Tuesday 15 September 2015

Hats: felts, demi-castors, castors and beavers.

Who wore hats
Livrustkammaren1647. Survival number 11 in the list 

While the questions of when and where hats were worn are not addressed here, almost everyone, male and female, wore a hat or a cap in the seventeenth century. Even boys too young to be breeched could be depicted wearing or holding a hat, as in a 1630s painting in the Colchester collection. How ubiquitous the hat was can be seen in this Hollar engraving of the execution of the earl of Strafford in 1641, the man standing on the pile of blocks who isn’t wearing a hat, has his hat in his hand. Hats were owned at all levels of society from the poorest to the richest, the value, what they were made from and the styles were what changed.

The cost of the most expensive hats was always a matter of discussion. In the same decade, the 1580s, that Philip Stubbs was complaining that Beaver hats might cost 20, 30 or 40 shillings, the petty chapman William Davies had hats in stock valued at 6d, 8d, 1 shilling, 1s. 6d and 1s 8d. (1, 2) Eighty years later in 1661 Pepys wrote that “Mr. Holden sent me a bever, which costs me £4-5s-0d., this at a time when Spufford reckoned the average price of a hat was around 2s 6d. (3, 4) Even those lower down the social scale might own more than one hat, in the 1630s Joane Furnell a widow had “two old hats” worth 5s, while John Sessions, a carpenter,  had 2 hats worth only 1s 6d. (5)
Much of the value of a hat was in the material used to make it. As Fenner commented, “Your four-shillings Dutch felt shall be converted to a three pound beaver.”(6)

According to Kerridge the art of making felt hats was brought to England by French and Walloon immigrants to Norfolk. When the first hatters guild was founded in Norwich in 1543 the comment was made that, “they have inventyd and begune the craft of hattes making within the same cyte, whiche they can now make as well and as good as ever came owte of France or Flanders or any other realm.”(7)
Generally speaking the cheapest hats were a felt made of sheep’s wool. Different types of felt were available depending on the type of sheep’s wool used and whether it was mixed with other fibres, so we have references as in Fenner above to a Dutch felt, there are references to a cordiback and a Carolina felt in Holme, the hatter Gilbert Lymberge had Spanish felts and estridge felts (8, 9). Estridge refers to an eastern European wool, described in the 1720 edition of Stow’s Survey of London as “The Estridge Wools, that is the Wools imported from the East Countries, a coarser sort, amounted not to two hundred Weight.”
A step above entirely sheep’s wool felts was French felt, which Randle Holme described as “between a Felt and a Caster.” Castors and demicastors were usually made of a mixture of fibres. This assumes that a castor hat is not the same as a beaver hat, despite castor (an animal) being another name for a beaver (animal). By the mid 17th century there is a differentiation, a 1650 quote in Howell indicates that people might try to pass off “Demicastors for Bevers”. (10) Holme describes a castor as “made of Coney [rabbit] Wool, mixt with Polony Wooll”. Polony is Polish wool. There was also a Vigone, which Blount describes as “a kind of Demicaster, or Hat, of late so called, from the fine Wool, which for the most part they are made of, borne by a kinde of sheep of Spain of that name.” (11)
Above the caster is the beaver made, not unsurprisingly of felted beaver hair. The original beaver hats, as mentioned by Chaucer, came from Russia often via Flanders, but by the end of the sixteenth century European beaver had been hunted almost to extinction. With the discovery of the Americas, Russian beaver was replaced by North American beaver. There are also different levels of quality in the beaver fur itself so imports are separated into parchment beaver (castor sec – dry beaver), or coat beaver (castor gras – greasy beaver) (12) When James I ascended the throne of England in 1603 he purchased twenty beavers hats and, possibly because the court was in mourning for Elizabeth I, seventeen of these hats were black, lined with taffeta and trimmed with black bands and feathers. (13)

Frans Hals - Rev John Livingstone (1603-72)
In the 1580s Stubbs, the original grumpy old man, made the following observations on the styles that were around. “Some times they were them sharp on the crowne, pearking up like a sphere, or shafte of a steeple, standing a quarter of a yard above the crowne of their heades; some more, some less, as please the phantasies of their mindes. Othersome be flat and broad on the crowne, like the battlements of a house. Another sort have round crowns, sometimes with one kind of bande, sometime with an other.” (1)
By the 1660s it is Samuel Butler taking on Stubbs mantle, “Sometime whear hats like pyramids, And sometimes flat like pipkin lids: With broad brims, sometimes like umbrellas. And sometimes narrow as Punchinellos.” (14)
The range of these styles is reflected in the heights of the crowns of the surviving hats listed below, which are from around 12cm (4.75 inches) (survival 9) to 36cm (14.25 inches) (survival 2) tall. A selection of styles, including some worn by foreigners (note the Muscovy merchants in the left hand corner), can be seen by using the zoom to bring up the detail in Hollar’s wonderful 1644 engraving of the Royal Exchange.
Hats were usually worn with the brim flat but they could be cocked, that is turned up to one side, so we have a 1642 quote of a “A youngster gent, With bever cock't.” (16)  This style can be seen in the c.1620 painting of Nathaniel Bacon, and in survivals 7 and 9 below.
It is John Bulwer in 1653 who speaks of the problems involved in wearing a “classic” sugar loaf hat, “Sugar loaf hats which are so mightly affected of late both by men and women, so imcommodious for use that every puff of wind deprives us of them. Requiring the employment of one hand to keep them on.” (15)

Lining, colours, re-dying and repairs
That hats could be both lined and coloured can be seen in the list of Ben Frewen a haberdasher, in 1632 he has both “a color’d fealt lyn’d in ye brimes” and “a fine colerd fealt lyn’d in the head” What colour these linings might have been we don’t know, but there is a magnificent 1663 effigy to the Somerset family in Brent Knoll church which is painted. John Somerset’s wife is shown wearing a red lined hat.   Most hats are black, there are mentions of grey and very occasionally white hats, but we don’t really know what colour the hats were dyed.
Hats, like other garments were often repaired and/or re-dyed. Joyce Jefferies in Herefordshire paid in 1644, 2s 6d for having a beaver hat dressed and a further 6d to have the brim stiffened. (17) In 1647/8 James Master paid one shilling “For new dying my hat” When they were no longer of use they might be cannibalised for other purposes, the whalers in Spitsbergen appear to have cut foot shaped pieces out of their old hats to line the insides of their shoes. (18)

A Few Survivals
Survival 1 -Victoria and Albert Museum. c.1590-1660. A hat and hat box associated with the Cotton family of Etwall Hall, Derbyshire. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O234640/hat-unknown/

Survival 2 - Victoria and Albert Museum. c.1590-1660. A hat with a very tall, 36 cm, crown. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O98558/hat-unknown/

Survival 3 -Victoria and Albert Museum. c.1590-1670. A hat with a lower crown 17cm. This is the hat that features in North, Susan and Jenny Tiramani, eds, Seventeenth-Century Women’s Dress Patterns, vol.2, London: V&A Publishing, 2012, pp.144-145. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O357644/hat/

Survival 4 -The Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon. A hat supposedly owned by Oliver Cromwell himself. https://mercuriuspoliticus.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/cromwells-hat.jpg

Survival 5 - Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, MA. c.1615-1640 A hat traditionally association with Mayflower passenger Constance Hopkin http://www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org/images/collections/per_hopkin_beaver_hat_1.jpg

Survival 6 -Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam,  the hat belonging to Ernst Casimir of Nassau-Dietz (1573-1632) He was wearing this hat at the Siege of Roermond when he was killed by a shot to the head.  https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/search/objecten?p=1&ps=12&title=hat&yearfrom=1550&yearto=1700&ii=1#/NG-NM-7445,1
Survivals 7 and 8 – Vasa Museum, Stockholm. These two are from the ship the Vasa which sank in 1628. http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5580/14300577343_a424a15b90_z.jpg

Survival 9- Skokloster Castle,Sweden.  c.1676  and associated with Nils Bielke (1644-1716) and the Battle of Lund. The edge that is cocked up has residues of thread either for fastening up or attaching decoration. There are also the remains of a black silk lining. http://emuseumplus.lsh.se/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=34157&viewType=detailView

 Survival 10 - Livrustkammaren, Stockholm. A view from above of a hat listed in 1671 as being owned by Charles X of Sweden (1622-1660) (19) http://emuseumplus.lsh.se/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=67993&viewType=detailView  and the same hat seen sideways on http://emuseumplus.lsh.se/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=literature&objectId=2599&viewType=detailView  

Survival 11 - Livrustkammaren, Stockholm. This is a prototype hat proposed in 1647 by Magnus Gabriel de la Gardie for Queen Christina's bodyguard, you can just see the wording written on the brim " Prof Hatt för Drottning Christina Hof Guarde ".    http://emuseumplus.lsh.se/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=literature&objectId=5100&viewType=detailView, There is a hatband and two loops of silk braid to hold plumes, there are also fragments of a pale grey-brown silk braid around the edge, as can be seen in this image http://emuseumplus.lsh.se/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=literature&objectId=28390&viewType=detailView   Here is the hat seen from underneath where you can see a leather loop. http://emuseumplus.lsh.se/eMuseumPlus?service=ExternalInterface&module=collection&objectId=42735&viewType=detailView

1. Stubbes, Philip. 1583. Anatomie of Abuses
2. Spufford, Margaret. 1984. The Great Reclothing of Rural England: Petty Chapmen and Their Wares in the Seventeenth Century. London: Hambledon Press
3. Pepys, Samuel. Diary 27th June 1661
4. Spufford, Margaret. 2000. The Cost of Apparel in Seventeenth Century England and the Accuracy of Gregory King. Economic History Review, 53 (4) 677-705
5. Williams, L. and Thomson, S. 2007. Marlborough probate inventories 1591-1775. Chippenham: Wiltsire Recod Society.
6. Fenner, William. 1616. The counter’s commonwealth.
7. Kerridge, Eric. 1985. Textile Manufactures in Early Modern England. Manchester: Manchester U. P.
8. Holme, Randle, 1688. The Academy of Armory
9. Cited in Cunnington, C. W. and P.1970. Handbook of English Costume in the Sixteenth Century. London: Faber
10. Howell, James, 1908. Epistolae Ho-Elianae or The Familiar Letters of James Howell (1594?-1666).  Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
11. Blount, Thomas. 1656. Glossographia; or, A dictionary interpreting all such hard words, …as are now used in our refined English tongue. London
12. Carlos, Ann and Frank Lewis. 2008, The Economic History of the Fur Trade: 1670 to 1870. In: EH.Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. March 16, 2008. URL http://eh.net/encyclopedia/the-economic-history-of-the-fur-trade-1670-to-1870/ Accessed 10 September 2015
13. Ginsburg, Madeleine. 1990. The hat: trends and tradition. London: Barrons
14. Butler, Samuel. c.1663. Satire upon Our Ridiculous Imitation of the French
15. Bulwer, John. 1653. Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d, or the Artificial Changeling. London.
16. More, H. 1642. Psychodoia Platonica. London
17. Quoted in Gaunt, Peter. 2014. The English Civil War: a Military History. Tauris
18. Vons-Comis, S.Y. 1987. Workman's Clothing or Burial Garments? Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Clothing Remains from Spitsbergen. In: Norsk Polarinstitutt
Rapportserie, nr.38, p.78-87
19. Rangström, Lena. 2002.  Modelejon. Manligt mode 1500-tal 1600-tal 1700-tal. Stockholm: Livrustkammaren

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