Monday, May 25, 2009

The Cowboy and His Hat

We mentioned attending the Packhorse Races in Dubois (WY) in yesterday's entry. During the time the teams were on the trail for the 7-mile trot, Kate conducted a photo essay on the cowboy hat.

A lot goes in to the selection of the right hat for the person and the person's work. These hats seemed to fit the persons wearing them just fine.

Contrary to popular belief, John B. Stetson did not invent the Cowboy Hat - but he certainly popularized it. Mexican and Texas Ranchers in the early to mid 1800s developed the wide brimmed fur-felt hat to offer better protection against the stifling heat and unpredictable weather of the North American West.

But the story goes that John B. Stetson was suffering from Tuberculosis and headed West to seek comfort for his ailing health. While panning for gold in Colorado in 1865, he was trapped in the mountains. Comfort and protection were needed from howling winds and the unpredictable rain storms..., so John B. Stetson made a hat.

Mr. Stetson decided to manufacture and sell his hat after a mule driver paid him with a $5 gold piece for the hat right off his head. With $100 in his pocket John B. returned home to Philadelphia to manufacture Stetson hats.

The "Hat of the West," otherwise known as the famous "Boss of the Plains" hat, was created and manufactured by the John B. Stetson Hat Company in 1866.

Within one year, Mr. Stetson owned the world’s biggest hat factory and employed nearly 4,000 workers in the Philadelphia location.

By 1906, the factory was putting out about 2 million hats a year.

Outdoor western living taught John B. that a hat had to have a wide brim to keep out the elements. It also taught him that hauling water was vital on the frontier, so he made the inside lining of his hat waterproof. The Stetson cowboy hat could double as a water bucket if needed. That is how Stetson Hats got the nickname the "10 gallon" hat even though the original never held more than a half-gallon.

The crafty John B. Stetson pulled all these elements together in his design. The finished product had an unusual 6-inch high crown and a 7-inch brim.

In paying tribute to the cowboy hat, Bern Keating said in Famous American Cowboys: "By dint of long use, hats became sweat-stained, disreputable in appearance, were kneaded into diverse shapes,but, like wine, their vintage improved with age, and their beauty, in the owner's eye, never faded."

(A congratulatory handshake is shared between competitors following the race.)

Pardon the Interruption: The classic "All hat and no cattle" cowboy "wanna be." Hat, yes; cowboy hat, no.

And then there's Crosby Allen. The cowboy character comes through in every aspect of his face. His hat served as the exclamation point to this character.

An old cowboy once described the cowboy hat this way, "It's the last thing you take off, and the first thing that's noticed."

1 comment:

Cowboy Shirts said...

Interesting blog with varieties of cowboy hats. Cool one.