Have you ever had a hat that lost its shape? The way to prevent that would be a hat stand. A hat stand can be short or tall. All hat stands have a base with a rod and a knob at the top. The difference in size
comes from the difference in the size of the rod. While short hat stands sit on closet shelves, large hat stands sit on the floor. The purpose of a hat stand is to support a hat so that the hats shape is maintained when not in use. Hats have been around for a very long time, with hat stands being used during the early 1900’s.
At one point in time, hats were worn by everyone. Ladies would use hats to shade their faces from the sun and men would wear hats as a status symbol and for style. Hat stands were then needed for many homes, so hats would retain their shape. Aside from personal use a milliner would use hat stands. A milliner is someone who makes hats, and hat stands or hat blocks would be used for making the hats and then displaying them in their shop. Colonial Williamsburg has a millinery shop where Mark Hutter and Margaret Hunter, each the owner of their own shop, show visitors what would have happened in a 1770’s millinery or merchants shop. Millinery shops were the only business that a woman could purchase, before the American Revolution. The shops would cater to men, women, and children and would have mantua makers or tailors who would measure and then make outfits for customers.
Hat stands come from all over the world and are made from a variety of materials. The
British Museum has three hat stands from China that they believe date to the Qing Dynasty. Two are engraved or craved and the third is covered in fabric. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston also has a Qing Dynasty had stand. This hat stand is made of porcelain and has designs on it. The Powerhouse Museum in Australia has a hat stand from the McDougall brother’s millinery shop. This particular hat stand was made in France between 1930 and 1945 and is made of soft pine wood with a face carved on the front. It was also used as a hat block, which were used to make different shapes and styles of hats. The hat block was covered with tissue paper, plastic bags, or a washable fabric to prevent staining and then the material for the hat was added to be shaped on the block.
Here at the High Plains Museum we have five hat stands, all made of metal and all owned by Ella Gulick. The photograph on the top left is a green hat stand, with a straight rod and circled foot. It has a pink rose and green leaves on the circle. The photograph on the top right is covered in brown velvet and has a straight rod with a circle base. The second photograph on the left is a light green hat stand with circle foot that is 2 ½ inches. The second photograph on the right is a pink hat stand where the rod curves up and has a circle foot. The last hat stand in our collections is a green stand with a 3 ½ inch base.
Hats have been worn for ages with the hat stand helping people and milliners keep the
shape of their hats. Hat stands were used in the early 1900’s and for a while were extremely popular. Today the popularity in hat stands has faded, but some are still used especially in the market place. Can you think of an object that at one time was popular but in recent times
has decreased in popularity? Please leave your comments in the section below.