Hats on Foot

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May 23, 2018 Kirsten Feigel

By Diane DeBlois

Quite by chance I found a curious description in Alexander MacKay's 1849 The Western World; or, Travels in the United States in 1846-47 of how American industries were discouraged by England: "The imperial mind seemed to be peculiarly jealous of the manufacturer of hats ... it was forbidden to convey them from point to point by means of horses. In carrying them to market, therefore, the manufacturer had to take as many upon his head or shoulders as he conveniently could …"

I remembered seeing a 19th century letterhead for a hatter that used an image of a stack of hats on a bear, and asked in the eNews if anyone had similar images. Evie Eysenberg produced an oversized tradecard chromolithographed by L. Sunderland in Providence RI that also used a bear to stand in for the hat peddler, laden with a stack of different styles to be found at the “Excelsior One Price, Hat, Cap, & Gent’s Furnishing Goods Store.” 

Though that image is closest to my remembered one, there are other (and international) visual interpretations of a hat peddler carrying his wares rather than delivering them in a wheeled vehicle.

A 20th century cigarette insert card Number 9 from a German series “Sammelwerk” shows a hatmaker from the period 1550-1610 with a multiple hat display rack set up in a town square. 

A three-language European game card from the early 19th century illustrates a secondhand clothing peddler, wearing a stack of hats. 

A ca1890 French tradecard, number 1161 from the Assoc. d’Edit. De Chromos in Paris, is overprinted for a hat and umbrella store in Montargis (about 70 miles south of Paris) - and offers the comic situation of an overladen porter hailing a cab, his stack of hat boxes sabotaged by a mischievous urchin who has cut the binding strap. The caption “une degringolade” translates as a rapid disintegration. 

An advertising postcard mailed in 1912 from a hat seller (Madame Pauline who offered Paris fashions) in Portugal offers a caricature of a Jewish peddler laden with eight hat boxes.

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