodies, which are shrunk with a view to the style and dimensions of the hat to be produced. After the shrinking, the processes vary in some minor details, but they are in their main features substantially alike. All felted fur hats, of whatever texture, nature, or name, must have undergone the above described operations. The process of manufacturing wool hats is but slightly different. The "body" of wool hats is prepared by first carding the wool. On being delivered from the carding-machine, the wool "slivers" are wound around a conical block of wood, which revolves slowly with a reciprocating motion, so that there is a continual crossing and recrossing of the wool as it is wound round the block. This diagonal winding is an essential feature of a wool hat, as thereby the strength is made equal in every direction. When this mat has been wound around the block to the required thickness, it is placed on a perforated iron plate through which steam is blown. When well moistened and heated, the mats are placed between boards and subjected to a hard rubbing, to enable them to bear the subsequent strong felting operations. The felting is accomplished by machinery, and in some cases a form of felting mill is used, but in all cases, heat, moisture, pressure, rubbing and turning are the agencies for felting a wool hat. Next follows blocking and shaping, as in the case of fur hats. Merino, Saxony and lamb's wool are the varieties used in the manufacture of wool hats. No cotton, or other vegetable fibre is used in hat-making, as these are entirely devoid of felting qualities. [See Felting]
Silk Hats consist of a light stiff "body" covered with a plush of silk; the manufacture of the latter in a brilliant, glossy condition being the most important part of the industry. Originally the "bodies" were made of felt and cork, but at present calico is the material almost exclusively used. The calico is first stiffened with a varnish of shellac, and then cut into three pieces sufficient for crown, side and brim. The side-piece is wound round a wooden hat block and its edges joined by hot ironing; the crown-piece being put on in a similar manner and attached at the top. The brim, consisting of three thicknesses of the sized calico cemented together, is now slipped over and brought into its position, and thereafter a second side-piece and another crown are cemented on. The whole body now receives a coat of size, and subsequently is varnished over; then it is ready for the operation of covering. In covering this body the under brim, generally of merino, is first attached, then the upper brim, and lastly the plush crown and side-piece sewed together and drawn over. All these by hot ironing and stretching are drawn smooth and tight, and as the varnish on the body softens with the heat applied, body and cover adhere all over to each other without wrinkle or pucker. Dressing and polishing by means of damping, brushing and ironing come next. The brim is then only to be curled and bound, the linings inserted, and the hat is ready for use. The quality of silk hats depends altogether upon the quality of silk plush with which they are covered. It is a curious fact that this silk plush is all imported to this country from Lyons, France. A good workman can prepare and iron twelve "bodies" daily. He can put the silk coverings on and finish about ten, while the brims of fully two dozen ought to be curled daily by a good hand. "Stovepipes" are never made up in larger quantities than are required for the temporary needs of the market, as styles change twice a year; and when a silk hat has gone out of style, it is absolutely valueless. If, however only the styles of brims change, they can easily be reshaped by heating and curling.
The silk hat originated in the United States, and was introduced into Europe by Benjamin Franklin. When, in 1790, Franklin was sent as embassador to Paris, he wore the simple attire of the Quakers. A prominent feature of this was the hat, which has narrowed and heightened into the fashionable "plug" of to-day. It was then low-crowned and broader brimmed, and presented so quaint an aspect that the Parisian dudes were disposed to make it the butt of their wit. Not so, however, with the leaders of the French revolution, who happened to take a fancy to the queer shaped tile, and forthwith adopted it as their own distinctive headgear In three days' time the Franklin hat, as it was designated then, was the "rage" in Paris, and from that time - just a hundred years ago - the hat has constantly grown in favor, although it is probable that a contrivance more destructive to the hair and more useless for practical purposes was never designed by the fertile brain of the hatter.
After the introduction of gutta-percha into the arts (1842), and the manufacture of it into thin sheeting, a new kind of hat was introduced, made of gutta-percha and cloth, which promised for awhile to supersede the soft, low-crowned felt article. But the jealousy of some of the manufacturers of felt goods destroyed the new business almost entirely when in its infancy, it is said purposely, by making them so very inferior and at the same time so perfect a counterfeit, that the really good and perfectly made gutta-percha hat became universally distrusted, and hence the result. The best of these were made of a thin gutta-percha crown in a variety of shapes, and covered with cloth, producing an extremely durable aud light-weight hat.
Caps. - New York City manufactures nearly nine-tenths of the caps made in the United States. In that oddest nest-like part of city, the French quarter, 3,000 men and girls make annually $5,000,000 worth of caps, exclusive of the $1,000,000 worth of fur caps made in that region. At least 1,000,000 dozen caps are turned out in this quarter every year. As to styles there are nearly 500 varieties. Of yatching caps alone there are something like two dozen kinds. Every year sees some new cap over which the public rages for a season, and then abandons. Such caps sell by the hundred thousand dozen. A hint comes from Paris, and in a few weeks the new caps swarm in every city and village and street throughout the land. A few leading styles of caps, however, persist with little or no change from year to year. Cap-makers are a fairly well paid class of workmen. The trade is minutely sub-divided. One man cuts the material, another blocks the crown, another sews the sides, and still another presses the seams, while the small finishing touches, such as cord and tassel, are given by girls. Work is done by the piece, and cap-makers earn from 50 cents to $2 per dozen caps. The most skillful men in busy seasons earn as high as $30 a week, and occasionally men have been known to earn $50 a week. The season for making winter caps begins in April and ends in October. Then comes a lull, and in November begins the season for making summer caps. Materials are as varied as styles. Silks, velvets and cassimeres are the principal ones. Among the most expensive caps are those made for naval officers. The bullion embroidery adds considerably to the cost of such caps. Much of this is imported from France, but some of it is made in the French quarter by girls who work together in small shops or at home, earning from $6 to $14 per week. The fur cap trade is also centered in the French quarter, the work being at its height during the summer months. Sealskin caps are less popular than they once were in the United States, but there are still about 2,000 dozen of them annually made in New York. They are made from portions of skin too small to be used in the best sacques. The manufacture is highly sub-divided, as in the case of the cloth-cap industry. It requires an intimate knowledge of furs, and many of those engaged in the business are foreigners. Much of the trade is carried on in comparatively small shops, such as is usual in the French portion of New York City. Often the costliest and most beautiful goods are produced in shabby little dens where one would expect to find no more important industry than that of a cobbler. [See Fur]
The cap trade is largely in the hands of jobbers who buy direct from the small manufacturers and distribute the goods. Every considerable city west of Pittsburg has large jobbing houses that deal in caps, and the wildest Rocky Mountain hunter often wears a cap sent him through jobber and retailer from the French cap makers of New York. Comparatively few caps are worn in the extreme East. Nearly all of them are consumed west of the Alleghanies, and a few are sent as far as the Sandwich Islands.
Straw hats. - Straw-plaiting is one of the oldest arts practiced by mankind, many specimens having been found in the tombs of the ancient Egyptians. In Europe the industry remained in a comparatively rude state down to the end of the 16th century, when it attained commercial importance in France and Northern Italy. The famous Leghorn straw of Italy began to acquire celebrity late in the 18th century. It is still unsurpassed for beauty and durability. Leghorn is a variety of wheat grown solely for the straw, which is distinguished for its extreme slenderness and pearly white color. It is now about fifty years since hats made of straw first began to obtain a firm and lasting hold upon the affections of American citizens. Prior to that time, straw hats were worn but they were imported ready for use, few, if any being manufactured in this country. So completely have the conditions changed that during the season of 1891, 1,500,000 dozen were made in the United States. But this does not represent the entire consumption, for fully 500,000 dozen more were imported made, requiring only to be shaped and trimmed after being landed. Most of the hat-straw now used in this country comes from China and Japan. England, Italy and Switzerland contribute but a small fraction of their former yield. It is shipped here carefully braided, in great bunches, and the braids are sewed and afterwards pressed into shape by expert American hands. The cultivation of a variety of wheat straw, from which the braid is worked, has been a special industry in the northern provinces of China for more than a century. It was not, however, until after the commercial city of Tientsin was in 1858 opened to foreign trade that the Chinese farmer began to pay much attention to the cultivation and curing of the straw, so as to secure greater uniformity of color as well as fineness of quality. The great desideratum is, to obtain as perfect a white straw as possible by means of bleaching in the sun. The process is to pull up the stalks by hand when the grain is in the milk, and only about half developed. Great care must be taken to prevent exposure to rain. After bleaching, the straw is cut at the first joint from the top. Although cut when green, the straw readily bleaches under the sun, producing a tough flexible fibre - much more so than ripe wheat, which is brittle and yellow. The industry extends through the great provinces of Chihli, Shansi, Honan and Shantung, and gives remunerative employment to great numbers of the poorer classes, principally to women and children. It is said that a dexterous woman can make from 35 to 40 yards of braid a day, earning from 14 to 20 cents.
The first shipment of this braid to the United States was made about the year 1873, when thirty-five bales were shipped. The shipment now averages about 25,000 bales per annum. There are 240 bundles in a bale, each bundle containing fifty-five yards. Connecticut and Maryland are the principal centers of the straw hat industry. The operation of forming the hat is very simple. The plaited braid, preparatory to being sewed, is wound upon reels, from which it is easily fed to the sewing machine specially constructed for this purpose. After sewing, the embryo hat is pressed into shape while damp over a plaster paris "form" or block. Heavy and powerful hydraulic presses are used in shaping the ordinary kinds of straw hats, and the necessary metal molds that form the " dies " for these machines represent tons of zinc.
Mackinaw Hats. - Probably no other straw hat ever introduced to the American public can show such a continued and extended popularity as the Mackinaw, this variety having held the lead as an article of summer headwear for upwards of fifteen successive years. The claim of the Mackinaw to antiquity and long use is, perhaps, as strong as that of other plaits with which the trade has become familiar, for no doubt the natives of Canada made use of these hats as a head covering long before they became an article of trade. The Machinaw for many years after its first introduction was sold under the designation of the " Canada " hat, the name given to a similar but comparatively degraded article produced in Eastern Canada. The title " Mackinaw " was first applied by Mr. R. A. Taylor, a mer-chant of Baltimore. He introduced the hat to his customers as far back as 1850, and sold it for thirty consecutive seasons without any apparent diminution of popularity. " Mackinaw," as a trade name, does not, as might be supposed, indicate the region from whence the straw comes, but undoubtedly received its christening from the retailer who first used the goods, in order to create a distinction from the inferior but similar article termed " Canada." While both the Mackinaw and the Canada are made of wheat straw, the difference between the two, as the product of one country and of nearly the same latitude, is a great surprise. The wheat of the eastern part of Canada produces a straw dark in color, harsh in texture, and of little use for making a hat, while that grown in the western part of the same country is clear and white in color, possessing a brilliant enamel which imparts the beauty that rendered the Mackinaw so famous an article of fashion. The straw is a local rather than a national production, coming from a region comprised within a small radius around the city of Detroit, part of which is Canadian territory and part within the borders of the United States; for while considerable straw from which the plait is made is raised and plaited in Michigan, by far the largest proportion, as also the best quality, is the product of Canadian territory. Nature seems to have provided a small community with unusual advantages, for within a limited territory has been produced all the vast quantity of straw plait required to supply the demand that for many years has existed for Mackinaw hats, and all efforts to produce elsewhere wheat straw with a bright enamel and of a clear color have invariably failed. The producers of this straw are wholly the poor, ignorant half-breeds, who spring from the Canadian-French and the Indian. Finding that hats, as well as the skins of the animals which they trapped could be sold, the family talent was brought into use to produce something that might contribute to their meagre subsistence. So during the winter season, while the men hunted the muskrat, the women and children plaited straw for hats, which, on the opening of the spring, were carried with the skins to the towns where they were exchanged for food, clothing, and ammunition. To the advantages of soil and climate is attrib-utep that purity of color, brilliancy of enamel, toughness of fiber, and elasticity of texture which are recommendations of the Mackinaw. Added to these natural qualities is the advantage of a peculiar treatment given to the straw by the natives, who employ a whitening or bleaching process without the use of chemicals.
Palm Leaf Hats. - The manufacture of palm leaf hats was begun in 1826; and as early as 1831 2,000,000 were made and sold. The leaves are procured from various sources, some from Spain and Malaga, and some from Mexico and Southern United States. With the growth of the hat trade various improvements have been made in the processes of manufacture, machinery having been introduced to perform the plaiting operation. These are frequently termed chip hats.
Manilla Hats. - Hats of this description are made of the split stems of the manilla tree, found in the Phillipine Islands. These hats rank next to Panama in point of durability.
Panama Hats. - A variety made from the leaves of the screw pine, in South America. They are termed Panama on account of the city of that name being the principal point from which the braid is shipped. The green leaves of the screw pine tree are gathered by the natives before they unfold, and after the ribs and coarse veins have been removed, are cut into shreds. These are exposed to the sun a few days, and then immersed in boiling water until they become white, when they are hung up in the shade and bleached for several days. This gives the straw a color about the shade of slacked lime. A native can plait enough straw for a hat in two or three days' time, but the finest hats require several weeks to complete them, and require especial care in the selection of the straw. They are extremely light, and the most durable straw hat made. The best qualities retail at $25.
In numbering hats one "size" represents one-eighth of an inch, and implies that difference in the average diameter of the head. The size of the head (and consequently the size of hat a person will require) can be obtained by measuring its circumference and dividing it by 3.14. The size of any hat can be obtained by measuring its length and width, adding them together and dividing by 2. In either case the mean, or average, diameter is obtained. In fine silk hats the half size, or one-sixteenth is often used, since many heads often size up just between two regular sizes. To obtain the size of hat a person should wear, measure accurately around the head -on the line where a hat or cap is usually worn - then look for the corresponding number of inches on the scale below, and the size of the hat will be found opposite:
Inches Abound the Head.
Size of Hat.
Inches Abound the Head.
Size or Hat.