The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
by Dessa Rodeffer
January 19, 2022
Last Saturday, January 15th, was National Hat Day. I wouldn't have known if our friend Larry Werline, a reenactor for General Ulysses Grant who's collected over 90 hats hadn't of posted it on his Facebook Feed wearing 12 of his hats with descriptions encouraging us to be sure to wear a hat on the 15th.
He had on a variety of hats to get one thinking of all the hats that has come down the pike over the years. So, I got into my researching mode and looked up a little history on my Stetson hat.
The story begins in New Jersey with a hatmaker's son–John Stetson, a sickly child, who traveled westward to Missouri then on to Colorado to clear his lungs. The trip cleared out his lungs and his wallet. He returned to St. Joseph, MO with a new idea. "Most people came out west with the hats that had served them well in the cities of the East—top hats, bowlers, and derbies. But with relatively narrow brims, these hats couldn’t quite stand up to life out in the elements. When settlers did have wide-brimmed hats, they were often made of wool, which would droop when soaked and were hard to repair and reshape. Stetson knew that fur felt hats would serve their purposes better and even made a couple prototypes while voyaging out West. The widest-brimmed model he made while out West started out as a joke, but was promptly bought by a passing cowboy. Back in Philadelphia in 1865 he founded the John B. Stetson Co, specializing in the high-end felt hats he’d toyed with back West. His most famous model is The Boss of the Plains with popular dome-shaped crown of the era but with a far larger brim. He sent samples and an order form to every Western-wear retailer he could reach and received enormous orders from every corner of the frontier. The Boss was offered in only two colors to start, black and a pearl-gray white. Cowboys in Texas preferred the black wider brim, riders in Montana chose the white, albeit with a narrower brim less likely to be swept off their heads in high winds. Stetson hats “won the West” and by 1886, Stetson's brand was the largest in the world making 2 million hats a year by 1906.
Boss of the Plains