University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture

Page View

Bishop, J. Leander (John Leander), 1820-1868 / A history of American manufactures from 1608 to 1860 : exhibiting the origin and growth of the principal mechanic arts and manufactures, from the earliest colonial period to the adoption of the Constitution : and comprising annals of the industry of the United States in machinery, manufactures and useful arts, with a notice of the important inventions, tariffs, and the results of each decennial census
Volume 3 (1868)

The great hat manufactories of the United States,   pp. 496-510 ff.

Page 496

THE manufacture of Hats was one of the first industrial pursuits
prosecuted in America. Dependent upon the enterprise and cupidity of
the mother country for nearly every article of use, and many of the richer
articles of wear, doubtless the Colonists thought themselves fortunate in
the small resources of the "spinning wheel" and the "hand loom," the
" bow," "block," and "set kettle," which at least furnished them with
body-apparel and head-covering. Necessity certainly favored the pro-
duction, at that early day, of such simple articles of use-as the ship
from London or Hull was not even a monthly arrival, and the venture
on the part of the owner at home not always so comprehensive as the
wants of the new market demanded. in addition to necessity, how-
ever, it would seem that there was other encouragement or incentive
for the colonial Hat manufacture. By reference to any full abstract of
the colonial legislative annals, it may be seen how prompt was the fore-
sight of our ancestors, and with what clear recognition of the merits
of home production they fostered at least one branch of manufacture
by public enactment and bounty. In 1862, for instance, the Colony
of Virginia, through its House of Delegates, offered a premium of ten
pounds of tobacco for every good Hat, made of wool or fur, within the
bounds of the Old Dominion. By reference to the first volume of this
History, it will be seen that other colonies advanced, through their
Assemblies, similar encouragement, though the nature of the bounties
may not have been the same. The result was, that the following cen-
tury had not passed its first quarter before the production of Domestic
Hats became a conspicuous and remunerative industry. Not only was
the home market entirely supplied from home sources, but a very con-
siderable exportation of Hats was growing up to countries beyond the
sea., and the handiwork of the colonists beginning to compete with the
work of the London craftsmen even in London streets. In 1731, it
became known to the Feltmakers Company of London, that the New
England Colonies were turning out ten thousand Hats per year. The
policy of Great Britain was nowise different at that day from what it
is now, though circumstances then gave her the power to illustrate it
in a more effective manner.  Appreciating the beneficence of this
policy, the suffering feltmakers petitioned Parliament to prohibit all
exportation of Hats from the colonies in America. Parliament listened
to the address, and acceded to the request; but it is not believed that
the enterprise of the provincial Hatters was entirely balked by this

Go up to Top of Page