From silk bonnets to baseball caps, museum has hats of all kinds

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By Wanda Lassiter
Curator, Museum of the Albemarle

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Every month has its days to honor individuals, events and objects. January celebrates the births of Martin Luther King, Jr., Paul Revere, Sherlock Holmes, Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, and the Rubber Duckie from Sesame Street. The month is also tagged as National Puzzle Day, Popcorn Day, Milk Day and Hat Day. January 15 is National Hat Day.

Whether seen as fashion or simply as a cover to protect one’s head from the heat or the cold, hats have been around at several thousand years. Hats have been constructed of fur, straw, feathers, knitted or crocheted fabric, gold (think Egyptian headdresses), and even Styrofoam.

The Museum of the Albemarle has over 100 hats in its collection including cocktail hats, bowler hats, turbans, political hats, and one cowboy hat. We even have hats worn by dolls, coin banks in the shape of hats, and dozens upon dozens of hat boxes. The earliest hat in the museum’s collection dates to the 1850s. In 2004, one family donated a total of 27 hats. A collection acquired in 2005 contained 7 hats, all worn by a family from Pasquotank County during the 1910s to the 1950s.

Many of MOA’s hats are on display in our galleries. The museum’s Our Story exhibit contains a United States Coast Guard helmet, a baseball cap, and a silk bonnet. Captain Billy E. Richardson wore the Coast Guard helmet and George Beveridge sported the baseball cap when he played for the BPOE league in the early 1900s in Elizabeth City. The bonnet belonged to Abigail Peele Jennett Outland during the 19th century while she was a member of the Rich Square Meeting in Northampton County.

The Tar Heels in the Trenches: The Great War in the Albemarle exhibit features a French Adrian helmet, a British Glengarry cap, German Pickelhaube and Stahlhelm helmets, and hats that were a part of American unifoms worn by soldiers during World War I. On October 7 , 1936, Ammon J. Scott, Jr., co-operator of Sawyer and Company, a men’s clothing store in Elizabeth City, married Jane Sawyer. The top hat he wore during the wedding ceremony is featured in our I Do! Weddings in the Albemarle, 1831-2015 exhibit.

The Museum of the Albemarle will celebrate National Hat day on Wednesday. The museum would be pleased if you’d join us at 2:30 pm in our lobby to be included in a group photograph of staff and visitors participating in National Hat Day.

Be sure and also mark your calendars for our Second Annual Kentucky Derby Party on Saturday, May 5 – it will be the perfect chance for you to don your fashionable hats, drink Mint Juleps, watch the derby and then dance the evening away with DJ Tazz!

Wanda Lassiter is the curator at Museum of the Albemarle.