1902 Encyclopedia > Hat


HAT, a covering for the head worn by both sexes, and distinguished from the cap or bonnet by the possession of a brim. The modern hat can be traced back to the petasus worn by the ancient Romans when on a journey; and hats with brims were also used, probably on like occasions, by the earlier Greeks. It was not till after the Norman conquest that the use of hats began in England. A " hatte of biever " about the middle of the 12th century was worn by some one of the " nobels of the lande, mett at Clarendom;" and Froissart describes hats and plumes which were worn at Edward's court in 1340, when the Garter order was instituted. In the 13th century the use of the scarlet hat which distinguishes cardinals was sanc-tioned by Pope Innocent IV. The merchant in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales had
" On his head a Flaundrish bever hat;" and from that period onwards there is frequent mention of " felt hattes," " beever hattes," and other like names. Throughout mediaeval times the wearing of a hat was regarded as a mark of rank and distinction. The caprices of fashion in hats during the reign of Elizabeth may be understood from an extract from Stubbs's Anatomie of Abuses, published about 1585 :—

" Sometimes they use them sharpe on the crowne pearking up like the spire or shaft of a steeple, standing a quarter of a yard above the crowne of theire heads ; some more, some lesse, as please the fantasies of their inconstant mindes. Othersome be flat, and broade on the crowne, like the battlements of a house. Another sorte have rounde orownes, sometimes with one kind of bande, sometimes with another ; now black, now white, now russed, now redde, now grene, now yellow; now this, now that; never content with one colour or fashion two daies to an end."

During the reign of Charles I. the Puritans affected a steeple crown and broad-brimmed hat, while the Cavaliers adopted a lower crown and a broader brim ornamented with feathers. Still greater breadth of brim and a profusion of feathers were fashionable characteristics of the hats in the time of Charles II., and the gradual expansion of brim led to the device of looping or tying up that portion. Hence arose various fashionable " cocks" in hats, such as the " Monmouth cock," &c. ; and ultimately, by the looping up equally of three sides of the low-crowned hat, the cocked hat which prevailed throughout the 18th century was elaborated.
Since the beginning of the present century the cocked hat as an ordinary article of dress has disappeared. The Quaker hat, plain, low in crown, and broad in brim, which originated with the sect in the middle of the 17th century, is also now becoming uncommon. See COSTUME.

HAT MANUFACTURE.—Until recent times hats were principally made by the process of felting, and as tradition ascribed the discovery of that very ancient operation to St Clement, he was assumed as the patron saint of the craft, and the annual festival of the trade continues to be held on St Clement's day, the 23d November. At the present day the trade is divided into two distinct classes. The first and most ancient is concerned with the manufacture of felt hats, and the second has to do with the recent but now most extensive and important manufacture of silk or dress hats. In addition to these there is the equally important manufacture of straw or plaited hats, which does not fall within the scope of this article; and hats are occasionally manufactured of materials and by processes not included under any of these heads, but such manufactures do not take a large or permanent position in the industry.

Felt Hats.—As now made, felt hats are of three different kinds, plain soft, plain hard, and " napped " or " ruffed " felts. There is a great range in the quality of felt hats, the finer and more expensive qualities being made entirely of fur; for commoner qualities a mixture of fur and Saxony wool is used; and for the lowest kinds wool alone is employed. The processes and apparatus necessary for making hats of fur differ also from those required in the case of woollen bodies; and in large manufactories machinery is now generally employed for operations which at no distant date were entirely manual. In the smaller factories, and for special objects, the old hand processes are still in operation. An outline of the operations by which the old beaver hat was and to some extent yet is made will give an idea of the manual processes in making a fur napped hat, and the apparatus and mechanical processes employed in making ordinary hard and soft felts will afterwards be noticed.

Hatters' fur consists principally of the hair of rabbits (technically called coneys) and hares, with some proportion of nutria, musquash, and beavers' hair; and generally any parings and cuttings from furriers are also used. Furs intended for felting are deprived of their long coarse hairs, after which they are treated with a solution of nitrate of mercury, an operation called carroting or secretage, whereby the felting properties of the fur are greatly increased. The fur is then cut by hand or machine from the skin, and in this state it is delivered to the hat maker. Rabbits' fur for hat-making now comes in large quantities from the Australian colonies; and it is also largely collected in the United Kingdom and in northern Europe. A considerable trade in rabbit fur for hat-making is maintained between Great Britain and the United States.

The old process of making a beaver hat is as follows. The materials of a proper beaver consist, for the body or foundation, of rabbits' fur, and for the nap, of beaver fur, although the beaver is often mixed with or supplanted by a more common fur. Such a hat may be regarded as the highest achievement of the hatter. In preparing the fur plate, the hatter weighs out a sufficient quantity of the hand. At each vibration some of the filaments start up to the height of a few inches, and fall away from the mass, a little to the right of the bow, their excursions being restrained by a concave frame of wicker work called the basket. One half of the material is first operated on, and by bowing and gathering, or a patting use of the basket, the stuff is loosely matted into a triangular figure, about 50 by 36 inches, called a bat. In this formation care is taken to work about two-thirds of the fur down towards what is intended for the brim, which being effected, greater density is induced by gentle pressure with the basket. It is then covered with a wettish linen cloth, upon which is laid the hardening skin, a piece of dry half-tanned horse hide. On this the workman presses or bakes until the stuff adheres closely to the damp cloth, in which it is then doubled up, freely pressed with the hand, and laid aside. By this process, called basoning, the bat has become compactly felted and thinned toward the sides and point. The other half of the fur is next sub-jected to precisely the same processes, after which a cone-shaped slip of stiff paper is laid on its surface, and the sides of the bat are folded over its edges to its form and size. It is then laid paper-side downward upon the first bat, which is now replaced on the hurdle, and its edges are transversely doubled over the introverted side-lays of the second bat, thus giving equal thickness to the whole body. In this condition it is reintroduced between folds of damp linen cloth, and again hardened, so as to unite the two halves, the knitting together of which is quickly effected. The paper is now withdrawn; and the body in the form of a large cone is removed to the plank or battery room.

The battery consists of an open iron boiler or kettle A (fig. 2), filled with scalding hot water, with shelves, B, C, partly of mahogany and partly of lead, sloping down to it. Here the body is first dipped in the water, and then withdrawn to the plank to partly cool and drain, when it is unfolded, rolledgently with a pin tapering towards the ends, turned, and worked in every direction, to toughen and shrink it, and at the same time prevent adhesion of its sides. Stopping or thicken-ing the thin spots which now appear, on looking through the body,

Fig. 2.

is carefully performed by dabbing on additional stuff in successive supplies from the hot liquor with a brush frequently dipped into the kettle, until the body be shrunk sufficiently (about one half) and thoroughly equalized. When quite dried, stiffening is performed with a brush dipped into a thin varnish of shellac, and rubbed into the body, the surface intended for the inside having much more laid on it than the outer, while the brim is made to absorb many times the quantity applied to any other part.

On being again dried, the body is ready to be covered with a nap of beaver hair. For this, in inferior qualities, the hair of the otter, nutria, or other fine fur is sometimes substituted. The requisite quantity of one or other of these is taken and mixed with a propor-tion of cotton, and the whole is bowed up into a thin uniform lap. The cotton merely serves to give sufficient body to the material to enable the workman to handle the lap. The body of the hat being damped, the workman spreads over it a covering of this lap, and by moistening and gentle patting with a brush the cut ends of the hair penetrate and fix themselves in the felt body. The hat is now put into a coarse hair cloth, dipped and rolled in the hot liquor until the fur is quite worked in, the cotton being left on the surface loose and ready for removal. The blocking, dyeing, and finishing processes in the case of beaver hats are similar to those employed for ordinary felts, except that greater care and dexterity are required on the part of the workmen, and further that the coarse hairs or kemps which may be in the fur are cut off by shaving the surface with a razor. The nap also must be laid in one direction, smoothed, and rendered glossy by repeated wettings, ironings, and brushings. A hat so finished is very durable, and it is much more light, cool, and easy-fitting to the head than the silk hat which has now so largely superseded it.

Till a comparatively recent date all attempts to apply machinery to the principal processes in felt hat-making resulted, in failure. As is the case with many other labour-saving appliances of recent in-troduction, the first efficient machinery for felt hat-making was devised in America, and from the United States the machine-making processes were introduced into England about the year 1858 ; and now in all large establishments machinery such as that alluded to below is employed. For the forming of hat bodies two kinds of machine are used, according as the material employed is fur or wool. In the case of fur, the essential portion of the apparatus used consists of a cone of copper of the size and form of the body or bat to be made, perforated all over with small holes. The cone is made to revolve on its axis slowly over an orifice under which there is a powerful fan, which maintains a strong inward draught of air through the holes in the cone. At the side of the cone, and with an opening towards it, is a trunk or box from which the fur to be made into a hat is thrown out by the rapid revolution of a brush-like cylinder, and as the cloud of separate hairs is expelled from the trunk, the current of air being sucked through the cone carries the fibres to it and causes them to cling closely to its surface. Thus a coating of loose fibres is accumulated on the copper cone, and these are kept in position only by the exhaust at work under it. When sufficient for a hat body has been deposited, a wet cloth is wrapped round it, over which an outer cone is slipped and the whole is removed for felting, while another copper cone is placed in posi-tion for continuing the work. The felting of fur bodies is princi-pally done by hand-labour, although machinery has recently been introduced by which it is partly done. The bat or body of wool hats is prepared by first carding in a modified form of carding machine. The wool is divided into two separate slivers as delivered from the cards, and these are wound simultaneously on a double conical block of wood mounted and geared to revolve slowly with a reciprocating horizontal motion, so that there is a continual crossing and recrossing of the wool as the sliver is wound around the cone. This diagonal arrangement of the sliver is an essential feature in the apparatus, as thereby the strength of the finished felt is made equal in every direction ; and when strained in the blocking the texture yields in a uniform manner without rupture. The wool wound on the double block forms the material of two hats, which are separated by cutting around the median or base line, and slipping each half off at its own end. Into each cone of wool or bat an "inlayer" is now placed to prevent the inside from matting, after which they are folded in cloths, and placed over a perforated iron plate through which steam is blown. When well moistened and heated, they are placed between boards, and subjected to a rub-bing action sufficient to harden them for bearing the subsequent strong planking or felting operations. The planking of wool hats is generally done by machine, in some cases a form of fulling mill being used ; but in all forms the agency is heat, moisture, pressure, rubbing, and turning.

When by thorough felting the hat bodies of any kind have been reduced to dense leathery cones about one-half the size of the original bat, they are dried, and, if hard felts are to be made, the bodies are at this stage hardened or stiffened with a varnish of shellac. Next follows the operation of blocking, in which the felt for the first time assumes approximately the form it is ultimately to possess. For this purpose the conical body is softened in boiling water, and forcibly drawn over a hat-shaped wooden block. A string is passed round where the band is to be, and the brim is then flattened out from the string. Next follows the dyeing of the hat in a bath of suitable dyeing materials, according to the colour desired. In deal-ing with fine hats, each hat is separately dyed while on the block, but with commoner qualities it is the practice to dye before block-ing. The finishing processes include shaping on a block, over which crown and brim receive accurately their ultimate form, and pouncing or pumicing, which consists of smoothing the whole surface with emery or glass paper while the hat is still stretched on the block. The trimmer finally binds the outer brim and inserts the lining, after which the brim may get more or less of a curl or turn over according to prevailing fashion. Machines of American invention for blocking and pouncing have to some extent been introduced.

Silk Hats.—The silk hat, which has now become coextensive with civilization, is an article of recent introduction. It was known in Florence about a century ago; but its manufacture was not introduced into France till about 1825, and its development has taken place entirely since that period. A silk hat consists of a light stiff body covered with a plush of silk, the manufacture of which in a brilliant glossy condition is the most important element in the industry; and in that manufacture the French are without equals. Originally the bodies were made of felt and various other materials, but now calico is almost exclu-sively used.
The calico is first stiffened with a varnish of shellac, and then cut into pieces sufficient for crown, side, and brim. The side-piece is wound round a wooden hat block, and its edges are joined by hot ironing, and the crown-piece is put on and similarly attached to the side. The brim, consisting of three thicknesses of calico cemented together, is now slipped over and brought to its position, and thereafter a second side-piece and another crown are cemented on. The whole of the body, thus prepared, now receives a coat of size, and subsequently it is varnished over, and thus it is ready for the operation of covering. In covering this body, the under brim, generally of merino, is first attached, then the upper brim, and lastly the crown and side sewn together are drawn over. All these by hot ironing and stretching are drawn smooth and tight, and as the varnish of the body softens with the heat, body and cover adhere all over to each other without wrinkle or pucker. Dressing and polishing by means of damping, brushing, and ironing, come next, after which the hat is "velured" in a revolving machine by the application of haircloth and velvet velures, which cleans the nap and gives it a smooth and glossy surface. The brim has only then to be bound, the linings inserted, and the brim finally curled, when the hat is ready for use.

In all kinds of hat-making the French excel, and in such centres as Anduze, Lyons, and Paris the trade is very extensive and important. In the United Kingdom the felt hat trade is principally centred at Denton and other localities in the neighbourhood of Manchester, and in America the States of New York and New Jersey enjoy the greater part of the industry. The value of the hats annually exported from the United Kingdom somewhat exceeds £1,000,000 sterling. (J. PA.)

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