July 9, 2013

Brown Bowler / Derby Hat from Edgewater Beach Hotel

This has to be one of the niftier collectables we've found from the Edgewater/Uptown area—a brown derby hat (like the one worn by Charlie Chaplin) designed by Knox of New York and sold at Plum's of the Edgewater Beach Hotel. It actually says Edgewater Beach Hotel in the band in the lining! I wasn't able to find out much about Plum's, other than it was a shop in the EBH. Does anyone have more information?

You can put your bid in on eBay here: http://bit.ly/12nBiHF

Here's the history of the derby hat (as found on Wikipedia): 

The bowler once defined British civil servants and bankers, and later American workingmen. It was devised in 1849 by the London hatmakers Thomas and William Bowler to fulfil an order placed by the firm of hatters Lock &  Co. of St James's. Lock & Co. had been commissioned by a customer to design a close-fitting, low-crowned hat to protect Coke's gamekeepers' heads from low-hanging branches while on horseback. The keepers had previously worn top hats, which were easily knocked off and damaged. Lock & Co. then commissioned the Bowler brothers to solve the problem. Especially in Great Britain, most accounts agreed that the customer (and designer of the hat) was William Coke. However, later, a nephew of the 1st Earl of Leicester, provided research that has cast some doubt on this origin story. It is now believed that it was Edward Coke, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester, who invented the hat design.

When Coke arrived in London on 17 December 1849 to collect his hat he reportedly placed it on the floor and stamped hard on it twice to test its strength; the hat withstood this test and Coke paid 12 shillings for it. In accordance with Lock & Company's usual practice, the hat was called the "Coke" hat (pronounced "cook") after the customer who had ordered it. This is most likely why the hat became known as the "Billy Coke" or "Billycock" hat in Norfolk.

In the Americas the bowler, not the cowboy hat or sombrero, was the most popular hat in the American West, prompting Lucius Beebe to call it "the hat that won the West". Both cowboys and railroad workers preferred the hat because it would not blow off easily in strong wind, or when sticking one's head out the window of a speeding train. It was worn by both lawmen and outlaws, including Bat Masterson, Butch Cassidy, Black Bart, and Billy the Kid. It is in America the hat came to be commonly known as the "Derby", and Wild West outlaw Marion Hedgepeth was commonly referred to as "the Derby Kid".

The bowler, called a bombín in Spanish, has been worn by Quechua and Aymara women since the 1920s, when it was introduced to Bolivia by British railway workers. For many years, a factory in Italy manufactured the hats for the Bolivian market, but they are now made locally. Another region that appreciates the bowler hat is the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. The men of this region use this hat as a fashion accessory, along with a walking stick. These fashion accessories, which have become a staple part of the regional costume, were introduced by British colonials in the 1900s.

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