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Author Topic: A treatise on just WTF is up with the cowboy hat in today’s Westerns  (Read 96187 times)
cigar joe
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« on: August 17, 2008, 11:35:11 PM »

by Cigar Joe  WA(Western Aficionado) OoL (Order of Leone)

In  this treatise we here on the Leone Board are going to examine the different styles of Western hats that are found captured in historical photographs, depicted in historical prints and sketches, rendered by contemporary artists and then juxtapose those images against the “cowboy hat” depicted in genre of film and television we call Westerns from 1903’s “Great Train Robbery” to the present.

I believe one of the reasons that many of today’s Westerns seem a bit off is there is an over emphasis with authenticity which places them more in a historical costume drama genre rather than a true Western. That misguided authenticity removes them from the fictional Mythic West that golden age mythology that was created in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s with the late 50’s to late 60’s being the high water mark.

The catalyst for this treatise is the trend that seemingly started in the 1980’s and continues in the current crop of made for TV Westerns that feature what seems to me these overly exaggerated “ten gallon” style cowboy hats with very wide brims and very high crowns harking back to the Tom Mix William S. Hart  period of Western films.

Historically suffice it to say there was no single style of hat for the folks that lived beyond the civilization on the American frontier.. From about 1680 through the end of the eighteenth century, the cocked hat reigned supreme as the most popular American hat and it was worn either in the French or British style. The carriage hat was popular between 1780 and 1820 and the longhunter  with a low 3 1/2 inch-round crown- with a four-inch wide brim is the first hat that begins to resemble what we think of as a cowboy hat., By the time of the Civil War a wide variety of headwear became available to the general public.

Here are for reference great examples of period hats from The Clearwater Hat Company: http://www.clearwaterhats.com/

The Tall Beehive



Low Beehive



These two were cheap cost cutting hats made during the Civil War their upturned brims were the result of quick manufacture.

The Derby



The General Lee



From a style worn by General Lee.

The Gettysburg



A style from various photos taken at Gettysburg

The High Rider



The John Bull



The Mosby



The Panama



The Plantation



The Narrow Plantation



The Shiloh from images American Civil War Shiloh battlefield.



The Slouch hat



The Slouch Anteitam



Now I think we'd all agree that of these period hats the Tall Beehive, The General Lee, The Gettysburg, The High Rider, The Mosby, The Panama, The two Plantations, The Shiloh,  The Slouch,  and The Slouch Antietam, all with some personal modifications could pass for what we call "Cowboy Hats"

In the following posts I'll add images from historical sources and Western Film and we will continue the discussion


« Last Edit: October 20, 2008, 08:41:43 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2008, 07:22:08 AM »

For a jump off point lets use the California Gold Rush of 1849



Here is a picture of prospectors working a sluice box circa 1850's

Man #1 a free black man (California was admitted to the Union in 1850 as a free state), he looks as if he has either a slouch, Gettysburg, mosby or john bull hat. Notice also that his shirt has a definite collar and he's wearing his boots "Texican Style" (with his pants tucked into them).

Man #2 looks like he is wearing a plantation hat with a flat crown. He's got the classic bib front shirt with a collar and also boots in the "Texican Style."

Man#3 another free black man with possibly a  straw Panama Hat, smoking a clay pipe shirt with a collar and again boots "Texican Style."

Man #4 on wagon wearing possibly a tall beehive hat, a collared shirt and possibly a bandanna, he has a vest also and his boots are also "Texican Style."

Another point to notice and to keep in mind is how they are wearing their hats. In the manner they are posed any breeze or gust of wind would blow them off their heads, its obvious that under the direction of the photographer they were told to tip them back so that their faces would not be in shadow.

I've had arguments with some reenactor morons who insist that that is the way they wore them cause that is the way they were photographed. In future pictures, in this thread where people were caught in candid poses you'll notice the difference.




This is an illustration from the Illustrated News Fed 3, 1853

This prospectors hat is either a top hat, a  john bull or a high rider style could possibly even be a carriage hat (see Clearwater Hat Company link, hes carring a revoler, a rifle, and a knife tucked in his boots again worn Texican Style , lol, I guess a boot knife wouldn't be any use if worn with the pants over the boot. He is also depicted with a vest and it looks like his shirt has a collar peeking out.



This illustration is from Harper's Weekly 1857

Man 1 looks like he's wearing a pork pie or plug hat. Man 2 a short beehive, Man 3 a Panama, gamblers 4 stovepipe top hats, 5 a tall beeghive, 6 looks like what is reffered to as a longhunter, 7 looks like the only sombrero, 8 looks like a deformed slouch, 9 another pork pie, 10 a tall beehive with a crushed crown he's also got a noticeable collar, 11 and 12 also look like beehives, 13 has a turned up side brim with a flat crown possibly a Plantaion style and 14 is similar but with the front brim folded towards the crown these two look like "Cowboy hats".



A 49er with a wide brim plantation stlye hat again worn way back on his head as per the photographers instructons.

« Last Edit: August 18, 2008, 08:42:12 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2008, 03:13:46 PM »

Great post, Joe. And I love the Order of Leone concept. How does one get the award?

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« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2008, 03:23:24 PM »

Excellent thread, Joe. I can't wait for your next post, this is incredibly interesting and original.

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« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2008, 07:17:18 PM »

Order of Leone, just made it up,  we are all members  Afro

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« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2008, 08:23:03 PM »



Another trio of placer miners, Miner 1 has what looks like a slouch hat with a side crease in the crown. Miners 2 & 3 both have what look like wide brim panamas miner 2 has suspenders.

Lets jump up to the 1860's with the Civil War raging in the East and trans Mississippi West.



Here is Gen. William Tecumse Sherman wearing a Slouch Hat , notice its low over his eyes and not tipped back



And US Grant with the same style Slouch Hat though it looks as if his crown is flattened,  Grant has his tipped back a bit on his head in this Matthew Brady image.



Here we have Alan Pinkerton on the left wearing a derby, Lincoln in the center with his trademark Stovepipe, and the officer on the right in what looks like a Hardee hat without one side being cocked up by a badge as seen in example below also looks like the only decoration he has is the gold cord again see the example below:



No Doubt there were countless kepi's worn by veterans of both North & South after the war and we'll keep an eye out for them as we continue. We will retun to the military during the Indian Wars.

« Last Edit: August 19, 2008, 09:38:16 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2008, 10:33:46 PM »

Post War Period thousands of Civil War veterans both North & South along with Irish immigrants stream West to work on the Union Pacific Rail Road one of the great engineering feats in American History.




Left to right man 1 tipped back plantaion possibly, man 2 a Confederate vet by his pants wearing a straw Panana, man 3 a Union vet wearing a tall beehive with a creased crown, man 4 looks like another tall beehive, man 5 in what looks like a plug hat (see below), man 6 in a derby, man 7 with a slouch hat, and black man 8 in a shiloh.



Here below is a group of UPRR workers and the paymasters car at Promomtory Point Utah 1869.



Hats by number, 1 Panama, 2 Plug, 3 Panama with a "cowboy" crease, 4 Wheel Cap (see below), 5 Kepi or Forage cap, 6 Slouch, 7 Long Hunter, 8 Slouch, 9 Tall Beehive, 10 11 12 13 14 15 Slouches (10 & 11 with "cowboy" crease), 16 flat brimmed Shiloh 17 Tall beehive, 18 Mechanics Cap (see below), 19 20 Slouch Hats, 21 Tall beehive and note bene this guy is actually smiling a rarity in these old photos, 22 Tall Beehive , 23 "cowboy" creased Slouch, 24 Plantaion, 25 A "cowboy" creased Slouch very cowboy looking,  26 Plantation, 27 Black man with a Shiloh, 28 Slouch, 29 Possible plantation with front brim folded up, 30 Hrdee, 31 32 Plantation, 33 Slouch, 34 Plugg, 35 Shiloh, 36 Slouch. 37 Plugg, 38 Plantation, 39 Plugg, 40 Mechanics Cap, 41 & 42 Slouch (42 with "cowboy" crease).

Wheel Cap



Mechanics Cap







« Last Edit: August 23, 2008, 08:09:10 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2008, 09:11:35 AM »

Ok we'll look now at images of the classic period of the American West from the end of the Civil War to the turn of the century. John B. Stetson created the first "Cowboy " hat in 1865 it was called the "Boss of the Plains". In the year 1872, Montgomery Ward Catalog offered rural America opportunities to buy store-bought clothing for the working class. The catalog offered only one broad-brimmed hat, the farmer-type “Men’s Panama Hat.”

Four years later, in 1878, Ward offered a new line, the “Men’s Planter’s Hat.” These plain hats were broad-brimmed with a round, slightly shaped crown, much like today’s finished but unshaped cowboy hat. Toward the end of the 1800s, after seeing the popularity of various self-shaped styles, Stetson began producing various pre-shaped styles. Other companies began offering cowboy hats, but the Stetson remained the capstone. In 1883, Montgomery Ward offered a selection of cowboy hats.



Here we have Harpers Weekly 1871 illustration of a group of wagon train guides,. Black man 1 has a sraw Panama hat  and a shirt with a collar & is off to go fishing, man 2 the fiddler has what looks like a slouch, man 3 a wide brimmed plantation, man 4 has a creased brim plug hat and a shirt with a definite collar, man 5 a mountain man's fur hat, man 6 a slouch, man 7 possibly a front creased Stetson.

.

Below we have a detail of Frederick Remmington illustration 1888 Harpers of the end of the trail man standing probably has either a Stetson or the "Texan Chief Cowboy Mexican Sombrero Hat " quite a mouthful, lol. The mounted cowboy has either a flat brimmed plantation or flat brimmed Stetson.


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« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2008, 09:51:21 AM »

Here is a group (below) of citizens of Marysville Montana sometime in the 1880's, From left to right, man 1 & 2 look like slouch hats, man 3 has possibly a Stetson with a "cowboy" crease, man 4 another slouch, 5 has a cap, 6 & 7 machinist caps, 8 & 9 may be slouches, 10  & 11  Stetsons , 12 a derby, 13 a Stetson, 14 a slouch possibly, 15 a Stetson with a "Montana peak", 16 a slouch, 17 & 18  Stetsons, 19 & 20 possible slouches. Note bene that this photo though posed is a bit more natural in appearance. Men 3-9-15-17-21-23 & 24 are wearing theirs low on the forehead shading their eyes.




« Last Edit: June 16, 2010, 04:48:14 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2008, 12:31:27 PM »

Great thread.  Hats off to you !!!

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« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2008, 07:22:33 AM »

On a breezy summers day in the 1880's in the boom town of Tombstone Arizona, a crowd of locals gather around a rope arena at the edge of town to watch a cock fight, the roosters have just been released and a plume of dust wafts up from their initial contact. It may have taken place outside of one of the local bordellos and we see some of the girls are in the crowd while the madam looks on from the doorway in the background.

The image below is originally from the Arizona Historical Society from a Time Life book "The Gunfighters" its a totally candid photo of a cock fight in 1880's Tombstone Arizona. Its one of my favorite images because it shows a slice of candid life & how hats were worn and the various styles in the natural environment of the Old West:



We see a crowd gathered around a roped off arena.

So lets examine it closely and see what i can tell us. Starting from left man 1 & 2 look like they are wearing stetsons, man 2 has his pants over his boots.

Man 3 is wearing his hat with flat crown and a straight brim (Gaucho Style) very similar to Mortimer in For A Few Dollars More & Frank in Once Upon A Time In The West, man 4 a Man With No Name type slouch, man 5 has a Stetson ( Mongomery Ward - MW), man 6 has a sombrero and is wearing a bandanna, man 7 a Stetson or MW, man 8 a sombrero and a bandanna, man 9  he has that flat crowned flat brimmed Gaucho style had similar to man 3.  Man 10 is again similar to man 9, man 11 a narrower brimmed Man With No Name slouch.

# 12 is a lady with a straw hat, man 13 has a derby, man 14 looks like he has a Stetson or MW. Man 15 one of the rooster owners has a sombrero he wears is pants over his boots. Man 16 has either a Plantation or Stetson - MW and he is the first we see that has his hat pushed back on his head naturally he looks like he's also got a bandanna.

# 17 is our second female watching the spectacle. Man 18 has a straw boater with a wide brim its a bit more clearer in the book the center binding area is a bit blurred by the scan. Man 19 has a Stetson-MW and the man to his left has one also, to that mans left is our third female spectator who is blurred in the scan.

Man 20 has what looks like straw top hat , Lady 21 the possible "Madam" lounges in the doorway of a bordello. Man 22 has on either a Stetson or MW. Man 23 who is one of the contests two judges wears a derby,  and man 24 a straw Panama or a boater.

Lady 25 is interesting,  she looks like a real sport, she has a nice hourglass figure she's standing high up on something so that she can ge a good view of the fight. She's holding on to her fancy bonnet with both hands so that the breeze doesn't blow it off her head. Now just below her is what looks like a man with a shotgun over his shoulder, could it be one of the Earps? or sheriff Johnny Behan or one of his deputies keep order at the fight? Interesting.

Man 26 is our second judge, he's got some type of big white cravat on. 27 is another female to her left looks like another female turned to the left. between them is a little girl at the rope and a boy to her right, Men 28,29,  30 and 31 all look like they are wearing either Stetsons or MW's. 32 has a flat brimmed round crowned hat ( like in film Tombstone 1993).

Man 33 is the other owner of one of the roosters he's got a tall crowned sombrero. Man 34 has a flat brimmed Stetson or MW, man 35 has a straw boater,  man 36 has a narrower brimmed Man with No Name slouch. Man 37 has a sombrero. 38 is a Stetson or a MW. 39 looks like another slouch, 40 a possible straw boater, 41 42 & 43  Stetsons or MW's.

Man 44 is the first in the entire crowd that you can see has a definite "cowboy crease" almost everyone else (though 19 & 22 may also have creases)  is wearing for all intents and purposes flat brims. 45 looks like a Panama, 46 has a Stetson or MW, and just to his left is another female looking at him.

Man 48 has a slight "cowboy crease" in his slouch hat. 49 looks like a tall beehive.
 


« Last Edit: June 16, 2010, 04:55:08 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2008, 01:34:06 PM »

The black Hardee Hat you show above was worn (not exclusively, but most notably) by the Union Iron Brigade (1st Brigade, 1st Division, I Corps, Army of the Potomac) which fought at Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. It was their distinctive trademark.

Great thread CJ, you're doing a valuable service through your research. Keep it up. Afro

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« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2008, 08:34:12 AM »

Another candid photo from Magdalena, New Mexico "Trails End Pens" 1887.



Man 1 a Stetson or MW, man 2 a slouch with a definite "cowboy" crease. Man 3 a Stetson or MW, man 4 a round crown slouch with a "cowboy" crease, man 5 has a flat toped flat crowed "Gaucho" style hat. Man 6 a creased crown and a rolled up "cowboy" creased at the sides brim.  Man 7 has a Stetson or MW with a creased crown and slightly creased brim. Man 8 a round crown slouch, and man 9 a Stetson or MW with a top crease.



A Saloon in Kelly New Mexico circa 1886 (a Joseph E. Smith Photo) man 1. on horseback a flat crowned slouch, man 2 and 3  a flat brim creased crown slouch man 2 has a 4 crease crown reminiscent of Army Spanish American War campaign style hats also called the "Montana Peak", man 4 a round crown flat brimmed slouch. Man 6 has a Stetson or MW cowboy sombrero (a definite  early John Wayne/Hoss Cartwright style  hat, lol). Man 7 has a slouch with a "cowboy" crease. Kid 8 has a cheap short beehive from the looks of the turned up brim. Man 9 has a creased crown slouch note bene that under his left hand are two reflections of light possibly the only man wearing a revolver. Water trough has a cast iron pump

« Last Edit: August 24, 2008, 06:03:06 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2008, 09:09:30 AM »

Lets backrack to the post civil war military 

Below we have a sergeant wearing a well worn top creased slouch with gold cord decoration.
This is at the Ft. Leavenworth arsenal in 1867. Behind him above his head are two spectators
the one on the left wearing a plug hat the one on the right possibly a tall beehive.



Below we have an example of a Plainsman, which was known in the Old Northwest
(East of the Mississippi) from the around the Revolution as a Longhunter.



This style is probably most famous from an image of Wild Bill Hickcok who sports one.
Below is another infamous character of the old west sporting one whether or not he wore it a Little Bighorn I don't know



George Armstrong Custer wearing his plainsman with flattened center creased crown.

Below is a sketch in the field on the frontier by Frederic Remington of cavalry officer Lt. Carter P. Johnson during the
Geronimo Campaign he has a wide brimmed Stetson ,  note the checkered bandanna, the leather gaiters & leather gloves



Below is an example of a cavalry officer circa 1890 wearing a slouch
not much different from the Ft. Leavenwoth image of 1867, though you'll
notice there is no gold cord braid on his and he has both a center crease and two side creases.



« Last Edit: August 24, 2008, 09:35:40 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: August 25, 2008, 08:01:09 AM »

Found this painting of the Iron Brigade previously mentioned. They're clearly sporting the Hardee hat mentioned by CJ:


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