Present Moments with some of your favorite historical authors
The Authors of Writes of Passage
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
In a recent copy of Reflections magazine offered through the Kansas Historical Society, I read that The Kansas Museum of History is celebrating ‘Head Bling’ with a special exhibit through the end of July. After enjoing the article, I decided I’d share a bit of “hat” history with you. This lovely feather headgear is from the 1950's and was purchased in Topeka. I made this picture a little larger so you'd enjoy the full impact. Let's just say it's "interesting," and leave it at that.
Nowadays hats aren’t an important piece of our wearing apparel—unless you count baseball caps. However, in the late 19th to early 20th centuries, ‘real’ hats were a part of everyday attire. Yesterday’s hats were considered a necessity for a complete wardrobe. Men sported bowlers, boaters, and fedoras which varied through the years only slightly from crown to brim. Women’s headwear changed greatly with bonnets, bucket, cloches, turbans, and pill boxes, each designed to match fashions, colors, and lifestyles. Hats as accessories began to diminish in importance during the mid-20th century, and I wonder if they’ll ever make a real comeback. Personally, I have my doubts, but I never thought bell bottom pants would come back in style, either. So hang onto your hat if you have one! Remember that Girl Scout motto and be prepared!
The hats pictured below left were made by Sarah Pettigrew McWilliams (1872-1958), who in her late teens operated her own dressmaking and millinery business in Washington, Kansas.
Born in Illinois to parents who had emigrated from Ireland to the United States, McWilliams grew up on the family farm in Washington County, Kansas. She helped her mother manage a large household that included seven brothers. Family stories have it that Sarah got tired of pulling off her brothers' boots when they came in from the field and determined to move out on her own.
At that time, producing custom-made clothing and hats for a local clientele was one of the few socially acceptable ways for a woman to make a living. Sarah's business proved successful, but in 1903 she gave up the shop to wed Charles Hawes, a widower and prosperous merchant in nearby Morrowville. Sarah, of course, made the hat she wore for her wedding.
Photos of Harry Truman wearing a Panama hat appeared in the press during the summer of 1950. These images were seen by lumberman Frank Hodges of Olathe, a lifelong fellow Democrat whose brother had once been governor of Kansas. Considering himself an expert on Panama hats, Hodges felt the example worn by Truman was not of the quality befitting a sitting president so he sent one that had been made in Ecuador.
When I was growing up, hats were still worn to church, at least on Easter Sunday. I have some pictures to prove that while some people look very nice in hats—there are some of us who don’t. My brother managed to escape a hat in this picture, but my sister and I think we're stylin'. How about you? Care to share any “hat memories” with the rest of us?
May you find joy as you share memories with others. ~Judy
P.S. The winner of Lorna Seilstad's book, The Ride of Her Life is Naomi. You'll be hearing from Lorna soon. And I will be away for a couple of weeks. Carol Cox has agreed to step in for me and I've asked her to share some interesting tidbits about her new book, Love in Disguise.