Hatting History in Objects

These hatting objects represent hand tools and personal items used by hatters, milliners and hat wearers.

Hat hood.

Hat hoods were made of felt, a non-woven cloth, and they were created in a procedure called ‘planking’. After planking, the next stage is to form the hoods to the required shape on wooden hat blocks.

Hat blocks of the required shape were used to form hat hoods into hats. The hat block on the left forms trilby hats, the one in the centre forms bowler hats and the one on the right forms homburg hats.

Hat block.

This block forms top hats and it is complete with a top-hat brim block.

William Plant & Co on Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, was one of the last traditional hat block manufacturers and it closed in 1976.

Hat puller downer.

This boomerang-shaped hatting tool is held with two hands and it is used to pull the hood down tightly over the hat block. A related tool, not illustrated, is the foot tolliker used to shape the brim as it turns up to the crown of the hat.

On the left is a hat steamer used in the blocking and forming of hats. Their purpose is to dampen and soften felt without affecting the stiffener in the felt or saturating it. During steaming a felt hood becomes pliable and easy to form into the required shape on a hat block.

On the right is a hat sewing machine and these are typically used to sew leather hatbands and linings of felt hats.

On the left is a hat crown sad-iron and on the right is a hat brim sad-iron. The hat crown sad-iron has a curved ironing surface and it is used to smooth areas where the brim meets the body and other curved surfaces.

It is understood that sad-irons were so called because they were very heavy to use. Initially they were of all cast-iron construction (shown left) and the handles became very hot when the they were heated up for use.

The hat brim curling iron on the left is also known as a hat brim curling groove tolliker. The hat egg iron on the right is used to shape and smooth felt into hollow areas of a hat block such as one used to form trilby hats.

Hat brim cutter.

The boxwood hat-brim cutter is used to cut the brim to the required width measured from the crown of the hat. To use it, a hat is placed over a hat block resting on a cutting mat. While holding the hat down the curved part of the tool is held against the crown and then pressed down so that the cutting blade below the tool cuts through the brim. The tool is then rotated around the crown and the blade cuts the brim to the required width. Usually, a brim can be cut from one inch up to five inches wide.

The hat stretcher on the left consists of two 'C' shaped wooden slides connected by a turnbuckle that opens the slides. The stretcher on the right, also known as a hat jack, is also opened with a turnbuckle and it can be used either to retain the hat size or increase the size.

The boxwood and brass slide out hat sizing rule exends from 5 up to 9 inches and the reverse has a table of hat size, length and width measurements. The combined hat block and stretcher is constructed in two halves with an adjustable screw to open and close the two halves.

Hat size measuring instrument.

This instrument is used to measure the size/circumference of the inside of the hat. The left-hand side of the wooden calliper is fixed to the spring-steel ring. The callipers are first closed and then released inside the hat so that the ring opens to form a close fit. The hat size can then read off on the brass scale.

Hat brush & iron.

The McDonald's rotary hat iron on the right was patented in the USA in 1892 by Alexander McDonald. It was designed to smooth top hats and it was heated by gas.

Silver hat brush.

A late Victorian era sterling-silver hat brush with repoussé decoration to the handle.

The late Victorian era stand on the left is for hats, coats, walking sticks and umbrellas with a drip tray. The bentwood stand on the right is from the 1920s and it has six ‘S’ shaped scrolls for hats and coats joined to the top of a column supported by four down swept legs with two rings for walking sticks. Normally, stands like this would be placed in the hall.

Hat rack & coat hooks.
Hat hooks.

Hat boxes left and centre date from the late Victorian era while the hat box on the right dates from the 1930s.

Moores hat box.

This customised hat box was supplied by J Moores & Sons Ltd of Denton, Lancashire, but it was made for them by a specialist company. Four local companies of hat-box makers were, William Platt of Denton, Robert Beswick, Peter Blyth, and Julius Downs & Sons, all of Hooley Hill, Audenshaw.

Decorative hat pins were fashionable in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras as ladies used them as a means of attaching their large hats to their hair. Their popularity reached a peak during the Edwardian era when ladies wore exceptionally large hats displaying feathers and colourful replicas of flowers, fruits, birds and whatsoever else could be made-up. Hat pins were sometimes sold in identical pairs and most were long (6 to 8 inches or more) because they needed to be long enough to reach through the hair.

Hat pin stands were made either of wood, metal or porcelain in a wide variety of designs.

Named after Lord Viscount Petersham (1780-1851), Petersham ribbon is used for hat trimmings, also known as galloons. It has a heavier weft than its warp which creates prominent transverse ribs. Significantly, it is woven with picot (scalloped) edges so that when it is steamed it will take on the required shape without forming wrinkles or puckers. Grosgrain ribbon is similar but it does not have picot edges so it does not have the same ability to follow curved surfaces.

Left, Walker, Ashworth & Linney Ltd of Ashton Rd, Denton, and right, Howlison & Co of the Tiviot Dale Hat Works, Heaton Norris, Stockport.

The term ‘Stelastic’ was a registered trademark for hats having a steel texture elastic fitting and they were introduced in c.1931 by hat manufacturers J Moores & Sons Ltd of Denton, Lancashire. They were light-weight hats with a comfortable fit.

Both hat models were introduced by J Moores & Sons Ltd of Denton, Lancashire. 'Tween' refers to a range of hats made in half sizes in the same way that boots were made in half sizes. 'Zephyrus' refers to a range of hats that were of imperceptible weight. Zephyrus is the ancient Greek god of the west wind or spring.

Union label.

The label of the Felt Hatters & Trimmers Unions was introduced in Jan 1895 and it was fixed to the inside of the hat band. The two unions participating in this arrangement were the Amalgamated Society of Journeymen Felt Hatters (AJFH) and the Felt Hat Trimmers & Wool Formers Association (FHT & WF). At the foot of the label, the male hand on the left (AJFH) is shaking hands with the female hand on the right (FHT & WF).

Left, Walker, Ashworth & Linney Ltd and right, Joseph Wilson & Sons Ltd both of Denton, Lancashire, with London showrooms.

Opera hat with box.

An opera hat is designed to be collapsible for use in enclosed venues, such as an opera house or theatre. It consists of black fabric stretched over a sprung steel frame. To snap the hat open it is held upside-down by the brim with one hand while smartly tapping the opposite brim on the other hand. It is closed by holding the hat right-side-up by the brim with one hand while pressing on top of the hat with the other hand. When closed, the hat can be conveniently stored under a seat or in its box in a wardrobe when not in use.