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Title: Straw Hats - Their history and manufacture
Author: Inwards, Harry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Straw Hats - Their history and manufacture" ***

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                           BLOCKING MACHINE

                         “CARRE VIVE BROCHIER”


     Inventors and Makers of other special adjusting, dressing and
       pressing machines and accessories for the manufacture of
              STRAW BOATERS of perfect and correct shape


               J. B. BROCHIER, 8 Rue de la Viabert, LYON


Amongst the allied trades associated with the Straw Hat Industry must
be included the production of the Pneumatic or Easy-Fitting Sweats or
Leathers, which during the last 25 years have been the chief means of
establishing the Straw Boater as the most popular Summer Head-wear.

THE HAT MANUFACTURERS’ SUPPLY CO., LTD., of Stockport, England, make
claim to be the producers of the _best_ of these kind, and many of
their patent productions have a place in the History of the Straw Hat
Industry; the following have stood out prominently: “IVY” and “MARVEL,”
but apparently the zenith was reached with the production of the

                             “BON-TON IVY”

This patent Comfort Leather is acknowledged as the “LANDMARK” in
Head-comfort for any Hat. And considerably over _twenty millions_ have
been sold for Straw Hats alone, which fact must undoubtedly prove that
this Leather has been greatly instrumental in aiding the progress
of the Straw Boater; so much so, that the Patentees have appointed
manufacturing agents in various parts of the World to cope with the
increasing demand.

The latest production in these Easy-fitting Leathers is the--

                           “NEW BON-TON IVY”
                          (_introduced 1921_)
which is suitable for any kind of hats and, like its well-known parent
patent, guarantees _Perfect Fit, Comfort, and Ventilation_.

It is worth bearing in mind that all genuine “Bon-Ton Ivy” leathers
have adjustable _Elastic Fitting_, also see name Stamp on the leather.

              _Patentees and Sole Manufacturers, at the_
                        _Gold Printers_, _etc._

                  HAT MANUFACTURERS SUPPLY Co., Ltd.

                        Samples on Application.

                                No. 829

                          BURGISSER, FLORENCE

                   *       *       *       *       *

                          Soc. An. Burgisser

                   *       *       *       *       *


                        Milans and Fancy Braids
                      Men’s and Ladies’ Leghorns

                        Fancy Bodies Novelties

                         BLEACHING and DYEING

                           VIA MASACCIO 149

                       _SOLE REPRESENTATIVES_--
                          E. T. RABAN & SONS
                 3-6 Australian Avenue, London, E.C.1

                      ESTABLISHED OVER 100 YEARS

                           Benjamin Bennett

                          _Manufacturers of_
                     Ladies’ and Children’s Hats,
                    Trimmed and Untrimmed--Velours,
                      Felts, Straws, and Fancies,
                   also all kinds of Strawboard and
                          Leatherboard Boxes

                   *       *       *       *       *

                     Connaught House, Upper George
                             Street, Luton
                    17 & 22 High Street, Dunstable

                        _Showrooms & Offices_:
                        61 George Street, Luton

                       _Telegrams_: Beebee Luton
            _Telephones_: Luton 921 (2 lines); Dunstable 3


                           H. GODFREY & CO.
                      ENGINEERS TO THE HAT TRADE

                Makers of the Keston Blocking Machines

                       14a STUART STREET, LUTON

                          The London Varnish
                         and Enamel Co., Ltd.

        Successors to Conrad Wm. Schmidt (F. A. Glaeser), Ltd.

                              City Works
                      Carpenters Road, Stratford
                         London, E.15, England


                       THE ORIGINAL AND LARGEST
                       ----MANUFACTURERS OF----
                          STRAW HAT POLISHES
                            IN ALL COLOURS

                  LUTON [Illustration: TRADE MARK] BRAND

               These Spirit Hat Polishes were introduced
              in 1878 and have been extensively used ever
                  since in Luton, London, and all Hat
                       Making Centres throughout
                           ----the World----

                 _A.B.C. CODE 4th and 5th EDITION USED

                              H. Spratley
                       (Late H. SPRATLEY & SON)
                   16, 18 & 20 Barber’s Lane, Luton


               The Oldest Established Firm in the Trade
                           for the making of

                           Ladies’, Gent’s,
                           Children’s Shapes
                           Straws and Felts
                   Wood, Plaster, Iron, Spelter and
                      Aluminium Pans and Dishes.
                     All Accessories for the Trade

                 _The Noted Blockmaker for High-Class

                               Tel. 778

                           ESTABLISHED 1866
                           Colling & Company
                      PROPRIETOR: CHAS F. COLLING


                           _Plain and Fancy
                            Silk, Satin and
                             Cotton Goods_

                   *       *       *       *       *

                           _Manufacturers of
                             all kinds of
                             Hat Linings_

                         39 King Street, Luton
                 TELEGRAMS: “COLLING, KING ST., LUTON”
                          TELEPHONE: LUTON 17

                          COMMON COMMODITIES
                         AND INDUSTRIES SERIES

              Each book in crown 8vo, illustrated, 3/- net

  =TEA.= By A. Ibbetson
  =COFFEE.= By B. B. Keable
  =SUGAR.= By Geo. Martineau
  =OILS.= By C. Ainsworth Mitchell
  =WHEAT.= By Andrew Millar
  =RUBBER.= By C. Beadle and H. P. Stevens
  =IRON AND STEEL.= By C. Hood
  =COPPER.= By H. K. Picard
  =COAL.= By F. H. Wilson
  =TIMBER.= By W. Bullock
  =COTTON.= By R. J. Peake
  =SILK.= By Luther Hooper
  =WOOL.= By J. A. Hunter
  =LINEN.= By Alfred S. Moore
  =TOBACCO.= By A. E. Tanner
  =LEATHER.= By K. J. Adcock
  =KNITTED FABRICS.= By J. Chamberlain and J. H. Quilter
  =CLAYS.= By Alfred S. Searle
  =PAPER.= By Harry A. Maddox
  =SOAP.= By W. A. Simmons
  =THE MOTOR INDUSTRY.= By Horace Wyatt
  =GLASS.= By Percival Marson
  =GUMS AND RESINS.= By E. J. Parry
  =GAS.= By W. H. Y. Webber
  =FURNITURE.= By H. E. Binstead
  =COAL TAR.= By A. R. Warnes
  =PETROLEUM.= By A. Lidgett
  =SALT.= By A. F. Calvert
  =ZINC.= By T. E. Lones
  =PHOTOGRAPHY.= By Wm. Gamble
  =ASBESTOS.= By A. L. Summers
  =SILVER.= By Benjamin White
  =CARPETS.= By Reginald S. Brinton
  =CORDAGE AND CORDAGE HEMP.= By T. Woodhouse and P. Kilgour
  =ACIDS AND ALKALIS.= By G. H. J. Adlam
  =ELECTRICITY.= By R. E. Neale
  =ALUMINIUM.= By G. Mortimer
  =GOLD.= By Benjamin White
  =BUTTER AND CHEESE.= By C. W. Walker-Tisdale and Jean Jones
  =LEAD.= By J. A. Smythe
  =ENGRAVING.= By T. W. Lascelles
  =EXPLOSIVES.= By S. I. Levy
  =PERFUMERY.= By E. J. Parry
  =THE ELECTRIC LAMP INDUSTRY.= By G. Arncliffe Percival
  =ICE AND COLD STORAGE.= By B. H. Springett
  =GLOVES.= By B. E. Ellis
  =JUTE.= By T. Woodhouse and P. Kilgour
  =DRUGS IN COMMERCE.= By J. Humphrey
  =THE FILM INDUSTRY.= By Davidson Boughey
  =SULPHUR.= By Harold A. Auden
  =TEXTILE BLEACHING.= By Alec B. Steven
  =WINE.= By Andre L. Simon
  =IRONFOUNDING.= By B. Whiteley
  =ALCOHOL.= By C. Simmonds
  =SPONGES.= By E. J. J. Cresswell
  =WALL PAPER.= By G. Whiteley Ward
  =CLOCKS AND WATCHES.= By G. L. Overton
  =ANTHRACITE.= By A. L. Summers
  =STARCH.= By H. A. Auden
  =TALKING MACHINES.= By O. Mitchell
  =NICKEL.= By B. H. White
  =PLAYER PIANO.= By D. M. Wilson
  =DYES.= By A. J. Hall
  =MOTOR BOATS.= By F. Strickland
  =VELVET.= By J. H. Cooke
  =BRUSHES.= By W. Kiddier
  =PATENT FUELS.= By J. A. Greene and F. Mollwo Perkin
  =FURS.= By J. C. Sachs

                             =STRAW HATS=

                _Always leading for Style and Quality_

                          Frank Harden, Ltd.

                          _Manufacturers of_
                             LADIES’ HATS
                         _of all descriptions_

                      WHOLESALE AND SHIPPING ONLY


                           58-62 Bute Street

             [Illustration: Model as worn 25-30 years ago
                            MANUFACTURED BY
                             FRANK HARDEN]

                [Illustrated: Model as worn 1922 season
                            MANUFACTURED BY
                          FRANK HARDEN, LTD.]

                      _Telegrams_: Harden, Luton
                _Codes_: Marconi and A.B.C. 5th edition


                      PITMAN’S COMMON COMMODITIES
                            AND INDUSTRIES

                              STRAW HATS
                             THEIR HISTORY
                            AND MANUFACTURE


                             HARRY INWARDS



                     SIR ISAAC PITMAN & SONS, LTD.
                    PARKER STREET, KINGSWAY, W.C.2

                       PRINTED IN BATH, ENGLAND
                  BY SIR ISAAC PITMAN AND SONS, LTD.

                                MY WIFE
                             EMILY INWARDS

                            LOVING TRIBUTE

     _Cable Address_: _Codes_: _A B C_ (_4th, 5th & 6th Editions_)
          “_Attention, Luton._” _A1_, _Bentley’s, & Marconi_

                             Henry Durler
                             and Son, Ltd.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                       _Importers_, _Exporters_,
                          _Bleachers & Dyers_

                   *       *       *       *       *

                           _of all kinds of_
                        _Chinese and Japanese_
                            _Straw Plaits_
                           _Hat Manufacture_

                   *       *       *       *       *

                          Luton, Bedfordshire


It will be noticed throughout this book that the author has deviated
from the dictionary methods of spelling words illustrative of the
action of _plait_.

The _Oxford Dictionary_ reads--

“_Plait_ (pleit, ploet, plit) ... _see_ also _plat_.”

“_Plat._ To form hats, etc., is now a less usual spelling than _plait_.”

“_Plat-ting_, the action of _plat_.”

Nuttall gives the pronunciation of _plait_ as plate, and that of the
action word _plaited_ as _plated_.

In the district where the manufacture is sufficiently ancient to have
established a claim to its regular pronunciation, _plait_, as it is
invariably spelt, has always been pronounced _plat_, and the action
words _plat-ter_, _plat-ted_, and _plat-ting_.

That this is not a local solecism of pronunciation is proved by the
renderings given under the headings _plat_ and _platting_ in the
_Oxford Dictionary_, and further, a literary and ancient example can be
found in “A Lover’s Complaint,” where Shakespeare speaks of “a plat-ted

The author thinks it is time some definite method, in proper accord
with the custom of the industry, should be adopted, and he proposes
a precedent, which he claims to be well founded and sensible, viz.,
to continue to use the word _plait_ (pronounced _plat_) as the
substantive, and to establish the spelling _plait-ter_, _plait-ted_ and
_plait-ting_ as designations of the action words properly interpreting
the universal pronunciation.

I should like to express grateful thanks for assistance and
information given me in the course of my work, to Messrs. Murry Barford
(Mayor of Luton), of Barford & Sons, Luton; Percy Currant, of Currant
& Creak, Luton; Henry George Draper, of Walsh & Sons, Luton; George
Field, of Luton; Henry Gregory, of Gregory & Sons, Barbican, London,
E.C.; Charles Hubbard, of Luton; Thomas Mann, of Vyse Sons & Co.,
Luton; James Saunders, F.L.S., of Saunders & Son, Luton; Frank E.
Shoosmith, of Luton; John Irving Wright, J.P., of Luton; all of whom
have intimate knowledge of the straw trade and its machinery; and to
Mr. T. Maw, Librarian Luton Public Library.

The help of these gentlemen has materially added to the correctness of
many details, of which my knowledge was uncertain.

                                                HARRY INWARDS
    _31st March, 1922._


  CHAP.                                                           PAGE

        FOREWORD                                                   vii

     I. ORIGIN AND CLASSICAL HISTORY                                 1

    II. COMMERCIAL RISE AND GROWTH                                  13



     V. STRAW PLAIT AND PLAITTING                                   45

    VI. DYEING                                                      52

   VII. BLEACHING                                                   60

  VIII. BLOCKMAKING                                                 66

    IX. HAND AND MACHINE SEWING                                     71

     X. STIFFENING                                                  84

    XI. BLOCKING BY HAND                                            93

   XII. BLOCKING BY MACHINE                                        100


        INDEX      125

                            ERMEN & ROBY’S
                         IS LUTON’S FAVOURITE


                 White and Black on 10,000 Yard Reels
                    All Colours on 5,000 Yard Reels




  THE PETASUS                                               2

  THE STEPHANOS                                             3

  THE ETRUSCAN HAT                                          4

  HAT OF PENELOPE                                           5

  A POMPEIAN BONNET                                         5

  STRAW PLAITTERS AT WORK                                  30

  PANAMA HOOD MAKING                                       39


  A TIPPER                                                 69

  SECTION OF FOUR ROWS OF PLAIT                            72


  SECTION OF ROLLERS                                       82

  STIFFENING STRAW HATS                                    89

  HAND BLOCKING                                            97

  MACHINE BLOCKING                                        103

  MACHINE BLOCKING (BROCHIER TYPE)                        109


                 [Illustration: _The “Cavalier” Make_]

                            English Boater
                         Genuine “Luton Lodge”

                            English Boater
                         Genuine “Walsh Luton”

                           Established 1862

                          ROWLAND CUNNINGHAM
                          (WM. WALSH) LIMITED

                        STRAW HAT MANUFACTURERS

                        STUART LODGE HAT WORKS
                              LUTON, BEDS

                         Telegraphic Address:
                             “WALSH LUTON”
                         Telephone: 132 LUTON
                     Code A B C 4th & 5th Editions
                         MARCONI’S, BENTLEY’S




The origin of what is known as a “Straw Hat” is lost in the mists of

Ambiguous references to what may have been hats of vegetable materials
are to be found in the works of almost all ancient writers, but very
little that is specific can be discovered. Perhaps one reason for
the paucity of information on this subject may be that the home made
hats of plaitted straws or rushes were probably worn only by the
common people. With society, as it existed in early days, if such were
the case, the matter would be considered almost too vulgar for the
classical writers to mention.

Doubtless in the earliest stages of human development any kind of
convenient material was utilized by primeval man in the endeavour to
keep his head or body warm or cool as the case might require.

Now the mere fact of the shelter afforded by trees would create some
inducement towards using leaves for covering the body, for one may
assume that even before vegetable products were gathered and used,
say, as thatch, for collective shelter, some of them were adopted for
individual protective purposes.

The earliest reference to such is the well-known account of the
“aprons of fig leaves” mentioned in the third chapter of Genesis. This
primitive method of clothing was soon followed by the use of skins
(as noted later in the same chapter), but even in this record the
vegetable product was used by man before that of animals, and shows in
a most unmistakable, even if allegorical, manner, the natural trend of
all development, viz., that articles easiest to procure are those that
are first used.

BY PHIDIAS (_circ._ 450 B.C.) _Shaded part is now broken._]

It is, therefore, not unfair to assume that the manipulation of
vegetable fibres, such as leaves, rushes, straws and other similar
products, was really the earliest textile operation. That once
conceded, it is no long step to the use of the “plaitted” article as a
head covering.

The _Encyclopaedia Britannica_, in its articles on “Costume” and “Hats”
states that the “modern hat can be traced back to the _Petasus_ worn
by the ancient Romans when on a journey”; and similar hats, known as
_Kausia_, were also used by the ancient Greeks on like occasions.

The Greek _Kausia_ and the Roman _Petasus_ are described as “hats of a
pliant material which could be bent down at the sides like that worn by

La Croix, a French writer on the subject, assures us that the early
Romans and Franks “sought Bast and Straw of which to make them hats,”
and there is an antique statue of Mercury in the Vatican at Rome, which
has for head covering a hat of a “wide-awake” nature, sculptured in
close imitation of a finely plaitted straw.

The Goddess Hera (the Grecian name for the Roman Juno), Queen of
Olympus, is depicted on ancient vases, coins and statues wearing
a _Stephanos_ [one of the statues, the original of which was by
Praxiteles (350 B.C.), representing _Hera Teleia_ standing, is known
to moderns by copies to be found in the Vatican and other museums].
Pausanias (c. 160 B.C.) speaking of the coins of Argos, specifically
describes _Hera_ as wearing a _Stephanos_. This was a head covering
consisting only of a crown, similar in shape to a modern Turkish fez
inverted, of the same breadth and height all round, and was made of
various vegetable products.

[Illustration: Fig. 2 STEPHANOS, FROM TERRA-COTTA (700 B.C.),

In the British Museum is to be seen a small terra-cotta figure seated
wearing the above sketched _Stephanos_ in which the plaitting marks
of coarse vegetable fibres are very distinct. This is probably the
earliest extant record, in the plastic art, of a straw hat.

“Wicker work (_poloi kalathoi_) was also used by the ancient Greeks to
make brim-less hats.” (Gerard. Antike Bildwerke.)

The ancient Etruscans wore what was known as a _Tutulus_, a brimless
hat with a high pointed centre to the crown; and a broad brimmed hat
similar to the _Petasus_, but with a pointed top like the _Tutulus_.

Etruria covered the district now occupied by the Italian straw plait
and hat makers, but while there is an extreme likelihood, from the
shape of the hat in the accompanying sketch, that the denizens of this
fertile champaign, producing as it does, and probably did, unlimited
materials that could be plaitted, made these hats of straw, there is
no definite information as to their being constructed of any vegetable

[Illustration: Fig. 3 ETRUSCAN HAT (_circ._ 440 B.C.), HEAD OF PELEUS

Another very important link of classical interest with the remote past
is shown in the two sketches of hats and bonnets as worn by the ancient
inhabitants of ill-fated Pompeii.

The mural decorations of this long-buried city illustrate in a far
more cogent manner than any other known examples, the probable actual
appearance of the people who lived there before its catastrophe, and
the hat shown on the head of _Penelope_ is a model that has been
imitated during the last thirty-five years. The little knob on the top
is, however, quite novel.

The other example from Pompeii is from a comic fresco in which two men,
dressed as women, are having an altercation, and here the artist has
not only shown the lines which indicate the ridges of a woven vegetable
fibre hat, but this painting provides the first known drawing of a
_Bonnet_. Note the tilt at which it is worn, and the portion cut out at
base to admit the neck, and also the absolute resemblance to what is
known as a “Granny” Bonnet.

[Illustration: Fig. 4 HAT WORN BY PENELOPE]

[Illustration: Fig. 5 BONNET]

A very famous writer of antiquity (perhaps the one best known, except
Caesar, to all scholars of Latin), Virgil, makes allusion in his
_Pastorals_ to the “plaitting of osiers and willows.”

Probably there is no race of men that has so closely maintained to the
present time its ancient forms of clothing, as have the Arabs; and they
occasionally wear a hat made of twisted bands of straw similar to a
beehive. They are the only Moslems that do, and there is no trace of
any other people of that religion wearing a similar head covering.

All this evidence from the Graeco-Roman and other ancient sources
proves that the making in some way of straw hats was fairly general
even in the earliest times in the countries of Asia Minor and
south-eastern Europe, but some writers on the subject favour the claims
of the Black Forest of Germany as having been the birthplace of the
industry. This, of course, may be so, although no Germanic or Teutonic
writers of equal antiquity have handed down such direct evidence as
that of the Graeco-Romans.

But it seems a little invidious for any special part of the world to
make such a claim, for doubtless the weaving of vegetable fibres was
not confined to any particular area, but that primeval man all over the
world practised the operation for his own needs.

There are no British records of straw hats until A.D. 1459, when it is
narrated that Sir John Fastolfe died possessed of “ij Strawen hattes”;
the “_Promtorium parvulorum_” of about that date renders the “hatte of
straw” as _capedulum_.

Spenser, Shakespeare and Thynne, brilliant luminaries of the
Elizabethan period, all make allusions to the straw hat.

Spenser, the Poet Laureate of Good Queen Bess (who herself is said to
have worn a straw hat that may still be seen at Hatfield House), quite
early in the sixteenth century says--

    “Some plaid with straws,” etc.:

while Thynne, about 1570, in his “Debate between Pride and Lowliness”
writes of a man with

    “A _strawen hatte_ upon his head
    “The which was fastened underneath.”

Shakespeare in _The Tempest_ (Act IV, Scene 1) makes _Iris_ say--

    “You sunburned sicklemen, of August weary
    “Come hither from the furrow, and be merry;
    “Make holyday: your _rye straw hats_ put on
    “And these fresh nymphs encounter every one
    “In country footing.”

In _A Lover’s Complaint_, the immortal bard still further emphasizes
the use, which apparently was fairly general, of the straw hat--

    “Upon her head a platted hive of straw
    “Which fortified her visage from the sun.”

This passage is interesting first on account of the use of the word
_hive_. This object, as used for beekeeping, was without doubt very
familiar to Shakespeare, and therefore the maid’s head covering, as it
existed in the imagination of the poet, was probably similar to that
worn by the Arabs mentioned previously, for she and they wore it as
a protection against the sun’s heat. Second, Shakespeare’s spelling
of the word “platted” was undoubtedly the method of spelling current
at the time and was phonetic. (The author in the “Foreword” bases
his reasons for using the double T in “plaitting” or “plaitter” in
conjunction with the modern spelling of the word on this and other more
recent well-known examples of literature co-eval with the birth of the
trade in Great Britain.)

Ben Jonson, the Poet Laureate of James I, about 1630, in an epigram to
Lady Mary Wroth, writes--

    “He that saw you wear the wheaten hat,” etc.

The inimitable diarist, Pepys, describes an actress at the Duke’s
Theatre as “dressed like a country maid with a straw hat on”: and
mentions that while staying at Hatfield, “The women (of the party) had
pleasure in putting on some _Straw Hats_, which are much worn in this
country, which did become them mightily, _but especially my wife_!!”

It may be interesting at this point to mention a widely known subject,
of which interpretations have been greatly at fault. One of Peter Paul
Rubens’ best known paintings is entitled “La Dame au Chapeau de Poil.”
The subject is of a lady wearing a large brimmed and somewhat high
crowned hat adorned with a sweeping plume of feathers, and many writers
on straw hats have endeavoured to show that the hat of the picture was
made of straw, arguing that the word “Poil” in the title was an ancient
form of the French word for straw, viz., “Paille.” It is true that
some old Gaelic writers in mentioning the stalks of cereals have used
various methods of spelling the equivalent for straw; “Pail,” “Paile”
and “Paill” are to be found in sixteenth and seventeenth century books,
but in no case has the word “Poil” ever been used, and quite rightly
so, because this word means an entirely different thing, and is used
to-day with the same spelling and for the same purpose as it was in
the sixteenth century. “Poil” means “nap,” a raised “pile,” which can
be obtained on various fabrics. This consists of a sufficient number
of the loose ends of the staple, of which the material is woven or
felted, being left on the surface, or afterwards raised by means of
combs, etc., so as to form either a velvety richness on which the loose
ends stand upright, or a glossy finish, like that obtained on a man’s
top hat, where the loose ends are smoothed down. The real translation
of the picture’s title is “The lady with a Pile hat,” in this case
undoubtedly of some felted nature and of which the actual modern
equivalent would be either a beaver, flamand or velour.

From this time onwards, as printing became more general, allusions
to straw hats became frequent, and, with the advent of periodicals of
fashions, etc., for ladies, both letterpress and illustrations confirm
their widespread use. Naturally detail began to be given, and the poet
Gay (cir. 1714) in his Pastorals sings of

    “My new straw hat, thus trimly lined with green.”

In the _Ladies Dictionary_ (1694) under the heading of “Apparel,”
straw hats are mentioned as among the things “necessary to feminine

Miss Constance Isherwood says that “Straw hats--became the rage among
the reigning beauties of Queen Anne’s court and the early Georgian

_The Ladies’ Magazine_ of the eighteenth century has many plates
showing various styles of what are certainly straw hats, the design and
manipulation of the straws in woven hats and the detail of the plait in
sewn hats being very carefully and distinctly engraved.

These excerpts from ancient as well as more recent authorities all tend
to show the widespread use of the straw hat, and prove that the term
“straw” was, as it is now, a most comprehensive one, and one in no way
entirely confined to the stalks of cereals.

But they also show that, although straw hats were made all over the
Continent, etc., the work on them was purely individual and local.
There were no recognized centres of manufacture or distribution,
for, excepting the fact that some localities were more productive of
suitable materials for plaitting than others, the making of straw hats
was universal, and it is not until the sixteenth century that any
reliable information is obtainable of special centres for straw hat
production. According to Cesare Cantu, a well-known Italian historian,
the manufacture of hats of straw in the neighbourhood of Florence,
for distribution outside the locality, can be traced back to the
fourteenth century. This is probably quite true, but unfortunately
the statement is not corroborated by any contemporaneous evidence.
But in the year 1574, Signa, a village near Florence, was entitled
“the original seat of the industry.” (From a consular report.) It
is, therefore, almost safe to declare that the commercial life of
the straw hat began in the district of Florence, and here, probably,
for the first time in history, were to be found gathered together in
sufficiently large numbers to make their wares marketable, persons both
male and female engaged in weaving straws into hats, or _capelli_, or
in plaitting straws into braids, which were called _paglia_ or plait.

From Tuscany to Piedmont is not a “far cry,” and Coryat in his
_Crudities_ (a work published in 1611 and consisting of a series of
observations made in a journey through Europe) says, “at many places in
Piemont I observed most delicate strawen hats, which both men and women
use in most places of that Province.”

Again, Piedmont is not very distant from Lorraine, and it is from
this latter district, which was the country of the birthplace of her
mother, that Mary, Queen of Scots, is said to have brought plaitters to
Scotland in 1552, and thus to have introduced the art to the British

Some writers on this subject, failing to discriminate between plait and
hats, adduce many adverse arguments (_see_ below) when the claim is
made that the unfortunate queen established the trade in the coasts of
Britain. These point to the undoubted fact that straw hats were made
both in Scotland and England before her time. That, of course, is quite
true, but what is not equally certain is whether the hats made in the
British Isles before 1552 were hats woven in one piece, or hats made of
plaitted braid sewn afterwards in some manner to the required shape.
In the old account of the transaction one reads that in Lorraine Mary
noticed the people “profitably employed, some in plaitting straws and
others in working (_sic_) the straw plait into hats.” It is, therefore,
evident that it was an established industry in Lorraine and that _both_
operations were being carried on. One may also deduce that, while
the weaving of hats may have been common in Scotland, the making of
plait and the subsequent making into hats was a novelty to Mary, and,
therefore, in the interests of her Scottish subjects, she endeavoured
to promote a similar industry in which they also might be “profitably

The late Mr. John Waller, of Luton, a member of one of the oldest
families connected with the straw trade, after a careful and apparently
unbiased investigation, says that the statement about Mary being the
founder of the industry “can only be regarded as pleasing fiction”; and
to support this quotes from Oldmixon’s _History of England_ (edition of
1724) “That the manufacture of straw plait had thriven for about 100
years in the neighbourhood of Hemel Hempstead and Dunstable.” But from
1552 to 1624 is a long period, and one can easily imagine the natives
of sunny Lorraine feeling none too homelike in “Caledonia, stern and
wild.” With the accession of James I (Mary’s son) to the English
throne, what could be more natural than the migration of these workers
to more genial southerly temperatures, bringing with them their art? As
James became king in 1603 there would have been plenty of time for the
industry of making plait for sewing into hats being established between
then and 1624, which would be exactly 100 years before Oldmixon’s
account! And speaking of the advent of the Lorrainers into Beds and
Herts, Mr. Thomas George Austin, in his book on the _Straw Hat and
Bonnet trade of the Luton District_, writes, “It is said to be the true
history of the introduction of the handicraft into England.”

One must, therefore, come to the conclusion that the system of making
hats from plait, as distinct from the weaving the hat in one piece, was
introduced by Mary, Queen of Scots, to Scotland, and from thence the
method came south, and for reasons which will be set out hereafter,
settled itself in the regions of South Bedfordshire, North-east
Hertfordshire, and East Buckinghamshire.



The history of a straw hat has thus been traced down to the latter half
of the eighteenth century.

Prior to this period all kinds of straws, grasses, and fibres of
vegetables had been utilized in the operation, the only limit as to
material being the growths peculiar to the locality in which hat-making
was carried on, so one may see that, as each locality probably grew
different kinds of fibres, the result of the finished hats was

This difference early gave rise to local nomenclature, perhaps the
first collective term was “Leghorn” (_circ._ 1650. Tomlinson’s
Cyclopaedia, 1867). This now well-known variety of straw hat, woven
first in braids and then cunningly put together in spiral sequence to
the required shape, is not sewn overlapping, but with the braids laid
edge to edge, and a fine tough straw or other fibre threaded through
every other head on the impinging edges of the plait, and then drawn
tight, so that the opposite heads fitting between and inside each
other assumed the appearance of being woven in one piece, except that
where the join took place, the thickness caused by the heads of the
plait and the threading material, produced a ridge which, starting
from the centre and running spirally to the edge of the brim, is one
of the prominent characteristics of a “Leghorn.” This term, therefore,
embodies, first, the place of origin; second, the material used; third,
the method of using. If other local terms were thus early applied to
straw productions, they have not, as far as the Continent of Europe
is concerned, come down to modern times, all other names now in use
(and they are legion) are the products of the late eighteenth and the
nineteenth centuries.

All the materials used for plaitting up to about 1745 had been worked
_whole_, that is, the fibre whether rush, grass or straw, was plaitted
as it was grown, and consequently the hats of coarse weaving largely
predominated; there being naturally a preponderance of the coarser
parts of any vegetable growth.

Further, the manipulation of the bigger fibres was easier to fingers
perhaps only infrequently devoted to the work, and therefore up to
this period the majority of straw hats were thick and weighty. There
were exceptions such as _Leghorns_ that were plaitted from a variety
of bearded wheat or rye (_Triticum turgidum_) grown in Tuscany. This
was light in weight, comparatively tough, and of a fine natural golden
colour. The upper part of the straw called _Punta_ (or point) was
used for all Leghorn hats, and also for making plait which was called
_Tuscan_, from the locality of growth. When _Tuscan_ was the only straw
plait exported from Italy, Great Britain was one of the purchasers, and
during the early part of the nineteenth century up to the repeal of
the Corn Laws and the abolition of protective duties on other goods,
British importers of _Tuscan_ plait had to pay a duty of 8s. per lb.

The desire to produce straw hats of less weight brought the bottom half
of the straw column into use. That portion generally has a sheath,
protecting it from the sun, which being stripped disclosed the under
part of pearly white colour, this from being at the foot was called
_pedale_, and although not so tough as the _punta_, was sufficiently
so for plaitting purposes, and was very much lighter in weight. The
first parcel of _pedale_ plait arrived in Great Britain in 1878, and is
supposed to have been purchased by Messrs. Carruthers & Co., of Luton.

But even then the quantity of fine _pedale_ straws grown did not
suffice for the increasing demands for straw hats.

The Italian straw, being so well established as the best material,
caused workers to endeavour to find similar straw in other countries
which had adopted straw hat making as a commercial undertaking.

It is probable that the climate of Scotland was not alone the cause
for the migration of the Lorrainers; the search for fine white, light,
straws, impossible to obtain in the cold north, may have drawn these
operatives to the southern parts of England. Whatever the actual reason
or reasons, it is certain that by 1624 the neighbourhood of South
Bedfordshire (Dunstable), North-west Hertfordshire (Hemel Hempstead),
and probably East Buckinghamshire was producing higher grade straw
hats than any hitherto obtainable in the British Isles. The district
comprises practically the whole of the Eastern ranges of the Chiltern
Hills, an area of chalky subsoil. The discriminating Lorrainers quickly
discovered the extreme beauty of colour of the Chiltern straws, and it
is almost certain that for this reason alone the art of making plait
braid was introduced into the locality, which from 1624 onwards has
been undoubtedly the centre of the British straw hat industry.

Later on the straw plait making spread to portions of Essex and
Suffolk, and although the plaits produced there were of much inferior
quality and colour to those produced in the Chilterns, and, generally
speaking, were not utilized for the highest class work, they formed a
very useful adjunct to the plait stocks required by hat manufacturers
when large quantities were needed. Another English centre for straw
plaitting was Ripon in Yorkshire, the district around being the seat
of quite a fair-sized industry. It is interesting to note this, for it
seems to show that the Lorrainers in their southerly migration, had
stopped _en route_, and had sampled the straws grown on the Yorkshire

But all this evidence tends to prove that the nature of the soil which
produced the proper straw for plaitting caused the trade to localize
around Dunstable. This ancient borough, practically in the centre of
the plaitting districts, situated on the Watling Street, along which
passed all the traffic between London and the north-west of England and
Northern Wales, at the junction of the Icknield way (another ancient
Roman road crossing the Watling Street towards the east and west), was
in the middle of the fifteenth century alive all day with the hum of
people and merchandise travelling to and fro. Sitting astride of the
trunk roads leading everywhere in Great Britain, it is small wonder
that this little town, of vast ecclesiastical importance in the Middle
Ages, but much decayed since the time of Henry VIII, became the place
from whence all the products of the neighbourhood could be dispatched.

And, therefore, the name of “Dunstable,” another of the now world-known
local names, was given to the plait, hats and bonnets which emanated
from the whole vicinity.

The great preponderance of coarse straws, combined with the increasing
demands for hats made of fine plaits, caused straw workers to endeavour
to make the straws smaller by splitting the “pipes” (as the whole straw
is called) into narrower portions called “splints.” This was done
at first with a knife, but the result was generally unsatisfactory,
although some skilled workers managed to acquire really wonderful
deftness in the operation. It was plait called “Patent Dunstable” made
of these split straws that gave this plaitting area its first textile
claim to distinction. Some one, now unknown, found out that two fine
_splints_ of straw laid together, inside to inside, produced when
plaitted an effect equal to that of the _whole_ straw, and yet enabled
plaitters to make the finest and narrowest widths of plait. The clumsy
method of cutting with a knife was apparently the only possible way of
making _splints_ until the time of the Napoleonic Wars.

The French prisoners at Yaxley Barracks, near Stilton, produced “pretty
and useful articles such as baskets, workboxes, mats, etc.” (Mr. Alfred
Tansley Soc. Art., 1860). These were decorated with “laid work,” a kind
of mosaic pattern made of coloured straw splints, cut to various sizes
and pasted on suitable foundations. “For the purpose of making these
splints, they used a straw splitter made of bone, about two inches
long, brought to a point behind which a set of cutters was arranged
in a circle, the point entered the straw pipe separating it into so
many equal sized splints” (Tansley). This instrument was soon copied
by a Dunstable blacksmith named Janes (some authorities say Norman)
who made some in iron and turned the cutting parts at right angles
to an elongated stem, which could be used as a handle. These were
subsequently also made in brass, and in 1815 other varieties, in the
form of metal wheels set in wooden frames, appeared. Mr. Tansley says,
“To this invention may be attributed the success which in after times
has attended the manufacture of straw plait in England.”

The two methods of working straws, either _whole_ or _split_, opened up
a wide field for diversity of plaitting, and quickly novelties began to
appear. From 1815 to the present day, at intervals sometimes short and
sometimes very long, new designs of plait have been put on the market,
and now there is no style of shape that cannot be suitably fitted up
with one or more plaits.

British plaitters have not been content to use only the straws grown
in the five counties. They have ransacked the world for materials,
_wood_ cut into fine shavings or splints, _Manila grasses_ or _hemp_,
manufactured splints of _cotton_, _silk_, or similar fibres, stuck
together in a flat ribbon called a “_lame_,” _horsehair_, _bamboo_,
_raffia_, and many other articles have been used for the purpose. At
one time 30,000 persons were engaged in the plaitting industry, but
by 1890 the number had dwindled to under 3,000. The reasons for this
decline were manifold. Although the district had produced, and was
still producing, straws better than any other continental centre, yet
about 1855 the demand for something different from the plaits made
solely of straw induced foreign plaitting communities to plait fancy
materials which before had been used for other purposes. Switzerland
and France began to make pretty and delicate patterns of plait or
braid, woven both by hand and by machinery, of all kinds of fancy
fibres such as silk, horsehair (or crinoline as termed by milliners),
fine ribbons, etc., in various combinations of one or two or more of
the above articles either with or without straws. Further attempts in
the way of decoration were made by intermixtures of glass beads and

These very fanciful braids had a wonderful success, for they were
especially adaptable for bonnets, which to about 1865 were much more in
demand for fashionable wear than hats.

This invasion of a large quantity of displacing material adversely
affected the volume of plaitting in England, and still further damage
was done when Italy began to send over plain and fancy plaits made of
willow shavings, as well as fine straw _punta_ and _pedale_ plaits
similar to _Twist_, which was by then the mainstay of the fine plait
trade. (_Twist_ was a 7 end straw with a twisted beadhead made of fine
splints, two of which laid inside to inside formed one strand for
plaitting.) In 1867 the “last nail in the coffin” of British straw
plaitting was driven by the first import of plait from China, and in
that same year the distress in and around Dunstable was so great that
the then Mayor, Mr. Joseph Gutteridge, called a public meeting to
discuss methods for its alleviation.

As the far eastern countries of China and Japan now play such an
important part in the world’s straw hat trade, it will be of interest
to note how British traders first came in contact with their goods.
Doubtless from time immemorial the deft “Chinee” had been accustomed to
the weaving of grasses, etc., into hats and mats, and it is stated that
the attention of Luton hat makers was first drawn to the possibility of
getting plait from China, by seeing some “hats (mats?) which had been
used for lining chests of tea.”

Whatever the cause, in 1867, from plaitted samples sent to them,
the Chinese were able to imitate, in their native grown straws, the
products of England in such an excellent manner and at such a low
price, that the fiercest competition was at once created. People
engaged in the trade were so exasperated at the circumstance, that they
made an effigy of the importer and burned it in the Luton Market Place.
The competition of the increasing bulk of China straw plait imports,
together with the Italian imitation of Dunstable twist (called at first
“Milan,” and now generally known as “7 ends Pedal”) made the plaitting
trade in the five counties to decrease rapidly.

“The Society of Arts have at various times rewarded many individuals
for successful attempts to introduce bonnets formed of grasses
indigenous to Britain,” says Tomlinson, in his _Cyclopaedia_ published
in 1867, but all these well meant efforts to revive the industry
were unavailing. Neither for price nor quantity (which latter was
rapidly becoming almost the prime necessity) could British plaitters
successfully compete with the Italians and the Chinese for plaits of
narrow grades, although quantities of wider plaits both of plain and
fancy designs continued to be made. About 1890 plait began to arrive
from Japan, and just as the British straw was better than the Italian
and Chinese, so the Japanese was superior to the British. It was of the
most delicate pearly colour, it was infinitely lighter in weight, and
it could be obtained in far bigger _pipes_ than any European or Chinese
growths, and its adaptability both for _whole_ and _split_ plaits was
equal to all.

In straw plait, therefore, the Japanese were able to compete
successfully, but in a short time they put on the market an article
made of wood splints plaitted with three strands, called “Chip 3 ends.”
This plait, of Italian make originally, from its extremely low price
and colour possibility, was the material backbone of the ladies’ hat
trade for some years. In later times a braid made of hemp by machinery,
called _Tagal_ or _Tégal_, originated in Switzerland and Italy. Quickly
adopted by the Japanese, they have been able to supplant the earlier
producers, and as with the _Chip 3 ends_, to provide varieties which
have almost monopolized the hat making markets for the million.

In 1896 the plaitting trade was in such a bad state that some of
the principal hat makers in the district determined to attempt the
rescue of the plaitters. For that purpose the “British Straw Plaitting
Company” was formed, the writer of this book being appointed Chairman
of a very representative Board of Directors. Manufacturers were eager
to assist, and for the first twelve months the company showed great
promise. A revival of plaitting (although with other materials than
straw and of fresh designs) ensued, and better prices were paid so that
wages were much advanced. But the Swiss and Italians took fright, and
for the next two years so successfully competed by cutting prices, that
in 1899 the company was obliged to cease operations.

In fact, not only could better materials for plaitting be found in
other parts of the world, but in those parts the natives, who (as the
_Ency. Britt._ says about the Chinese) “could live where an Englishman
would starve,” were able to produce plait at prices which made it
impossible for plaitters in England to earn a living. But fortunately
as the plaitting trade declined the hat and bonnet making of Dunstable
and Luton was increasing as fast as its predecessor fell.

In 1865 the first attempts to sew plait by machinery were made,
previously all had been sewn by hand, a long and tedious process, when
fine plaits were involved.

This took the form of sewing several pieces of fine plait in a parallel
form, making strips of an increased width, which were then sewn by
hand to the desired shape. A little later an American named Bodsworth
introduced a machine which was capable of sewing plait into hats and
bonnets, but unlike all subsequent models, which start at the centre
of the top of the crown, this machine started sewing at the edge of
the brim. This materially lessened the field of shape variety, and
although great improvements were effected by skilfulness of working,
and although the machine was adopted by Messrs. Vyse Sons & Co., it was
not taken up generally by the trade.

The well-known firm of Willcox & Gibbs, makers of a domestic
chainstitch sewing machine, had an agent in Luton named Edward
Stratford, and about 1870 his wife, in response to a friendly
challenge, sewed the first straw hat from centre to circumference. The
day following this epoch making occurrence Mrs. Stratford sewed another
hat out of a fine make of “English China Purl” (a fine fancy edged
plait); this hat is said to be still in existence.

From 1870 the whole trade was revolutionized, all fine plaits
eventually were sewn by machine, only the coarsest and broadest widths
being sewn by hand. In 1874 Mr. Henry Bland, a Luton mechanic, turned
his attention to making alterations to the Willcox & Gibbs’ domestic
machine, in order to render it more suitable for sewing straw plait.
He took out patents to cover his improvements, which were subsequently
acquired by Messrs. Willcox & Gibbs, who issued the new machine
to the Trade under the title of “The 10-Guinea” straw hat sewing
machine. But this visible stitch machine had a fault which made it
unsuitable for the best work, inasmuch as the stitch was prominent on
the outside of the hat, and the demand for handsewn invisible stitch
continued unabated for goods of the best quality. Various machines
were introduced to imitate handsewing, most of them failures, but M.
Légat, a Frenchman, patented one in 1875 that even up to the present
time has never been surpassed for close resemblance in its work to that
done by hand, but although the machine was taken up seriously by the
best houses of Great Britain and France, its large initial cost, and
heavy charges for maintenance, allowed it only to retain its supremacy
pending the advent of a less intricate, delicate and costly model.

In 1878 Mr. Edmund Wiseman (who is still living), of Luton, took out
a patent for a machine to sew plaits with a “concealed” stitch. In
1880 some improvements were made, and for some years the “Wiseman
Concealed Stitch” machine sold at about half the price of the “Légat,”
and by no means as intricate and delicate, gradually displaced the
French machine. Between 1880 and 1886, Mr. Bland, of Luton, and Mr.
William Walker of Dunstable, both patented concealed stitch machines,
but without much success. In 1886 Mr. Wiseman entered into arrangements
with the Willcox & Gibbs Co. to produce an improved concealed stitch
machine that from its shape and method of action was called the “Box
machine.” This, although on the same lines as the first invention
with regard to the method of stitch and sewing, was capable of sewing
all kinds of plait both fine and coarse, whereas the earlier patent
was only really successful on fine plaits. This Box machine has been
greatly improved since 1886, but taken on the whole, its general
characteristics are the same. In 1895 Messrs. Janes Bros., of Luton,
took out a patent for a concealed stitch machine called the “Lutonia,”
which has met with a very distinct success. Meanwhile the demand for
hats of certain plaits, which were improved by the outside stitch
sewing, kept on increasing, and indeed there are plaits on which even
the so called “visible” stitches are _invisible_. Plaits of cotton,
silk, ajour, and crinoline are of such nature that the cotton used
in the outside stitch machine sewing seems to lose or bury itself in
the material of the braid, and there is less likelihood of the needle
catching in their tough fibres than there is in the working of the
Box machine, where a hook is used; and further for some years plaits
of fine chip were the dominant demand, and for these there was less
tendency on the part of the fine single needle of the visible stitch
machine to cut the narrow wood strands, than if the double punctuation
of the Box machine needle and hook were used. In 1879, therefore, the
Willcox & Gibbs Co. took out a patent for what is now known as the
“17 Guinea” type of visible stitch sewing machines. This model has
been closely followed by the “Dresdensia,” a German product of signal
value; and “The Singer,” an American competitor, both of which are in
the main imitations or copies of the 1879 patent. It is a fact worthy
of note that the first successful machine to sew a hat of straw plait
from button to circumference of brim was a Willcox & Gibbs, and that
the latest word in straw sewing is also, by the arrangement with Mr.
Wiseman, a product of the same firm.

Other machinery used for making straw hats consists of a variety of
“Blocking” machines. As will be shown hereafter, the most primitive
means were adopted at first, but when the hydraulic type made its
appearance it soon left no room for any other method. The appliances
of Messrs Desbordes, Desireau, Légat, Beresford, Keston, Brochier and
Stoffel (described in Chapter XII) have now rendered possible the
blocking of all kinds of shapes and materials by machine.

The plait mill, made of both wood and iron, completes the list of
mechanical appliances used in making a straw hat.

But at the present time all hat sewing machines, which for at least
twenty-five years were driven by the foot power of the operator, are
worked by mechanical power, either from a gas or steam engine, or by
electrical dynamos.



The foregoing details, mainly devoted to the classical and historical
side of straw hat manufacture, have demonstrated that the word “straw”
is very elastic in its meaning when applied to its use for making hats.
All classes of vegetable fibres have been included at some time or
other in its embrace, and to-day the range of materials technically
known as “straws” is larger than at any previous time. But as the
industry of straw hat making centred itself in the locality of South
Bedfordshire on account of the superior straw, and because the process
of splitting and subsequent manipulation effected a total revolution
in straw hat working, a description of the processes common in that
district will, with a few minor exceptions, serve as an example for
all plait making. The straws used in England are principally those
of wheat, the exceptions are very small. They are specially grown by
careful methods of tillage, and at the proper period are cut either
with the sickle or with the scythe, the mowing machine being likely to
bruise the stalks. They are tied into suitable bundles, considerably
smaller than the usual sheaf, with the ears of corn as nearly level
as possible; these are then cut off and used for grain purposes. The
bundles of straw are carefully “combed” with a coarse wooden comb to
rid the stalks of all the loose portions and thin blades. They are then
cut into the standard lengths, about 10 ins. long, and are ready for
sizing. This is effected by working through a series of sieves, with
somewhat deep sides. As the straws have been carefully gathered with
ears uppermost, it naturally follows that all the similar thicknesses
of stalk are together, and therefore the process of sorting becomes a
fairly speedy one. The cut lengths now become _straw pipes_, and they
are first placed on the largest end in the largest grade sieve, the
pipes smaller than the mesh fall through, leaving only those of the
coarsest dimensions. This process is repeated until all the varying
thicknesses of straw have been sorted into their respective sizes. They
are then tied up carefully into bundles of about 5 ins. in diameter,
and are ready for the plaitter.

In Italy, where the straw is grown solely for plaitting purposes,
the process before sorting is a little different. The sowing of corn
(_Triticum turgidum_, or _Triticum oestivum_, which is a species of
rye) is done very thickly, so as to produce thin and short stalks. It
is gathered when the ear is in a soft, milky state before the final
stages of ripening. It is then thinly spread over the ground in fine,
hot weather, and afterwards tied in bundles and stacked, so that the
resultant heat may drive off all moisture. After remaining stacked
for about a month, it is spread out and exposed to the action of dew,
sun and air, in order to bleach it. During the exposure, which varies
according to necessity, the stalks are frequently turned. When the
bleaching process is sufficiently complete, the lower joint of the
straw stripped of its outside thin sheath is divided from the upper
one, which is still allowed to retain the ear. This process provides
the _punta_ and the _pedale_. The straw is then subjected to the
action of steam and the fumes of sulphur. When this bleaching process
is complete the assortment into sizes by sieves takes place, and the
graded straws are then ready for use.

From this stage for making plaits of the whole or unsplit straw, the
processes adopted by both England and Italy are in the main identical;
Italy, however, has not generally adopted the splitting processes
for plait making on account of the fineness of her straws. But the
British plaitter reserves the sulphur bleaching of the straws until
the plait is actually made, for, with the excellent colour of the
straw, in many cases this can be dispensed with until the need for
hat making arises. The first processes of plaitting, either of hats
or of braid, were undoubtedly of the unsplit stalks, and all “English
whole straw” plaits were so made. It has been shown how and why the
splitting of straws arose. The plaitter, having determined on the
variety of plait to be made, acquired a sufficiency of suitable sized
_pipes_. With the _splitter_, the point of which, inserted in the end
of the straw, and pressed downwards, the tube of straw coming against
the radially set cutters, the _pipes_ were divided into _splints_ of
equal widths of a fineness according to the plaitter’s requirements.
These were then wetted so as to render them a little tougher and more
amenable for manipulation and bending. The plaitter, with a bundle of
splints under the left arm, and generally a few in the mouth, through
the lips of which they are drawn to keep moist, commences operations.
Any description of all the methods of plaitting would be tedious, all
the operations consisting of a constant under and over locking of
the splints, but in the split straw making of the “Patent Dunstable”
the plaitting, instead of being of either one straw or splint, is of
two, wetted and laid together, and in the varieties known as “Splits”
the splints are plaitted singly, leaving alternately, or in a spaced
pattern, according to the design required, the inside and the outside
of the straw; the outside of silicate being shiny, and the inside with
its slight pith (or _rice_ as it is termed) being dull. The “Whole
Straw Dunstable,” the first plait made in the neighbourhood, was of
seven entire straws, “Patent Dunstable” or “Twist” was of seven doubled
strands, or _ends_, formed of fourteen splints. _Rice_ similarly made,
but with the splints inside out, making a plait of a dull white which
was extensively used for bonnets for weddings. “Split” was formed of
seven single split straws, presenting the varied appearance mentioned
above, and was naturally the lightest of British fine plaits. “Luton”
was made like “Patent Dunstable,” but without the “Twist” head, making
a flat plait similar to split but with both sides alike. “Bedford,”
made of eleven single or eleven double ends of twenty-two splints,
similar to and in imitation of the Italian plait “11-end Tuscan,”
and “Rustic,” a plait of four whole or split straws plaitted to show
pointed serrations on both edges. These plaits form the base from
which all other straw plaits have developed; their composition and
methods are to be found in every variety whether made in Great Britain
or abroad, and although other hand-made plaits have larger or smaller
numbers of “ends” (from three to almost any number upwards) their basis
of treatment remains the same.

The two primary homes of plaitting straws into braids, Italy and
Great Britain, had many features in common in the conditions and
methods by which the plait was made. In both countries the whole of
the industry was carried on by peasants and their wives. The males,
who were generally agricultural labourers or small traders in rural
districts, for the main part saw to the growing of the straws and their
preparation and distribution for plaitting, followed after the braids
were made by the marketing of the work done by their female friends or
relations. In some districts, such as the environs of Florence and of
the South Beds and neighbouring counties, these occupations were of
such magnitude as to give constant employment to many.

In all the districts the main labour of plaitting was undertaken by
the womenfolk, although men at times took a hand, and in the middle
of the nineteenth century it was a real feature of village life in
the plaitting centres, to see the good wives and daughters, after the
household work was done, standing at their cottage doors, swiftly and
dexterously plaitting and at the same time distributing that gentle
and yet satisfying gossip that was so dear to rustic life. In this
manner by far the greater bulk of the plaits of Italy and Great Britain
were made, although in the latter country since about 1825, some extra
means of production were employed. Instead of the art being taught from
mother to daughter, as was the earlier practice, schools of plaitting
were instituted. These were generally arranged in the cottage home
of one of the most expert plaitters, who for a small fee taught the
youthful aspirants all the intricacies of the trade, while at the same
time the instructor contrived to keep at work on her own particular
plaitting. The view of a portion of a plaitting village, on a fine
day, with its generally picturesque surroundings framing an active
rustic group of women engaged in plaitting, was such as should have
commended itself to many an artist, yet strange to say the pictures
extant of either Italian or British plaitting scenes are very few and
far between. These pleasant, pastoral occupations seem to have gone for
ever from Great Britain, although one may still see in Italy the once
familiar signs. Hand plaitting has migrated to the Far East, and there
in China and Japan one can to-day see, with the changes consequent on
the different setting of the scenes, the sights which seventy-five
years ago were common to the countryside around Dunstable, Hemel
Hempstead, and Luton.

SCENE IN 1870]

Machine-made straw plaits have never been produced in quantities in
England, although patents for plaitting have been taken out; but in
Italy and Switzerland machinery has been in use since 1840, producing
plaits of straw mixed with other fibres, such as horsehair or silk.
Fiesole, a village near Florence, became a centre of machine-made
plaits of Tuscan straw woven in Wattle fashion with strands of silk and
cotton, and gave its name to all similarly made plaits.

The other continental centres making straw plaits were Switzerland and
Belgium. By the former practically all the straws used were imported
from Italy, only quite a small portion being home grown; but Belgium
produced some beautiful straws, and the “Split” and “Piping” made in
that country have never been surpassed. The “7 end cord,” of same
detail as “Patent Dunstable,” although excellent in make and colour,
missed the sharp twisted head (from whence the name “Twist”) peculiar
to the British made article, the straws being of too soft a nature
to retain the desired effect throughout the hat-making processes.
The methods of gathering and preparing the straws in Belgium closely
followed the British.

China, the first Far Eastern straw plait competitor, is able to count
on almost limitless quantities of straw, and the plaits made there
are, as far as appearance is concerned, second to none. But while the
British plaitter inserts only one or say two straws at a time, the
Chinese frequently insert what is known as the _whole sett_; this
naturally causes a greater weakness at the junction than is found in
British plait, and for that reason many Chinese patterns, although
beautiful to look at, are very difficult to work, and the probability
of some of these _setts_ coming undone and the consequent raggedness
of the _speels_ (as the loose ends are called) make these plaits
undesirable for the highest class work. But the Chinese, although not
too adaptable, are nothing if not deft, and a few makes of plait are
put on the market, which from their altered “setting” are known as
“speelless.” “Speelless Maslimpo,” an imitation in very fine whole
straws of Italian 7 ends pedal is one of the most beautiful fine plaits
made, and although it seldom entirely justifies its adjective, in the
main it is the least difficult Chinese plait to work up. The methods
employed by the celestials in preparing the straws are tantamount
to those employed in Britain, and the methods of splitting them are

Japan occupies a unique position in the cultivation and production of
straws for plaitting. The soil is extremely fertile, and the geological
condition of the country is volcanic. The straws when grown attain to
a great size of tube, even as much as 1/3 of an inch in diameter, and
plaits have been made of Japanese straws, split only in one place,
which when opened out form a splint an inch wide, making braids of
only 4 or 5 ends, about 3 ins. in width. The volcanic nature of the
country seems to have permeated the soil with some bleaching agent.
Sulphur is usually a product of volcanic eruption, and although its
fumes are deadly to the growth of cereals, straws grown on volcanic
soil acquire a colour which is unobtainable elsewhere. And the colour
of the Japanese straw is entirely unlike, and at the same time vastly
better than, any other known variety. Its rapid growth also engenders a
special lightness of weight, and although not tough as the Italian or
British, it is sufficiently so for any plaitting purposes. In this case
the preparation of straws for working is simply the drying and sorting.

Cereals only have as yet been described, but two other vegetable
products can almost claim by user to be classed as straws, as the straw
hat making industry has adopted them in a very whole-hearted manner.
One of the first vegetable plaits, other than those of actual straw,
was made of fine splints of the wood of willow. This was sufficiently
seasoned in plank, a finely planed surface obtained, and a planing
cutter, with scoring knives set to the requisite width, was made to
take a very thin shaving. This naturally produced the shaving in very
narrow strips that were the _media_ from which 3 ends, 5 ends, 7 ends
and 9 ends “Chip” were plaitted by hand. Also wider splints of willow
shavings were used to make fancy patterns of plait, the number of which
is legion. This branch of the industry emanated from Italy, and Saxony
and the Black Forest subsequently did some business in chip plaits,
but their shavings were not equal to the Italian, being more woolly
and less glossy, and they enjoyed mainly a local success. About 1890
the Japanese began to make chip plaits, their wood was equal to the
Italians, and their prices vastly lower, so that for some years, while
the plait known as “3 ends Chip” monopolized the great bulk of the hat
making requirements, Italy and Japan were keen competitors. As in the
birthplace of chip plaits, so in Japan were subsequently made all kinds
of fancy designs, which for some time nearly extinguished the Italian

The other vegetable fibre is hemp. This was first used by the Swiss in
the manufacture of a machine made braid similar in appearance to the
hand plaitted 9 or 7 end chips.

The fibre from which the first braids were woven was derived from an
aloe-like plant _Sansaviera Zeylanica_ (or bow string hemp) which grew
in the island of Java in a district called Tégal. This particular
hemp when prepared was exceedingly lustrous and tough, and when put
on the market in braids was called by the name of its native place.
The name has been corrupted into several forms, Tagal, Tagel, Tagle,
etc., but the proper name is Tégal, and this is still retained by the
French, while in England the most popular form is Tagal. The method of
weaving was to plait into braids, strands formed of one, two or three,
or even more fibres of the hemp, and plaits were marketed conveying
those features, such as “13/2” (which meant 13 strands of two fibres),
or “13/3” (thirteen strands of 3 fibres). This shoelace like braid was
soon followed by a design similar to Italian 7 end Pedal, and was at
first known as “Tégal Picot,” but is now more generally called “Pedal
Tagal.” When worked this plait has a very close resemblance to its
model, and like all the other hemp plaits, will take a softly brilliant
and regular coloured dye.

The Japanese soon copied all these Tagal braids and quickly made it
almost impossible for any other competitor, although at first their
reproductions were extremely faulty. While Italy, that also made hemp
plaits, and Switzerland yet enjoy a small trade, it is probable that at
least 95 per cent of Pedal Tagal emanates from the “Land of the Rising
Sun,” which has found means to utilize other varieties of hemp, and
has also incorporated silk fibres into the plaitting, and at the same
time is now producing qualities that are not surpassed by either of
the European varieties. The only merit of continental Tagal above the
Japanese is that the braids are somewhat firmer and squarer in make.

Hemp fibres, like almost all others, have been extensively used, either
by themselves or in conjunction with other materials, in making fancy
braids of a thousand and one varieties. One feature of all Tagal plaits
is that there is no other known medium which combines such toughness
and wear-resisting qualities.

Further, plaits have been made from the naturally produced vegetable
fibres, Raffia, Cuba Bast, Yedda (a particularly light stripping from
an exotic plant), Sinnet or Palm leaf, Rushes of all kinds, and various
similar growths.

Mechanically prepared fibres from vegetable growths such as cotton,
jute, etc., have been pressed into the making of various braids of
close and open designs, while silk and imitation silks of cellulose
nature have enjoyed great popularity as plaits for making fancy hats.

The only purely animal product used in making plaits is horsehair.
This material, so extremely liked by the highest classes of wearers,
is now most difficult to obtain owing to the rise of the motor car and
the subsequent decline of the horse, but in spite of its origin it has
been, since at least sixty years, included as one of the materials that
can be classified as a “straw hat.”

All the plaits mentioned, with very few exceptions, such as the
cellulose, visca, cotton or black horsehair varieties, require
bleaching or dyeing before being ready for sewing. In a few cases these
processes take place where the plait is made, but generally speaking
they are done at the places where plaits are made into hats.



The previous chapter has dealt with the materials used in plait and
the incidental processes necessary to the preparation of the fibres,
because plait is undoubtedly at the present day the principal medium
for the fashionable straw hat. As the opening chapter proves, the
earliest periods of the use of vegetable fibres for head coverings
were entirely devoted to the weaving of the hat in one piece, as, for
example, a basket is woven. In fact, the use of plait braid has been
adopted only for about 400 years, but, although large quantities of
woven hats still continue to be made, plait has gradually taken the
premier place. But any description of the straw hat trade would be
incomplete without a proper account of the woven hat or “hood,” as it
is termed in the trade, the word “hat” implying the finished article.
In the first place the fibres that can be made into plait can also
be made into hoods, for any fibre capable of being manipulated in
plaitting can be woven. (The term “woven” is used in want of a better,
because the action needed is really more what is generally known as
“weaving” than “plaitting,” although both processes are done by hand,
with one or two minor exceptions.) There are, however, several fibres
that are woven into hoods that are not generally utilized for making
plaits, although quite suitable, but their nature is such as to demand
a different preparatory treatment to any of those essentially straw.
These are the “Panama” and the Panama imitations or substitutes.
Among the substitutes are “Curaçoas,” “Bowens,” “Jipi-Japas,” etc.;
and the imitations are “Javas,” “Bankoks,” “Brazilians,” “Manilas”
and “Paper Panamas” made from strips of paper rolled to imitate, and
they do imitate very closely, the natural fibre used in the real
Panama. A description of the true “Panama” fibre will give an insight
into the nature of all the substitutes, the preparations for weaving
being nearly identical in every case. The origin of the Panama hat
is obscured in oblivion, but the source of supply ranges round about
Central America, and from Ecuador claims are made that in the province
of Manavi, a native named Francisco Delgado first made a Panama hat
about 300 years ago. This very Spanish name for a native evokes a
suspicion that the date given was the first _Spanish_ record of the
matter, for it is most probable that the making of grass fibre hats
in the Western Hemisphere was, like it has been shown to be in the
Eastern, of the most remote antiquity. But researches made by our
Consular Office can only supply the above information. The material
used is derived from a kind of native palm or palm grass known as _paja
toquilla_, and resembles, in its fan like shape, the _saw palmetto_.
Cultivation usually takes place in selected low-hung wet lands, and the
seed is planted in rows during the rainy season. When the grass attains
a height of 4-1/2 to 5 ft., it is cut just before ripening, boiled in
water, and after being thoroughly dried in the sun, is sorted through
very carefully. The actual selection of fibres for the best class hat
is most thorough, and all unlikely leaves are rejected.

Those finally selected are in some districts, such as Manavi, dampened
with water to make them tough, pliable, and amenable to stripping
into the required widths. In Columbia, where the “Palmicha” is used,
the leaves are boiled for a certain time till they soften and turn a
light yellow in colour. This process of boiling is an art in itself,
and seems to present greater difficulties without corresponding
advantages to the simple damping. The leaves done by either method
are then separated and hung to dry in a current of air, but not in
the sun. Before they are quite dry the splitting operation commences;
this is still done in some districts in the primitive method by the
thumb-nail of the operator, in others a Y-shaped wooden tool is used.
The splints, when being split are made to curl slightly at the edges,
causing the fibre to assume a roundness. The subsequent drying causes
this roundness to become permanent. They are then made into suitable
bundles, and wrapped in clean damp cloths to protect them from the dry
atmosphere as well as from the light. The hood weavers commence at the
apex of crown and continue the weaving in a circular and transverse
manner, until the edge of the brim is reached, when a double “return”
is made to give strength and form to the hat. Some centres use wooden
blocks, on which the hood is shaped during its progress of weaving,
others follow simply the primitive method of rule of thumb, but during
late years the demand for larger head entries to Panama hats has caused
a more general using of either the wooden block or a suitable template
in order that the size of the crowns may be more uniform.

In some places the various parts of the hood are made by different
operatives, thus the crown or the top only may be woven by one, the
side of crown by another, and the brim by a third; generally there are


In order to achieve the best results the weaving has to be done in a
very humid atmosphere, and to take advantage of that condition, and
to ensure continuity, the work is sometimes accomplished between
midnight and 7 a.m. during the dry season. Some writers on this subject
assert that Panamas are woven _under_ water, the operator using a
bowl; some _may_ have been, but this was probably a freak experiment,
as in all the many districts where hats of this kind are made the
only desideratum is full natural humidity. When the hood is finished
the ends or “speels” of the strands, where the _setts-in_ and the
_setts-out_ take place, are carefully pared off with a sharp knife or
scissors, and the hat is battered all over with a small wooden mace
in order to make it as smooth as possible. It is then washed, in some
places with clean cold water only, in others with soap and water, and
in some with soap and water combined with lime-juice; drying in the
sun completes the operations of making the hood. What are here known
as “Jipi Japas” are so closely allied to the true Panama that only an
expert can differentiate between them. The material used is almost
always identical and is prepared in the same way. There is, however, a
slight difference in the method of weaving, and the finish generally
speaking, is not of such a high standard. They are made principally
in the province of Manavi, in Ecuador. Another variety, very similar,
taking its name from the district in which it is made, is called
“Suaza.” The really fine specimens of the Panama hat appear to be
produced in Columbia, and are made in the departments of Santander,
Antisquia, Cauca, and Tolima.

The local generic name for all these hoods is “Jipi-Japa,” but the
name “Panama” was applied to them because Panama was the port from
which they were shipped, and this name for the best quality obtains
generally throughout the world. A really fine hood would take two or
three months to make, but the bulk probably do not exceed two or three
weeks’ work. Some districts look to the making as regular employment,
and the operatives work the whole available time in the day, while
others regard it as a side line, and utilize only their spare time. A
very similar arrangement to this was common among the straw plaitters
of England, and in both cases the bulk of the workers were women.
Latterly in the Central American States men have been more employed in
the industry.

The “Curaçoa” (or as it should properly be spelt Curaçao) comes from
the island of the same name in the Caribbean Sea. When made the hoods
are of a light creamy fawn colour, and are made out of fibres imported
from the neighbouring mainland of Venezuela. The method of weaving is
similar to that of Panama hats, but the strands are of a much coarser

“Bowens” or “Pandans” are made principally by Chinese labour in the
island of Sumatra. They are generally, although some are of split
fibres, made of a whole natural raffia-like grass which is indigenous.
They are extremely low in price, and although coarse looking are very
serviceable hats. When properly bleached, after going through a variety
of chemical colour changes, they assume an excellent white.

Another variety of hood, of which only a limited quantity have been
used, owing to its many undesirable features, is the “Hinoki.” This is
made of Chinese raffia by native labour, and is similar to the “Bowen,”
but the nature of the fibre is such as to make it decidedly inferior
among the Panama imitations. “Javas” are perhaps the most peculiar and
wonderful in their working. They are made of perfectly flat splints
obtained from bamboo-like palms, and are woven in all degrees of
fineness, but their great peculiarity lies in the fact that they are
double, the hoods when marketed having a finely woven exterior and an
inside lining much coarser in texture attached only to the outer one
at the edge of the brim. At one time they commanded a large trade,
but demand for them has greatly diminished in Europe. “Bankoks” are
similarly flat splint hoods of one thickness, but the fibre of which
they are composed is an inner one, the outer and harder portion being
taken away. They have the merit of extreme lightness of weight and can
be successfully dyed in any colour but with little sheen. “Brazilians”
are not unlike “Javas,” but are of one thickness only, and the fibre
used is more stubborn than that of the “Java.”

“Manilas” are also woven in like manner to a Panama, but they can be
obtained both single and double like a “Java.” The fibre used for them
is hemp, the “splints” of which are fine strips of two or more strands
of hemp laid flat. This variety of hood is capable of being dyed to any
colour, and unlike either of its _confrères_, has a brilliant sheen
when finished. All these “imitations” derive their name in some way
from their places or ports of origin.

“Paper Panamas” are the latest Japanese production, imitating some
models first made in France. By appearance alone they can hardly be
selected from the real article except to experts, it is only the
difference in weight and greater regularity of colour, that discloses
their nature. But they have not the same wearing capabilities, for
while a real Panama can, and often does, last longer than its wearer’s
lifetime, the sham one is nearly worthless after the first season’s use.

Other hoods are made of “chip” (generally of wider splints than those
used for making plait); of “rush,” “yedda,” “raffia,” and other similar
materials, in fact each succeeding season generally sees some novelty
of fibre introduced. Of rush hoods there are two varieties, one of the
fine, rather hard, but very tough rushes that usually grow in England
by the wayside; these are made in the greatest quantities in China, and
wonderful ingenuity is displayed in their finish. The other variety is
that of the pithy “rush” such as one may gather in the Fens, and which
is to be found in quantities in the Lombardy marshes; these are used
for making both plait and hoods which are very light in weight.

“Yedda” is the inner cuticle of an exotic plant, which has great
toughness and is very light in weight, but, owing to the growth of the
plant, can only be obtained in very short lengths, this of necessity
making both plaitting and weaving more difficult.

“Raffia” is the substance known to gardeners, and makes an excellent
medium for plait and hoods on account of its lightness, its toughness
and the great length of its staple. There are other natural fibres that
have been utilized for hood weaving by hand, but the above-mentioned
are the principal ones. In addition there are some hoods made of
machine woven plait of hemp, cotton, silk, or imitation silk fibres.
Although the first named is frequently worked alone, the others are
generally woven with other materials. A hood of straws machine woven
with the aid of a cotton, hemp, or silk fibre emanates from Switzerland
and Italy, and is extremely light in weight. Sometimes the straws are
utilized whole in these hoods, but more generally they are split. In
both cases the straws are dyed or bleached before weaving.

All these hoods are utilized for making men’s or ladies’ hats, and
except in a few cases they are imported in the natural colour,
requiring bleaching or dyeing before entering the actual hat making

It is perhaps necessary to add that hoods of splints cut from palm
leaves imported from Cuba, were made during some years at St. Albans.
The result was similar to a “Brazilian” (in fact, they went under that
name), being woven by hand in the villages round the city, and blocked
into proper shape and trimmed in the St. Albans factories. The trade
languished when French competition arose, Strasburg and Nancy being the
most successful European competitors. “Panamas” or hoods made from the
fibre imported from the West Indies have also been made in these last
mentioned centres.



Having briefly described the nature of, and method of preparation
of various plaits and hoods, some detailed account of the method of
working those which have largely contributed to the creation and
augmentation of the Straw Hat Trade will be necessary.

The first plaits made were, as has already been said, of _whole_ pieces
of rush or straw. They were plainly plaitted without any attempt at
producing what is termed a “head,” i.e. the straws or rushes were
simply folded over flatly at the edge of the plait. Plaits were made
of varying numbers of “ends” or pieces of straw, from three to seven
was probably the favourite scale. The “ends,” let us say three, are
fastened together by twisting in a fanlike manner, the right-hand one
is first bent under towards the left in a flat fold at a widish angle,
_under_ the middle “end,” this then becomes parallel to the left hand
“end” which in its turn is folded under the now middle end towards the
right, becoming consequently parallel to the right-hand “end”; this
completes the operation, which to make lengths of plait is repeated
_ad libitum_. The plait produced is now known as “3 ends plain.” To
make a “head” on one edge of the plait, instead of folding flatly from
the right, a “twist” or half turn is given to the “end” at the extreme
edge and point of turn, before folding under the middle strand; as this
always to a certain extent buckles the round pipe of straw or rush, a
shell like effect is produced which greatly adds to the effectiveness
of the plait, and is called “Twist” or “Picot” edge.

To make “five ends” plait, five strands are required; these are also
set out in a fan like shape, but four of the ends lie parallel towards
the right, and one only towards the left; the plaitting begins by
turning with either the twisted or the flat fold, the right hand “end”
_under_ the “end” nearest to it, _over_ the next one, and _under_ the
third, when the left hand “end” is turned _under_ the one just brought
from the right, which then becomes the left hand “end,” again beginning
with the now right hand “end” and repeating the operation as before.
These two processes form the basis for all plaitting, and although
any number of “ends” may be used up to the holding capacity of the
plaitter and although any change of making the “head” may be adopted,
the _under_ and _over_ method is common to all plaitting of braids and
hoods. The demand for novelty has caused many variations to be created;
the “Twist” head has been described, in addition there are the “one”
“two” or “three” or even more “Purl” (or “Pearl”) heads. A “Purl” is a
double kind of “Twist” which may occur at every other head or greater
intervals. This twist consists of two of the strands or split straws
being turned spirally for a sufficient length to form a little half
shell at the edge of the plait, the further length of the strand being
plaitted into the foot at the desired distance, giving to the finished
braid, which is generally of a narrow width, a very pretty effect.
Another variety of head which has different applications of the same
principle is known as “Feather.” This, although it can be made with
whole straws, is generally, and is most effective, made with split
straws, and its pattern is a loop or loops of a slightly curved nature
formed on the edge of the plait by allowing the right hand “end” or
“ends” to miss one or more turns of plaitting, so that when at regular
intervals it is, or they are, loosely brought into use, they will form
a kind of scalloped edge to the plait.

There are also heads which are known by the number of times plaitting
is _missed_ to create a fancy edge. These vary from two to ten, and
are made from a sufficient number of “ends” to leave the head of
“Under-two” or “Under-ten” or intermediate numbers, as the case may
be, with a sufficient “foot” to keep the plait firm for working; the
resultant appearance of this method is a plain succession of parallel
straws at the plaitting angle to the “foot,” which gives, when sewn,
the “foot” being covered, according to the medium used, an entirely
“matt” or a brilliantly glossy surface. These “under” plaits can be
made with any reasonable number of “ends,” but they are seldom found
plaitted with more than sufficient to produce the “under ten.” In order
to preserve absolute regularity of length in these head straws, which
are actually “in the air,” they are turned over a suitable template, be
it of bone, metal, or any thin hard wearing material; this is withdrawn
as the plaitting progresses to the further stages of development, but
in some cases, especially with split straws, which would not retain any
regularity without some support, the template used is a strand of split
straw of sufficient width for the number of “under heads,” and is left
in the plait to form a permanent strengthener to the pattern. It is
completely hidden from sight by the heads folded over it, and although
in the wider plaits it is very undesirable, being extremely difficult
to turn in small circles, in the narrow grades the objectionable
features are more easily overcome.

In addition to these, there is the “saw” edge, a peculiarity of
“Rustics,” and of which, as its name implies, one edge, or both edges,
present that angular serration which is common to saws. There are also
innumerable fancy edges, having as their foundation one or the other of
these generic patterns.

The “Foot,” or other part of the braid as distinct from the head, is
made in so many ways that room forbids any detailed account: some
plaits have none, and one of the most remarkable of this variety may
be described. In “English Brilliant,” a widish plait made of a varying
number of ends, there is really no “foot,” the plait, of split straws,
being all head or pattern. The individuality of “Brilliant” is that
once the turn is effected the split straw instead of laying flat across
the pattern is made to stand on its edge, giving to the design a look
similar to a honeycomb; this is probably the lightest in weight of any
straw made plait.

These few types form the basis on which nearly all plaits are made by
hand. There are, of course, many others in actual use, one not yet
mentioned which, although plaitted in the same way as ordinary flat
head 7 end braid, is made with single strands of split straw. The
result is a kind of chess board pattern, which shows alternate squares
of the outside and the inside of the straw. This has a generic name of
“split,” and was one of the earliest developments of English plaitting.
Naturally, it is very light in weight, and enjoyed a great sale for
many years, being most suitable for “Granny” bonnets.

Other plaits have been made of what is called “Cordinette.” This
consists of two strands only, and is plaitted one over the other in
recurring fashion, so as to make a kind of narrow concertina. It was at
one time used for making small bonnets, but its general application has
been for the embellishment of some of the wider grades of plait.

The straw plaits of China, and especially Japan, are all made on the
above lines, their extra beauty and lightness, combined with the width
of straw possibilities, rendering them the successful rivals to our
insular produce. In these Far Eastern lands many fancy digressions
of plait making have been made, some of them of beautiful design and
effect, but all of them embodying one or more of the methods already
described as peculiar to hand plaitting, and generally speaking have
been copies of patterns sent out from Europe.

The other branch of plait making that has now revolutionized the
trade is that of machine made braids. Some few entirely straw plaits
have been made by machine. A Luton inventor named Barrett designed a
mechanical plaitter, which really did make fairly good whole straw
plaits, but the invention came at a time when lightness was considered
most essential, and the machine failed to do justice to either single
or double split straws. Italy has for many years produced a straw
plait woven with cotton or silk, of which there are many patterns, but
which are all given the generic name of “Fiesole,” from the original
place of manufacture. This Italian plait of fine Tuscan straws has
been in use for many years, 1840 is supposed to have been the date,
and the plait was made on looms imported from Switzerland. Both Italy
and Switzerland have since produced innumerable patterns of plaits
in which straw is combined with one or more suitable weaving media.
But all these machine-made patterns, although legion in number, and
extending over more than three-quarters of a century, cannot compare as
a straw hat success with the machine woven braids of horsehair, cotton,
silk, viscose, hemp and other similar fibres that have emanated from
Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Japan.

Probably the first machine-made braid (soon adopted and classified
as “straw”) was that known as “crinoline.” This has as its basis
horsehair, and is made both of hair alone and of hair mixed with many
other fibres. The plain braid can be composed of odd numbers of strands
of horsehair from five upwards, in series of numbers divisible by four,
plus one; thus 17 ends, 21 ends, 25 ends, and so on; the finest used in
the trade is 17 ends, which is about 1/8 of an inch in width, but 21
and 25 ends are the most in request for making the _Crinoline_ hat so
well known in the most fashionable quarters. Bonnets were extensively
made about fifty or sixty years ago of “Crinoline Fancy” plaits that
were a mixture of the hair with silk, or straw, or Tuscan, or any
similar fibres. They were also adorned with glass beads or bugles,
and with silken knots and small tassels. This trade is now nearly
extinct owing to the scarcity of hair, but its place is fully filled
with imitations made of various kinds of artificial silk, cellulose,
viscose, and the like.

A cheaper competitor to crinoline was brought out about 1870, when
imitations in cotton fibre braids were put on the market, but these
missed entirely the delicate open work of the real article. Similar
effects were subsequently made in hemp. But about 1890 the Germans
began to make cotton braids in an open, or as it was termed _ajour_,
manner, imitating very closely the true effect of crinoline. This had
a tremendous success, for the cost was very small. This was followed
by the silk imitations mentioned above, and they have now reached such
a stage of perfection of make and colour as to entirely outvie their
progenitor. About 1892 the Swiss people put on the market the first
“Tégal” braids, to be quickly followed by an Italian copy. This rapidly
spread to Japan, and the product of that far eastern country soon took
the premier place, which at the time of writing it still holds.

Another product, largely used in the trade, although strictly speaking
neither a plait nor a woven hat, is “Sparterie.” This is wattle woven
of fine willow-chip splints into various sized sheets for the different
requirements of the trade; it is mainly used as a foundation for making
hats to be covered with some delicate plait that will not stand any
method of wet stiffening. It is extremely light in weight, and can be
moulded to almost any shape, it will stand stiffening, and may be made
as firm as stiff buckram. This emanated first from Italy, but now for
some years the Japanese have been competing for the trade.



The dyeing and bleaching of the various plaits are the next important
processes towards making a straw hat.

The dyeing of straw plait in England, done individually for some time
on a small scale, commenced as a separate industry about 1845, when a
Mr. Randall opened some dyeing works at Sundon, a village about four
miles from Luton. Black, and a very poor brown and dark blue, were the
only colours then dyed. Shortly after Mr. Thomas Lye, who came from
Kirkby Malzeard, near Ripon, Yorks, which was a plait making centre,
started business as a dyer in Luton. His gamut of shades numbered only
four or five, and the standard of colour then demanded was very low.
Mr. Lye’s first signal success was a “grey,” which at that time no
other competitor had attempted. In 1857 his business was transferred
to its present site. Other colours quickly followed, and the invention
of aniline dyes revolutionized the old “vegetable dye” processes, of
which the ingredients were madder, indigo, logwood and fustic. These
wood dyes required a long and costly process, and involved the use of
mordants to prepare the straw for the different colours, and their
somewhat cumbersome methods rendered them at all times rather uncertain
in their results. With the advent of the more easily handled synthetic
dyestuffs the operations of wood dyeing became less frequent, and
although to-day black is still produced from logwood chips, practically
all colours are dyed with one or the other extracts of coal tar, etc.
The main considerations of dyeing are brilliance of shade with perfect
evenness of colour, and penetration of the dye right through the straw.
Unlike some textile fabrics, fastness either to light or even to water
is not insisted on; but absolute penetration is a necessity, for should
any part of the straw when plaitted become abraded, if the colour were
only on the surface, the worn part would show a lighter tint; and also
if when the “button” or centre of the hat was made, the turning of
which being in such tiny circles, the straws are disturbed to their
utmost, and the light coloured spaces which would result would impair
the regularity of colour. And the dyeing penetration of straws or straw
plait, composed as it is of such diversity of elements, the hard flint
like exterior and the soft pappy inside, is a matter of considerable
difficulty, even if dyers had not to contend, first, with the extreme
hardness of water which is common in the South Bedfordshire district,
and second, the constant cleansing necessary on changes in fashionable
colours necessitating the use of coppers, the chemical effects of which
in some instances need counter action to achieve a good result.

The question of penetration of the straw is one that has keenly
exercised the minds of straw dyers from the inception of the industry.
Many are the opinions as to the best medium for rapid and regular
penetration. And many are the formulae given as being most suitable
agents. It is probable that straws, grown on different geological
formations and thus having different varieties of silicate exteriors,
require different baths of softening chemicals, and that one bath,
excellent for the straw plaits of China, would be inefficient for the
straw plaits of Italy. Generally speaking, however, these baths are
formed of water with some neutral salt, such as _sodium acetate_;
or of an alkaline solution of _sodium carbonate_ with _ammonia_.
But the less that is done in the way of such softening before dyeing
the better; because the longer straw plait is boiled the more it is
impoverished. And as these preliminary processes involve boiling
in every case, impoverishment must take place, and where alkaline
solutions are used the results are especially poor. Another objection
to the use of softeners is that they tend to loosen the straws of the
plait, and as each process involves manipulation, the handling of the
loosened plait tends to break it considerably.

Yet another objection is that certain shades of colour are most
adversely affected by the previous use of such agents, in fact some
tones cannot be produced at all on plaits thus treated. While in a few
cases it is perhaps necessary and advisable to employ a softener, in by
far the greater number the best results are those obtained from that
formula which involves the fewest processes and the shortest time of
boiling, and this can best be obtained where dyestuffs are used that do
not require any previous preparation of the plait.

The dyeing of straw is almost invariably done at the boil. The dyeing
matter, with any necessary addition, is put into the vat or copper
and well mixed with the requisite amount of water. The plait is then
introduced and laid carefully and regularly so that when pressed down
the solution may cover it.


The vats (which are made of wood) and the coppers are all furnished
with a steam perforated copper coil at the bottom. Over this at a
slight distance, so that the heated pipes cannot come into contact with
the plait, is laid a perforated tray, be it of wood or copper. The
plait is laid, as described above, on this tray, and when sufficiently
pressed down is covered with a perforated copper lid to prevent the
plait from rising above the surface of the dyebath. This is then
brought to the boil and continued for sufficient time, according to
the nature of the material and colour required, to ensure perfect
penetration and regularity. This time may vary from even less than
twenty minutes to several hours. When the desired shade is achieved,
which is proved by testing, the plait is lifted carefully from the dye
bath on to a crated topped carrier, similar to a funeral bier. Formerly
on arriving at the drying shed the plait was put on rods and thoroughly
shaken to cast off as much moisture as possible, and then hung in the
air so that the drying might not be too rapid and thus render the
plait brittle. Now the plan is to place the plait, when taken from the
copper, in a centrifugal wringer or “hydro-extractor,” which, revolving
at great speed, throws off all free moisture and leaves the plait
almost dry. Placed then in a chamber with large power-driven fans, the
drying process is most speedily completed.

Before dyeing, for easy handling, all plait is “strung.” Every piece of
plait is received either wound up in “sticks,” as they are technically
termed, or in some looped formation which allows a fine string to be
easily threaded through and tied in such a manner as to form a means
of either carrying the piece or of hanging it on a wooden rod. These
rods are made of convenient thicknesses and length to carry the plait
in the drying departments (be it in the room, or in the open air), when
suspended either in the former case on trestles mounted at suitable
distances, or in the latter on lines fixed to uprights and stretched
across the drying area. Each lot of plait for dyeing carries a numbered
wooden “tally,” the number corresponding with the dye ticket left in
the office or “giving out” room. When dry by means of these tallies,
the plait is collected into its original lot, and is carefully tied up
in suitably sized bundles. Some plaits receive, when dyed, a “finish”
of a glucose mixture which has two effects, it gives better gloss to
the material and it assists in preventing the colour coming off during
the manufacturing processes. These mixtures are all of a starchy or
farinaceous nature, in which some substance, say “farina” itself,
is dissolved in water, brought to a boil and rendered crystal in
appearance before being used for the finishing process.

Some plaits are of one colour throughout, but are made with straws
that have been previously dyed. Generally speaking, especially for
straws, the effect is not so good as where the plait itself is dyed.
There are, of course, one or two exceptions where the fibre used is
very delicately plaitted into some loose design which would not retain
its crispness of outline under the weight of water in dyeing and the
necessary handling. Other plaits known as “Speckled,” must, from
their nature of mixed colours, be plaitted from dyed straws. Of these
there are coloured and natural, coloured and white, and mixtures of
various colours. The dyeing of straws follows in the main the dyeing
of plait, but the preparation is somewhat different. The straws, cut
into equal lengths, are tied up in bundles about 5 ins. in diameter,
and are carefully placed in the vat or copper in an upright position
with as little pressure as possible, and when dyed are dried still in
the bundle. At one time a new dyeing effect on straws was introduced,
which consisted of standing the bundles upright and allowing strong
dye to run through the “pipes.” This, of course, dyed the interior and
some parts of the exterior, which not touching another straw allowed
the dye to do its work. Water was then passed through the “pipes,”
and the result when dry was a pretty mottled effect. Another fancy
method of dyeing was the production of “Ombré” colours. This novelty,
introduced by the French dyers, consisted of two or more colours on
the same plait. It was done by means of a fine spraying machine, which
vaporized a powerful dye on to an already dyed piece of plait of some
lighter tint. Messrs. Lye & Sons brought out a novelty on straw plait,
particularly effective on the Japanese wide patterns, which produced
the same iridescent effect that is obtained on “shot” silk. This,
however, was bath-dyed and not sprayed. These various bases of double
tones were utilized to their undoing, for it was no uncommon sight to
see manufacturers of the lower grades of hats endeavouring to produce
multicoloured effects on chip plaits by pouring the prepared dye over
the plait from finely nozzled watering cans! The resultant crudeness
of such arrangements brought a beautiful thing into disfavour. The
shade requirements of to-day include many colours that are termed
“Pastel.” These are delicate, pale shades, and can be obtained only
by submitting straw plait to a bleaching process previous to dyeing,
but the finished article is a thing of extreme beauty, not only on the
question of colour, but in its intense purity and softness. A method
for dyeing plaits, which obtained considerable magnitude in Paris, but
has never been a favourite in Great Britain, is that known as “Cold
Dye.” It enjoyed only a small measure of success on straw, but on chip
and hemp braids very beautiful results have been achieved. In 1877
Mme. Deuxbouts, of Paris, was dyeing chip plaits in this manner, which
is that used for feathers, and in 1878 at the Exposition Universelle,
her exhibit in this direction was superior to that shown by any other
house. It is now used for dyeing crinoline and those silk plaits which
would be spoiled by heated baths.

Such are the main features of dyeing, past and present, on the various
plaits utilized in hat making, and in this art, for it is no less,
England has shown the way to the rest of the world. To-day other
countries, such as the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Italy and
Japan, have achieved signal success in dyeing, in fact on some fibres
a few foreign dyers are more successful than those at home. This is
probably due to the careful skill of the dyer, combined with the more
favourable nature of the water used.



The other section of preparatory work for plait is that of Bleaching.
The early efforts in this direction were of necessity very crude,
and it is probable that imitation of the process used in some other
industry, rather than invention for the particular commodity, provided
the primary steps in straw bleaching. Naturally, the first thing that
would occur to anyone would be to wash with water, and any grower of
cereals, knowing the bleaching power of the sun, would probably combine
these two elements in the endeavour to produce a better colour on the
corn stalks. Then some attempts would be made with a cleanser such as
soap, still utilizing the sun’s rays as bleacher after cleaning. As
Italy is probably the home of bleaching operations, it is not difficult
to imagine that, with the sulphur bleaching effects so easily seen
round the Bay of Naples and in Sicily, it was not long before the fumes
of sulphur were pressed into the service. And crude as these elements
are, although the processes have radically changed, they remain
practically the fundamentals of bleaching to-day.

About seventy years ago, Mr. Welch, of the firm of Welch & Sons, of
Luton (one of the oldest established houses in the trade and still in
existence), patented a bleach which was called the “Luton Bleach.” This
consisted of carefully washing the plait with soap and water in wooden
vats; after careful rinsing it was immersed in a bath of weak oxalic
acid and water (some bleachers subsequently added other chemicals),
and then while wet subjected to the fumes of sulphur in a hermetically
closed wooden chest. Hanging out in the sunshine to dry, and another
sulphur fumigation before “bunching” (as the tying up of plait into
bundles is termed), completed the operation. With chip plaits, and
fifty or more years ago these were very fashionable, a similar process
was usual, but the bleaching bath contained, as well as oxalic acid,
kali, tartar, and a good many other similar ingredients, according to
the requirements of the user. In those days nearly all bleaching was
done by the actual manufacturer of the hats, it was only when the trade
began to move by leaps and bounds that works entirely for bleaching
purposes were established. For many years these methods of bleaching
were the only ones employed on plaits for hats, and they produced
excellent results on really good coloured straws; but failed entirely
to eliminate any faulty parts, and further, in order to get the finest
colour, two more sulphur fumigations were necessary; one when the hat
was wet from the gelatine employed to stiffen it, and the other a dry
“steam” (as the fumigation was called) before putting the finished hats
into the cases for dispatch.

This custom of bleaching, in a patriarchal way in one’s own tent,
brought out considerable inventiveness on the part of go-ahead
manufacturers, and it was no uncommon thing for some fresh development
of bleaching, on one or another plait, to establish the reputation
of a manufacturer, who, until his secret leaked out, endeavoured to
exploit to the full the value of his superior article. But this kind
of bleaching only cleaned and purified, it did not materially alter
the natural condition of the article bleached. In the first place
manufacturers were not laboratory chemists, and it was the efforts of
the Italians, the producers of the plait which was supplanting the
British product, that gave birth to a chemical bleach, which for some
time was unrivalled in England. For some years the bleached Italian
Pedal of Messrs. Burgisser & Co., of Florence, had no superior, and
was for a long period renowned for the purity and beauty of its
colour process. But the secret subsequently leaked out, and bleaching
establishments in this country soon acquired them, and it was not long
before the results obtained here compared favourably with the Italian.
For some years this bleach, which not only cleansed and purified the
straw, but also changed its actual tone by bringing more into colour
line the straws of darker hue, was accepted by the world as the best
possible; and one may say that, although later developments have
considerably widened the scope of operations, the results of this
period, which may be called the intermediate cycle of straw bleaching,
were in their way quite equal to any now achieved. The only drawback
to this bleach was that really inferior coloured plait could not be
made serviceable for white. In the case of chip splints or in the case
of cornstalks, only the best and clearest of either of these had been
used for plaits for bleaching. This necessitated keeping two stocks
of plait, for although the best coloured plait could be dyed black
or other shade if necessary, the bad coloured straws could not be
bleached, and further, one always had to pay more for the best coloured
goods, which although to some extent this is even now the case,
owing to the great possibilities opened up by the present bleaching
processes, there is not the wide difference in price there used to be.

But at last competitive chemists discovered that the quantity of straw
plait required for bleaching was of such magnitude, while the really
good bleaching plait was comparatively so small in quantity, that
it would be worth their while to make researches in the direction
of a bleach for inferior coloured straws. Between 1885 and 1890 many
experiments were made, with naturally variable results. It must not
be overlooked, that plaits were still required by the trade to be of
a “straw” colour, and the first efforts of the “new bleacher” were
towards this end. But the process that gave most promise being actually
an oxydization was more in the nature of a dye than a bleach in one
respect, viz., that it apparently changed the nature of the material,
in fact some of the bleachers to differentiate in the trade between the
new process and the old called the later arrival a “White Dye.” It was
soon found that an extended application of the process would entirely
eliminate the varying tones of mixed “Punta” and “Pedale” straws and
would make the plait a perfectly dull white like paper, but at the same
time it tended to materially injure the fabric of the straw. There
was naturally no demand for any such results, the “paper white” could
easily be obtained on “chip” plaits, and the only effect required was
to reduce mottled coloured natural plaits to sufficient uniformity of
good straw white colour. Moreover, the absolute “deadness” of the white
produced took away all the beautiful lustre of the straw which it was
desirable to retain; and the weakening of the fibre by the chemical
process was entirely inimical to the subsequent proper sewing and
finishing of the hat.

However, a process was found that met all requirements as far as lustre
and strength were concerned. There was still a tendency to kill the
straw colour, but subsequent investigations have reduced that to a
minimum, and to-day the bleaches on straw plaits leave nothing to be

As far as chip and Tagal plaits were concerned there was not the
occasion to preserve the natural colours of the fibre. White chip was
always required “paper white,” and although some of the hemp fibres of
Tagal were of a flaxen colour, most of that exported from Japan was
distinctly on the white side, and, therefore, from the first, this
process of bleaching has been helpful to all plaits made of these two

Moreover, the modern methods are especially adaptable for hood hats,
inasmuch as the process dispenses with scrubbing by hand. To Panamas,
although previously the colour had been fairly good, the new bleach
has been a great help, and has enabled Panamas of fine colour to be

These remarks apply also to the other varieties of Panamas of which,
although the method of making may be slightly different, the fibre is
almost identical; but when one comes to the Bowen or Curaçoa hoods,
their substitutive use has only been possible because of the searching
effects of the new process. Before bleaching, these articles are quite
unfit to sell for white, and their natural tint is not one that would
command a fashionable sale. Since being dyed white, the demand for them
has been phenomenal, and for a low priced, coarse-looking hat of a
Panama nature, there is at present nothing to take their place.

The natural colour of Javas, Brazilians and Bankoks is such that they
are saleable as imported, but although many are thus used, the great
majority of them required for white are bleached by the new process,
and with very excellently clear results. Javas, being the darkest
of the trio mentioned above, can have their colour retained to some
extent, giving the finished article almost a perfect straw tint,
but Brazilians and Bankoks assume a whiter tone without any tinge
of yellow. They, therefore, are very similar to Panamas in colour
appearance, but both of them, being made of flat splints, are lighter
in weight.

Yedda, rush, and raffia plaits and hoods are all very amenable to the
bleach, and while the two latter present, when bleached, little, if
any, lustre, the first named assumes a silky appearance which is most

To sum up, with the modern process, of which there are several
modifications, any kind of fabric used for straw hats can be
successfully bleached into one or the other tones from straw to paper
white, which are regarded as necessary for the highest grade finish.



A most important part of the industry is that which actually forms
another trade in itself, viz., that of blockmaking. Every shape
requires its individual block of wood, iron or other material, in
order that repetitions of the shape may be identical in outline and
form. The earliest British “block” was that which undoubtedly gave
the name to its successors. It was simply a block of wood formed from
the trunk of a suitable sized tree, mounted on legs like a vaulting
horse, and with ends bluntly pointed to the desired form, so that two
operatives could be at work simultaneously. That primitive method was
quite inadequate when fashion began to ask for shape variations of such
a character as to be impossible to produce on the tree trunk, and an
industry gradually grew up, which has attained quite large proportions,
solely for the making of wooden and other blocks for the use of the
straw worker. The exact shape having been determined on, models either
of drawings to scale, or of templates of suitable material, or of the
actual hat produced either by sewing the pattern in some adaptable
plait, or by buckram or sparterie duly shaped, or by forms of wire bent
to make outlines of the design sufficient for the blockmaker. These
are the methods adopted when some novelty evolves, of which there is
no previous pattern, but the great bulk of models put into the hands
of the blockmaker are the actual hats required, that have been already
made by some one else, but which the manufacturer desires to copy. As
the Patent or Registration Laws do not afford sufficient protection
to the creator of the shape or design, it will be understood that the
finished hat is most often the model for the blockmaker.

The blockmaker works in a very similar way to the “pattern-maker” of
the iron and engineering trades, the main portion of his work being
done by the spokeshave. Bow saws, worked either by hand or machine, cut
out the ovals of the crown and the brim, and subsequent operations are
carried out by means, in a few cases, of a lathe, but the major part
is done by the spokeshave and chisel or gouge. In many instances the
intricacy of the work carries the industry almost into the art of wood
sculpture, but generally speaking the models are of a plainer nature.
Mention has already been made of “one piece” and “two piece” hats. The
former may have blocks made “all down,” that is with the crown fixed to
the brim, which will generally be of a flat or a drooping nature. But
the “one piece” in most models demands both the crown and the curler
blocks, so that although the hats may be of one the blocks must be of
two pieces; this obtains where the brim has an outline which rolls
upwards in some place or places, from the base of the crown. “Two
piece” blocks are necessary where the trend of fashion demands that the
outline of the crown, especially at the base, shall be larger than the
head entry then fashionable. For unlike men’s hats, the head entries of
women’s hats vary according to the prevailing style of coiffure, or the
outline which most appeals at the time to the public demand. Where in a
“one piece” hat the top of the crown is larger than the head entry, the
crown block has to be made in such a manner as to allow the block to
be inserted in the hat for blocking, and to permit its easy withdrawal
when the operation is completed.

This is attained by making the crown block in two or more sections,
the pieces being held together by means of grooves and tongues. These
are made slightly angled in every way, the end of the grooves nearest
the top of the crown being smaller than the end at the base, so that
while fitting up very tightly when the tongue is right home, the
slightest movement of the “key” piece affords an easy dislocation of
the whole block. The majority of these pieced blocks are built up with
five sections including the key piece, which is a tapering square and
occupies the centre, carrying on each side a tongue which fits into the
groove of the corresponding piece of the outside contour of the block.
The top of the key piece forms the centre of the top of the crown, and
unlike the inner sides and base is made to conform to the required
outline of the shape design. The whole when properly made affords quite
as solid a ground for working on as a block made from a single piece
of wood. If the hat with a crown needing a pieced block is in itself a
“one piece” hat, it is necessary to make the brim block in two parts,
with a hinge at one cut and a lock at the other; so that the head entry
may, when the brim is closed, fit closely up to the head line of the
hat, but in all “two piece” hat cases the brim blocks are made out of
one piece. As a rule, the brims are made from wood sufficiently thick
to allow a little over the width of the brim if there be any depth of
roll, or turn upwards, and where the brim is flat or with a small roll
an extra thickness is allowed to give sufficient strength to the block
and prevent any warping which might be possible under the use of dry
and damp heat.

The brim block has on its underside some “feet” which, either of wood
or metal, raise the working contour a sufficient height above the wood
base to which they are attached to allow the crown of the hat being
blocked to work freely and to miss the top of the “spindle.” Every
wood block, whether crown or brim, has a square hole in its base called
the “spindle hole” to take the “spindle.” This is of iron, and has the
upper portion square and tapered to quickly adjust itself to the fit of
the spindle hole; its lower part is circular, so that it may revolve in
the socket made for it in the “spindle” bracket, an instrument fixed to
the blocking bench by which any part of the block can be adjusted to
suit the ironing needs of the operative.

Wood blocks are made preferably of alder, as that wood resists best the
action of dry and damp heads, and having a minimum of grain presents
the best medium for cutting into curved or cornered shapes. Poplar,
chestnut and other hard woods are also used, either of them having some
special characteristic which renders it suitable for various kinds of
blocks. The base of a brim block is frequently made of elm, but beech
and any really hard wood can be utilized.

Machine blocking necessitates the use of metal blocks, which are cast
either in iron, aluminium, or spelter from moulds made from the wooden
blocks, so that if only machine blocking is intended, it is first
necessary to make the wooden pattern. The various workings of these
blocks will be described in the “Blocking” chapter. The wood block also
affords the model for taking Plaster of Paris casts. When orders are
large and the wood blocks are required all the time by the stiffener
or blocker, plaster copies are made from it, so that the sewers may
have something definite to work to. These are made in the usual
plaster casting method, and are only intended for temporary use, their
cheapness and quickness of completion as against the cost of wood being
the reason for their adoption, for they will not stand the stiffening
and blocking processes.

A subsidiary kind of block, constructed of wood and metal, is used for
such parts of a one-piece hat or bonnet that cannot be reproduced in
wood alone. The “Pork Pie” turban, in fashion during the '60’s of the
nineteenth century, had a close curl or brim standing only about half
an inch away from the crown. (_See_ John Leech’s drawings in _Punch_ of
that period.) No wood curler as thin in texture as the shape required
would stand any prolonged stiffening and blocking, so instruments
called “Tippers” were used for blocking this style of shape. They had
a wooden spindle that could be put in the spindle socket, to which a
piece of metal, iron, brass, or zinc was attached. This was in the form
of a widish, short length scoop, and with it a workman could iron a
close brim in sections. These “tippers” were made with varying curves,
so that any kind of oval could be reproduced. The advent of two piece
hats, where the crown is attached to the brim after blocking, has
rendered these instruments nearly useless, as by this new arrangement
the wood brim for such a shape can be made quite solid.

[Illustration: Fig. 9 “TIPPER”]

Blockmaking is one of the most important sections contributing to the
straw trade, for the perfect reproduction of a model’s outline depends
entirely on the accuracy of finish given to the blocks.



The next stage in the evolution of a straw hat _made from plait_ is the
sewing together of the material to form the necessary shape.

The earliest methods were, of course, all by hand. Perhaps the first
was that described in Chapter II, where the heads of the plait were
tucked in one under the other and rendered secure by the passing of
some fibre inside the loops of the heads, so as to make an almost
invisible joint, as in the case of a “Leghorn” hat. It may be said
in passing that this method was carried out by the Italian plaitters
in the case of chip plaits made of 9 ends, but without the securing
fibre. The result was that there was enough “hold” given by the tucked
in heads to ensure the edges holding together sufficiently to form
a perfectly flat plate. It was in this form that chip plaits were
first used for the “Granny” bonnets in vogue a century ago; for when
stiffened with gelatine or glue the joins were sufficiently strong to
enable the brim shape to be produced. The “Flats,” as they were called,
were made all of one diameter, and it therefore followed that one made
out of the finest plait would contain more rows than one made of a
coarser grade. The exact diameter was determined by the finest size
plait, and of that there would be 100 rows, hence the term “No. 100”
represented to the trade the narrowest plait. The qualities down to
the coarse ones were graded in 5’s, thus the next coarse size was “No.
95,” and so on, down even to “No. 65,” of which being very coarse only
65 rows were necessary to make the “flat.” To use for working, where
dyeing was required, the flat was “stripped” by taking the outside end
and gently pulling the flat, the centre of which was pivoted round
and round until the whole was undone. This in no way deteriorated the
plait, but it was soon found that to wind the plait into neat pieces
saved considerable trouble for marketing and subsequent use. This,
however, is only a digression recording a method of joining plait in
spiral rows, of which head wear was made, which after all is the plan
on which all sewing is based. The British sewers, with only a very few
exceptions, have always joined plaits together by means of an overlap,
that is, the head of one row covering the foot of another, thus, the
needle passing through the plait just under the head, to make the
stitch as little visible as possible, and through the foot close to the
edge, so as to lay the plait as thinly as firm sewing would permit. The
effect when sewn was of a tiny, practically invisible stitch on the
surface of the plait and a continuous stitch on the under side, the
stitches being about half an inch apart. (_See_ opposite page.)

[Illustration: Fig. 10 SECTION OF 4 ROWS OF PLAIT]

This backstitching formed a perfect “lock,” and, although for the
purpose of explanation the five right hand stitches are shown in a
graduated loose state, in actual working each one was tightened at its
completion before commencing the next. This method was common to the
sewing of all plaits, the coarser, harsher varieties necessitating the
use of the coarsest thread. For some plaits such as fine “split,” to be
used for “compo” finish, and horsehair crinoline a “running” stitch was
sometimes used in the early times, but it has been discontinued except
for broad silk or fancy plaits.

[Illustration: Fig. 11]

As some of the plaits were only about 1/8th of an inch in width, it
will readily be seen how deft and skilled an operative must have been,
to ensure the perfect spirals and equidistant rows that were the mark
of the best handsewn bonnets and hats. The nature of the stitch made by
any of the machines used for hat making with straw plait is necessarily
entirely different to that of the hand, although the one made by the
“Légat” machine followed the handstitch very closely. It consisted of
two strands of cotton forming a tiny, almost invisible stitch on the
surface of the plait and one strand only underneath, the length of each
completed stitch being about half an inch. It was made by a descending
shaft carrying a hooked needle, and the peculiar result was achieved
by very intricate and delicate machinery in a circular box facing the
operator. The delicacy of the parts was so great and the machine being
less rapid than the “Willcox Visible Stitch,” or the first “Wiseman
Hand Stitch,” it was soon eclipsed by its competitors.


The “Willcox Visible Stitch” was produced first on what was afterwards
known in the trade as the “10-Guinea” machine. This was simply the
domestic chain stitch machine, from which the table or platform around
the needle had been taken away, in order to allow free working of
any part of the hat. In a short time this machine underwent a great
change for the straw hat purpose. Luton mechanics set themselves to
work, and appliances were affixed one of which rendered the ingress
of the plait more easy; another allowed for a minute and standardized
gauging of the necessary widths for the proper row-laying of the plait,
still further another made it possible to alter the actual length
of the stitch, and at last the model known throughout the trade as
the “17-Guinea” was universally adopted as the best type of visible
stitch machine for plait sewing. The “stitch” consists of one strand
of cotton on the surface of the plait and two strands underneath, and
from its chain-like nature can be easily undone if required. This
has been closely copied by other machine makers, the one produced in
Germany known as the “Dresdensia” being almost an exact copy of the
“17-Guinea.” Both these machines vie with each other in the favour of
manufacturers, best work being possible from either. The other model
having survived the tests of time and the necessities of the industry
is the “Wiseman Box” Hand Stitch Machine. This derives its name from
the inventor, and from the box-like case, with even a lifting lid, that
is its great characteristic. Mr. Wiseman in this machine, as in his
first model, which was not box enclosed, makes use both of the threaded
needle similar to the “Willcox,” and of the unthreaded hook-like needle
peculiar to the “Legat.” But contrary to the downward action of the
others, the “Wiseman” needles make an _upward_ thrust. They stand at
about 1/16 of an inch apart, the one with the eye (which, as in all
machines, is at the pointed end) carrying the cotton, and being placed
in the same needle bar move simultaneously. The upward thrust when
working sends the pair of them through the two overlapping strands of
plait which are kept at the proper place by special “guides.” When
they emerge on the surface of the plait, a little finger, called the
“looper,” takes one strand of the loop of cotton from the needle,
brings it across the intervening space where it is caught in the hooked
needle and released from the looper. Then both descend, and the result
of this trio of movements is a stitch of the width that exists between
the needles, consisting of two strands of cotton. The feeds then move
the plait forward about half an inch, and the operation is completed.
The under stitch consists of three strands, but as the cotton used in
this and all other straw machines is of the finest grades, say from
“80” to “100” for the best work, the stitch is hardly seen, and the
weight is not sufficient to be detrimental.

The centre of the top of the crown, called in trade parlance the
“Button,” is produced by taking an extreme end between the thumb and
forefinger of the right hand, the left holding the length part of the
plait. The right hand makes a sharp turn of the portion held and with
a slight cupping motion, such as would be used by a grocer making a
conical paper bag, permits the plait in the left hand to come under the
cupped portion, through the lapping of which the first stitches are
made. The spirals of the “button” are extremely small, and the beauty
of this part is enhanced by the gradual and regular increase of the
size of them. This operation produces a spiral going from right to
left, as in Fig. 13, and is always the method adopted by hand sewers;
it was in this way that all the bonnets and hats were commenced prior
to the adoption of machinery for sewing plait.

[Illustration: Fig. 13]

The button finished, recourse is then made to the “block” or shape of
the crown to be produced, for the subsequent sewing depends on its
contour. If this is circular the continual working around the button
until the desired diameter is reached, will achieve the required
result; but if the shape is oblong (as they frequently are, the trade
name for which is “oval”), it is necessary for the sewing to follow a
slightly crowded course at the narrow width, and a slightly extended
course at the length, for it is a desideratum that the edge of the top
should synchronize exactly with the “turn down row” as it is called,
so that with the first row sewn down the side of the crown, a clean
cut and square edge will be produced. This done, sewing continues,
always to the “block” contours, until sufficient depth is reached, and
this finishes the crown where the base is at equal distance all round
from the edge of the top. In some cases, however, it is necessary in
order to produce the actual outline of the model, to add in one place
or another at the bottom of the crown short extra rows of “gores” or
“slopes” (the local terms) which will increase the depth of the crown
at the place required; in some bonnets many extra rows are necessary
to give just the fit to any arch there may be in the head line of the
brim. In early times the bottom of the crown was always the same size
in circumference as the head entry of the brim, and in that case the
brim was commenced by sewing the first row of it to the last row of
the crown. In some styles that still obtains, and the hats thus made
are designated “one piece.” Modern models, however, often have the base
of the crown much larger than the necessary head entry. In those cases
the crown and the brim are made separate, and are called “two piece”
hats when finished, the head fit being provided by the brim alone. In
such cases the brim is commenced by sewing to a band of some cheap
material sufficiently stiff, made to the necessary head size.

Many shapes have brims which are of equal width all round. It is then
only necessary to sew directly off the last row of the crown, and,
conforming to the style, continue the sewing in the spiral manner.
Where a brim is flat it is most important that it should be started at
a proper angle to the side of the crown, for that may or may not be
exactly upright. There are crowns, such as boaters for men, of which
the sides are exactly at an angle of 90° to the brim, there are others
of which the top is smaller than the head fit, of which the sides
taper, making an obtuse angle to the brim line; and still further there
are others, where the top is larger than the head, where the angle is
sharpened. So that in order to make the brim perfectly flat due regard
must be made to the side crown incidence, and in process of making
great care has to be taken so as not to impart either fullness, which
would cause undulations, or tightness, which would make the brim either
to turn up like a saucer, or to turn down like a mushroom. Of course,
there are hats with brims of equal width all round that are designed
to do one or the other of these things, and in that case the operative
gives the necessary fullness or tightness either all round or in part
as the shape may require. But the majority of fashionable models have
brims of unequal widths; thus the front may be wider or narrower than
the sides or back; or the back may be of the narrowest width; or the
sides may be wider than either front or back, or each cardinal point
of the brim compass may be of different dimensions. In either of these
cases the proper result can only be obtained by one of three ways:
1st, by the insertions of the proper width and length of gores at the
part nearest to the crown and opposite, but in relation to, the edge
of the widest part or parts of the brim; 2nd, by starting the brim at
the crown line as if for an equal width, and putting the gores at the
edge of the brim at the place where the extra width is required; 3rd,
by sewing the brim as an all round one and then cutting the edge to the
required shape.

The first method is that always followed where a circular or extra
oval edge of the brim is necessary, the gores counteracting the
inequality of width will leave the circumference with a clean, true
sweep. The second method is only adopted where the brim outline forms
some abnormality, which it would be impossible to achieve by sewing
the gores to the crown, and where this is done each end of the plait
used is carefully crowded towards the part where it is joined to the
brim and laid down in such a manner as to preserve as far as possible
the original curves of the rows of plait nearest to the crown. The
third method is employed where the abnormal outline of the edge of the
brim is of a too acute nature to allow even of gores being worked,
and every season brings up one or more models that require this kind
of treatment. The brim is sewn, taking no notice of the inequalities,
to the width of the widest part (providing always that the head line
gores must be inserted where practicable); either before or after
stiffening or blocking, as the case may demand, the edge is cut with
scissors to a template of the shape, and is then bound with a row of
the plait sewn all over those parts which have been cut across the
rows, so that any possibility of fraying is averted. In the above
cases, which are all of more or less curved lines, a row of plait is
always sewn on the last row, making a double thickness. This is for two
purposes, to create an extra strength, and to permit the attachment
thereto of any wire or fabric desired, without stitching through the
brim proper. But there have been brims of which the outside edge had
a portion or portions that were quite sharply defined angles. These
are now done by the third method outlined above, but in the old hand
sewing days, where the operatives’ fingers, instead of a machine, had
to do the work, the angle was achieved by a process known as “nipping.”
This consisted of starting the angular portion with a piece of plait
turned abruptly, even to the extent of making the foot of the turned
portion lap over the foot of the foundation. This was sometimes done
in working a very oblong top of a crown, but then the two ends of the
accentuated oval were turned in as circular a form as possible, similar
to part of the formation of a “button,” but in the “nipping” case the
turning point was quite sharp, needing a small tuck of the plait to
be sewn underneath to get the required acuteness; the following rows
were treated in the same manner until the desired width was obtained.
By this means any angular projection of the brim can be obtained, but
it is only possible in hand sewing. Before the advent of machinery any
such process as No. 3, cutting the brim and binding, was never utilized
in the manufacture of best class goods, except for those bonnets which,
largely in vogue at one time, had very deep ears with round ends, and
even in these cases wherever possible the method No. 2 was adopted.

But when machinery became the prime factor in the sewing of plaits
other methods were necessarily taken up, for the capability of the
machine was not always equalled by the capability of the operator, and
_vice versa_; therefore, the best means common to the skill of the
greatest number became the general rule. It is possible that, with the
delicate adjustments which can be obtained on either of the two styles
of machines in use in the trade, the last of the four methods could be
sufficiently well done, but only a very small percentage of operatives
would be deft enough to achieve a good result, and even in the cases
of the first and second methods where gores are worked on the inside
or outside edges of the brim, the final crowding and laying down is
invariably done by hand sewing. The button also is another part that
the hat sewer by machine still makes by hand. In the machine finished
hats this part is turned in the same manner, _but in the opposite
direction_, thus the hand sewn hat spirals run from right to left,
whereas the machine made article rims from left to right, taking the
same orbit as that of the sun. (_See_ Fig. 14.)

[Illustration: Fig. 14]

As already mentioned, one of the earliest machines made for plait
sewing commenced the hat operations at the edge of the brim, but this
was a solitary instance, all others started at the “button” and the two
generic machines now in vogue, the visible and the invisible stitch,
follow, with the exception of the direction, the method of hand sewing.

In order that a machinist of straw plait should be capable of producing
the highest grade work, a thorough tuition of hand sewing is most
helpful, and this was well demonstrated when machines were first used.
The early appliances or attachments to the machines were of quite a
primitive nature, in fact, they were only those in use for domestic
sewing, and the subsequent machines made especially for straw work, did
not develop the niceties which now are part of the construction of the
up-to-date machine, and yet, in spite of these drawbacks, the machine
work done by the erstwhile hand-sewers has never been surpassed,
although by aid of the possibilities of adjustment and the advent of
mechanical power the present speed capacity has been at least doubled.


A process common to both hand and machine sewing is the “milling” of
plait before using. This obtains mainly, if not wholly, on plaits
made of straw. In hand sewing times it was an absolute necessity, as
it imparted a requisite pliability to the somewhat harsh fibres, and
permitted their easier adjustment in sewing to the requirements of the
shape. It also, on those plaits which had “heads,” accentuated the
difference between the head and the foot, giving a greater boldness
of effect. The mills used for this purpose were made with beech
wood frames and with boxwood rollers. Generally these rollers were
designed and cut to take all widths of plait, and the “trolls,” as the
individual grooves were designated, were made with a double recess, the
smaller one of which permitted the head of the plait to escape the
pressure exerted on the foot. (_See_ Fig. 15.)

When the extra demand for machine made hats arose it was found that the
harsher plaits of China were too wearing on the wooden rollers, and
mills made of iron were produced, but on the same active principles as
shown above. To-day the majority of plaits used in the trade are not
milled, only the coarser and harder straw varieties being occasionally
done. All Tagal and soft pedal plaits can be machined without milling,
owing to the pressure mechanism which is now part of all the plait
sewing machines.



The general description of the actual sewing of a straw hat, whether
by hand or machine, must be followed by the statement that when sewn
the hat is invariably in a limp condition, that is it is quite unfit
for general wear. There are some few plaits, when made into hats, so
firm in their consistency as to require little or even no assistance
to keep them in shape. These shapes are mainly of the “floppy” order,
and are designed either to wear as “picture” hats or to be manipulated
in such a manner as to make a “toque” effect. From the earliest period
of making hats for fashionable wear, and that certainly is not more
than two centuries ago, some process was necessary to keep the hat,
whether woven or sewn, in the required shape. The first methods were
by the insertion of a kind of wicker foundation, which allowed the
shape to be moulded to it; and by similar materials threaded through
the rows of the plait, or being attached thereto by sewing; also by
fine wires which were utilized in the same way as the wicker. Whalebone
was also used as a support, and in the construction of the huge hats
common during the Georgian period, cardboard and buckram were used.
But all these articles, effective though they might have been, were
of such great weight that means were sought to find a medium that
would give the desired result without increasing the weight. One
must remember that with the use of whole straws a hat of large size
would be very heavy without the addition of wicker, wire, or buckram,
and when, during the craze for French fashions which followed the
signing of the Treaty of Amiens, smaller hats came into vogue, such
strengtheners made the hats look clumsy and distorted. The genius,
whether Briton or foreigner, who discovered the use of glue or gelatine
for the stiffening of straw hats, is unknown, although it is very
probable he or she was French. (When the writer was apprenticed to a
firm of hat makers in Paris in 1877, he was given to understand that
the first gelatine process for hats was used in Paris. If the name
of the inventor was given, he has entirely forgotten it, but to the
best of his recollection no name was mentioned.) But other materials
such as starch and isinglass had been tried, but none found entirely
satisfactory until the use of glue was adopted. Gelatine is a fine
variety of glue, and was developed first by the French glue makers;
among the foremost of whom were Coignet Frères, of Lyons, founded in
1818. The manufacture of gelatine is now almost universal, but Messrs.
Coignet still retain a very high credit for their wares. It is quite
probable that either some glue used for joinery or gelatine bought
for cookery purposes was first tried on straw hats by the inventor,
and doubtless with such success that it was speedily taken up by all
straw workers, and to-day no other medium is used for the stiffening of
actual straws.

That used for the purpose is specially made, and is in varying
qualities of strength and colour. For white goods gelatine of the
purest colour is necessary, while for black or dark colours, a gelatine
of dark biscuit tint is generally used, as its price is materially less
than that of the better colour. The main requirements in a gelatine
are 1st, colour; 2nd, no tendency when being used to froth; 3rd, when
dry an elastic and firm result. The second condition is probably the
most necessary, as although gelatine is capable of being reduced with
water to such a degree of fluidity, that it affords the best medium
for penetrating the straw and giving it the required strength, if the
quality is not good the mixture when used will froth like soapy water,
and thus have a tendency to leave a snaily appearance on the hat.

The method of preparation for “stiffening,” as the process is termed in
the trade, is by soaking the gelatine in cold water for a sufficient
term to enable it to become quite soft and flaccid, and afterwards with
heat to melt it down in its softening bath. The weight of gelatine
and quantity of water vary according to different formulae for the
“stock” mixture, and “stiffenings” of lesser strength are made by the
addition of water to a certain quantity of the “stock.” In almost any
hat for ladies, the crown is stiffened with a weaker solution than
the brim, and therefore two strengths are generally provided for this
purpose. Two methods are adopted by the workers for stiffening straw
hats, “sponging” and “rolling.” The former consists, when the hat is
on the wooden block, of sponging the hot gelatine on to the straw
with a “dabbing” motion, and when the plait is thoroughly saturated,
using a warm, nearly dry sponge to clear all surplus from the surface.
The latter method is effected by rapidly dipping or “rolling” one or
more hats into the gelatine bath, and then allowing them to drain,
afterwards placing them singly on the block and sponging out the
superfluity of gelatine. The first way is generally used for the
highest class work, as when well done there is less tendency for the
dried hat to crackle and a decided inclination towards a resilient
finish. But the second plan is very successful on some materials, and
being much quicker to effect is generally practised among manufacturers
handling large quantities. It has one advantage, it can be done by less
skilled or careful operatives than the “sponging,” which needs careful

The straw boater for men during its stiffening is often soaked in the
“stiffening” bath for an appreciable time in order that the gelatine
may thoroughly soak into all the fibres of the plait; but that also,
when it emerges, is sponged over to remove excess.

The general plan of stiffening a single piece hat (ladies’ hat) with
gelatine is for the operator to place the crown of the hat correctly on
the wooden block. The sponge having been dipped into the proper bath,
the crown is evenly and thoroughly saturated with the gelatine. It is
then “dry sponged” to clear the surface, and the operator carefully
arranges the rows to synchronize with the edges of the block and with
each other. Withdrawing the crown block, the hat is next put on the
brim block, and the sponging and arranging operations are repeated, but
in the case of a wide brim the “stiffening” used is from a stronger
solution bath. Before the sewer hands over the hat to the “stiffener,”
the hat has to be “strung,” i.e. a fine thread is so attached to it as
to afford a convenient means of hanging the hat up to dry, and when the
stiffener has finished his operation he suspends the hat on a wooden
rod, which is placed near him in a convenient position. These rods are
from 3 ft. to 4 ft. long, according to individual needs, and about 1
in. square: on the longer ones from four to six hats can be hung, and
when full the rod is placed in a suitable rack with covering overhead,
but in a position freely open to the air.

The best results are obtained from natural air drying, whether by wind
or by a mechanically arranged draught from a centrifugal fan, but in
cases of time pressure, where goods are wanted quickly, recourse is
made to a drying room, which warmed either by fire or by steam heated
coils is able to ensure a dry heat, by which the moisture in the hats
is soon evaporated and the gelatine allowed to set. This plan is only
useful in extremity, for in the early stages while the moisture in the
hats is at its greatest volume, the gelatine has a tendency to run
towards the lowest hanging portions of the hat, with the result of
uneven strengths; and further, when the moisture is driven off, the
gelatine retained is rendered more or less brittle, losing entirely the
much desired toughness and resiliency. Another point against drying
by heat is that it requires a stronger, and therefore more costly,
solution of gelatine to be used, in order to counteract the wastage
caused by running and the weakness consequent on the dried up gelatine.

The above methods are those in use for all straw, tagal or hemp, and
for all chip plaits. It is also used for real horsehair crinoline, but
the imitations of this article being of viscose, cellulose, or similar
foundation fibres, require special mixtures of gelatine with some
acid, such as acetic, to harden the fibre and prevent it shrinking or
dissolving, and with some volatile fluid such as methylated spirit,
to encourage the rapid evaporation of the stiffening and thus reduce
to a minimum the deteriorating effects of a liquid of any kind on the
artificial fibres.

[Illustration: Fig. 16 STIFFENING STRAW HATS]

Another method of stiffening these susceptible plaits is by some
mixture of a resinous nature, preferably that of shellac dissolved
in spirit. This method has, of course, several variations which are
jealously guarded by the inventors, but the foundation of all of them
is on the above lines. In these cases the “stiffening” or really
“proofing” (for it is, of course, waterproof) is applied with a brush
and care has to be used not to clog the interstices of the fabric.
There are many disadvantages to the use of this medium, and its use
is not general.

Cotton fibre plaits are generally stiffened with a gelatine solution
similar to the viscose method, but another process was evolved for
black cotton hats, by which a resinous solution after application was
burned off in a blocking machine, combining at the one time the dual
processes of stiffening and blocking. This, however, can only be taken
advantage of when the particular variety of machine, with spelter male
and female blocks, was available. (This will be described under the
head of Blocking.)

These, in the main, are the “stiffening” methods in use in the straw
hat trade as it is to-day, when the materials used for hats are
prepared to their final appearance stage before being sewn, but in
the early days of the trade when the finished plait was quite crude
as compared with that of this century, some methods were utilized
during stiffening to alter or improve the colour of the hat or bonnet.
The earliest attempt in this direction was the production of a white
colour on straw. It has been shown in previous chapters that the early
bleachings simply improved the natural colour of the straw, and did
not remove its yellow tinting. But it was found possible during the
stiffening to carry the improvement a stage further. This was done by
the mixture of some acid, such as oxalic, sorrel and other similar
chemicals, in the gelatine bath. These had a dual effect, they kept the
gelatine from returning gradually to its pristine browny-yellow tint,
and when the hat was stiffened the chemically treated “stiffening”
was more easily affected in the bleaching by the fabrics of sulphur.
(Incidentally one may remark that the addition of a similar chemical
action to that produced by the above-mentioned acids, will materially
improve the colour of even the darkest tinted gelatine.) But even
under all these improvements, plait could not be made as white as
fashion demanded sixty or seventy years ago. Attempts were made to
produce the required article by making plait similar to “twist”
or “Luton” with the straws plaitted inside out, that is the two
splints used for each straw were laid with the outsides of the straws
together, leaving the inside of the straw, or “rice,” which is much
paler in colour, on the outside of the plait. This, when bleached,
was materially whiter than that with the silicate outside, but it did
not come up to the required standard. A method was introduced called
“Enamelling” or “Compoing,” which consisted of a paste made of starch,
or isinglass, or gelatine, mixed with various white powders, making
when ready for use a thickish whitewash. This provided both stiffening
and colouring to the hat.

But this in itself was an additional weight, and as all plaits with
heads made the proper distribution of the enamel very difficult, some
smoother and lighter medium had to be found. “7 ends Split” was the
chosen plait, and for several years enamelled split bonnets were a most
fashionable feature. The _modus operandi_ was to spread the “enamel” or
“compo” over the outside surface of the bonnet or hat, in a perfectly
even manner, so that when dry it presented the appearance of being
evenly whitewashed. The final touch was given by ironing the hat very
carefully on the block, with a bare iron not too hot; this imparted a
slight glaze, which, if unscorched, was really very fine. Various other
_media_ have been used at different times for stiffening straw hats,
such as dextrine and other farinaceous products, and resinous and other
gums, soluble in spirit or in water. Machines have been utilized for
stiffening, but the little advantages therefrom were so overweighted
by the disadvantages, that they have never obtained any popular support
and to-day it is probably not too much to say that every straw hat is
stiffened actually by hand.



The process of “Blocking,” as the next operation in the making of
a straw hat is termed, consists of some method, either by hand or
machinery, to place the somewhat uncouth looking article, exhibited by
the dried stiffened hat, into its ultimate form.

Naturally, the thoroughly softened shape, saturated with hot gelatine
and hung to the rod by a thread, assumes during drying an appearance
totally at variance with the proper shape, and in order to achieve
the correct outline some means has to be employed that will at the
same time render the gelatine amenable and also fix the contours.
Ever since hats have been made, whether in the oldest woven form, or
in the more recent plait sewn way, this process has been a necessity.
In fact the smoothing for wear of the finished hat is a process
considerably older than that of giving some extra firmness. In the
account of the making of the Panama mention has been made of the use
of wooden mallets to obliterate the ridges caused by the “setts” and
to give a general outline of conformity to the hood, and even so in
the case of British made hats, even before the stiffening methods of
wicker, wire or buckram, hats were given a smoothening finish by means
of some similar instrument. It is probable that in the earlier times
wooden tools were used here, but of these there are no records clearly
indicating their nature. The earliest instrument used in the trade
of which there are existing examples were termed “Slicken Stones.”
Of these there are two fine specimens in the Luton Free Library, and
they are of different sizes, one about 4 ins. diameter and one about
6 ins. They are circular, but flattened with a rounded bevel edge
something like the shape of a muffin, but with very smooth surfaces.
Their mission was to remove all inequalities from the hat after weaving
or sewing, contributing at the same time a smoothness which could not
be obtained from wood. They were probably used from the earliest hat
making times, and certainly played a part in the smoothing of hats made
on wicker. Whether they were needed for the wire foundationed shapes
is uncertain, as this medium was so easily adjusted by the fingers,
but they undoubtedly were extensively employed in the shaping of the
buckram supports, as this article, slightly damp, could be easily
moulded. They were used cold, and the probability is that in the
wicker and the buckram methods, a slight steaming over boiling water,
immediately followed by the application and use of these cold “Slicken”
stones, would result in the possibility of shaping and at the same
time “setting” the material. About the commencement of the nineteenth
century they were in common use around the South Bedfordshire hat
making centres, and there is no doubt they were successful in their
operations on hats both woven and sewn that were sufficiently firm in
their straw nature. From what can be gleaned they were still in use
when the first gelatine was used, but as the necessary steaming or
softening of the hat was another process, the old established method
was soon superseded by the use of irons, for it was found that with a
damp cloth over the hat, the iron at one time could produce its own
steam and soften the stiffened material, and also make the hat conform
to the shape of the block. At the time of the gelatine introduction,
shapes were all of variations of the “Poke,” “Coalscuttle,” or “Granny”
bonnet styles, and the smoothing or ironing of them was done on a
“block,”[1] something the shape of a vaulting horse, and nearly as
large, for it had legs long enough to make it sufficiently high to
work at without stooping. The ends were made to take the crown, or
rather the portion which hung at the back of the head or nape of the
neck of the wearer, into which was set the voluminous “poke” or side
brims of the “petasus” or coalscuttle type that completely obliterated
the side views of the wearer’s face. The poke could be blocked on
any part of the “horse” except the ends, and its curves and outlines
varied as occasion might require. On the introduction of irons and the
use of a damp cloth, known in the trade as a “strainer,” the wooden
horse was the only apparatus for blocking until the advent of other
shapes necessitated further and more complicated outlines. When the
“iron” in present use first made its appearance in the trade it has
been impossible to find out. It is what is now universally known as
a “box iron,” consisting of a wedge shaped shell of metal with flat
top and bottom, but with curved sides, into which a red hot “pad,” or
block of iron to fit the interior, could be put to impart to the “box”
the necessary heat. That this style of iron was known long before
the beginning of the nineteenth century is certain. Quaint forms for
ironing the Elizabethan ruffs embodying the hot pad principle are
still in existence, but the early nineteenth century accounts of the
instruments used in the straw trade are something like the History of
England between A.D. 500 and A.D. 800, extremely hazy! Therefore, it is
impossible to fix the exact date of its introduction to the trade; one
may conjecture that, like “Topsy” in _Uncle Tom’s Cabin_, “it growed.”
Its trade birth was probably accidental, but its existence has been
phenomenal in duration, for although machinery for blocking is now
doing a lot of work formerly done by hand, still in most factories
hand ironing occupies a very prominent place, and even where hats are
blocked by machine in many cases they need roughly shaping first by
hand. Hand blocking is done in the following manner: the hat to be
ironed is first put through some process to make the hardness of the
gelatine sufficiently soft to fit the blocks. In the early days of the
trade this was always done by lightly passing the hot iron over a damp
cloth in which the hat was enveloped, thus producing enough steam to
render the hat pliable, the crown was then carefully adjusted on the
block, special attention being given to the spacing and direction of
the rows of plait.

About 1880 straw hat manufacturers, having also started the making of
felt hats, for which a small steam jet in an enclosed box or vessel was
necessary, found that this same “steam pot” (trade term) provided an
easy means of softening the hat, for placing on the wooden block, and
since that time the old method of softening has practically died out,
with the exception of such plaits as would be injured by steam action.
When the crown of the hat is in proper position on the block, it is
covered with the “strainer.” This should be in a well wrung-out damp
condition, and is held in its place by the left hand of the “blocker,”
the ironing operative. With the box iron in his right hand, he evenly
and with a slightly circular motion, keeping the iron on the hat,
presses out any inequalities that may be left, but with such discretion
as not to injure the design of the plait. This process continues until
the “strainer” is dry, which indicates that all superfluous moisture is
evaporated and that the material will stay permanently in the required
form. Some plaits with prominent heads or fancy embellishments require
two or more “strainers” or even a thickness of flannel between the
iron and the hat to prevent bruising, but plaits such as these are
generally “blocked” by being “steamed” (trade term), that is the
shaping on the block is entirely done by the hand of the operator
after the material has been softened in the “steampot.” When hats are,
as they always were till about 1885, of “one piece” make, the crown
having been finished, is taken off the wooden block and placed head
downward in the “curler” or “brimmer” of wood. Either name sufficiently
designates its form and use, and the “one piece” hat is carefully
adjusted in the head entry, due regard being made to the contour of the
base of the crown, and the arrangement of the first gores of the brim,
so as to ensure a perfectly clean line of junction between the crown
and the brim. The brim is then adjusted to the exact outline of the
edge, and when true is “blocked” in a similar way to the crown. The two
piece hats are done in the same way with, of course, the exception that
the crown and the brim are blocked apart. It is, of course, obvious
that only quite a small portion of some parts of the hats can be ironed
at a time, the surface of the iron can only, at most, impinge on that
amount which is parallel, and, therefore, the blocking of a crown with
rounding top, bevelled edges and perhaps almost “O. G.” sides, is an
operation needing considerable skill, for no lines must show, nor must
there be any bruise marks, and yet at the same time there must be
enough pressure to cause the material to assume and retain the required

[Illustration: Fig. 17 HAND BLOCKING With Iron Heated by Electricity]

The irons are made with various kinds of faces, some are perfectly
flat, others with convex sweeps or curves, these are called “grecian”
irons, and are intended to be used in recessed curves of crown or
brim, which curves are known as “grecians,” but the skilful operative
can adapt the curved sides of a flat-faced box iron to most of the
concave places, so that except for extreme undulations, no recourse to
the curved faced iron is necessary. There are many modifications of
these general rules and methods, and it may be necessary in certain
cases, such as the ironing of braids stiffened with _media_ other
than gelatine or water soluble materials, to employ other methods,
but they are generally peculiar to the plait used and of a purely
ephemeral nature. In some factories box irons are used, heated by
patent fuel, others are warmed by gas and electricity, but the general
convenience of the fire-heated pad causes the old fashioned iron to
retain an almost universal supremacy. In work it is just as convenient
as any other, and in cost it must of necessity be lower, for every
factory must have fire for steam production and general warmth, and
the coke burning furnaces in use in the smaller factories are usually
constructed to achieve these two objects, and at the same time heat
the blocker’s pads. In the larger establishments steam for heating and
working is generally raised in separate adequately large boilers, with
a specially constructed and economical furnace for pad heating. This
is made with a shallow bed, a broad iron lip, on which pads can be
changed, and a guillotine-like construction in front, with a “blower”
which can be made to rise or fall, as occasion may demand for the
regulation of the draught.


[1] This doubtless gave the name to the operation of shaping.



The blocking of hats by machinery is a process much more recent in
operation than hand work, and although its origin is more or less
inside the possibility of a living man’s memory, so confused are the
_data_ connected with it that little or no reliability can be placed
on the greater number of the traditions. One thing alone stands out
clearly as a definite indication of first use, and that is the certain
seniority of the pressing of Leghorn hats. It is almost self-evident
that neither machinery or blocks to stand machine pressures would
be made for the manufacture of unlikely or transient materials and
shapes, and while the fashion of “Granny” bonnets, etc., was constant
for nearly half a century, the details of their shapes offered too
many difficulties to the would-be maker of a machine to press them,
to induce any great inventive effort on his part. It needed something
simple in outline, and something that could be done in large and
recurring quantities, to give to the inventor the necessary impetus
to produce a machine to impart to the hats their final finish. And
100 years ago there was nothing in the straw market, used either
for hats or bonnets, that fulfilled the above conditions except the
Leghorn hat. The making of this has been described in a former chapter.
The early methods, either by wood mallet or slickenstone did not
adequately fill the requirements; hand ironing was nearly as tedious
and was rather dangerous, as the Tuscan straw of the Leghorns was so
easily scorched, and as the demand increased the desire for a more
expeditious, safe and uniform method of pressing grew with it. The
earliest information, _given with some reserve_, is that an iron pan
or dish was made, moulded to the shape of the hat, and that this was
fixed over a metal cauldron in which water was kept at the boil, or
was warmed direct by charcoal fires. These heated the pan sufficiently
for the purpose; in fact, to-day, with all the improvements, and they
are legion, steam heating in this manner to blocking machines is still
general. The hat was damped and laid properly in the pan to its shape,
and was pressed on the inside by a convenient tool of hard wood or
stone, either of which was sufficient to squeeze the wet-softened
straw into the crevices attendant on the edge of the crown and the
corner made by the junction of the crown and the brim, and to impart
the necessary shape to all sections of the hat. The next move towards
the present models, was to have the pan as above, with a wooden, or
sometimes iron, block which would, when the hat was laid in position,
fit into it in such a manner as to convey an equal impingement on all
parts. This was adjusted by means of an over working screw, by which
some large pressures could be given. But these simple methods had great
disadvantages; it was impossible to entirely synchronize the pressure
on every hat, and it was extremely lengthy and tedious. A Mr. Samuel
Howard, of Luton, invented a press on similar lines, but the action was
horizontal instead of vertical, this served a very good purpose for a
period until MM. Desbordes,[2] of Paris, introduced their hydraulic
press. This consisted of a steam heated chamber in which was placed the
metal “pan” or “dish,” it being the “female” mould of the required
shape. The pressure was obtained by an overhead chamber to which an
india-rubber bag was fastened. This chamber was very strong and heavy,
and was, as it were, one end of a balance, working on trunnions, at the
other end of which were two large metal balls as counterpoise.

To bring into operation, the chamber was pulled down so that the centre
of the india-rubber bag, which was made with a teat, came into the
crown opening of the pan; the chamber was securely fastened by means of
screw lugs to the portion holding the pan, and a hydraulic press was
put into action which filled the rubber bag with a sufficient pressure
of water to distribute the power all over the hat in the pan; a gauge
showed the pressure obtained and consequently an equal amount could
be given to every hat. The results, therefore, were all alike, and
as the press could be locked and unlocked in a fraction of the time
required by the screw process, the work was greatly accelerated. Many
improvements have been made in blocking machines since then (about
1860), but all the later models embody the important feature of the
hydraulic pressure through the rubber bag. The next important step
in the evolution of mechanical blocking was that introduced by Mr.
Henry Keston, of Luton, adapted from a model made by a Mr. Beresford,
of Stockport, Cheshire. This improvement consisted of erecting round
steel uprights on the bed of the steam heated chamber, allowing the bag
chamber, attached to which were slides fitting the uprights, to rise
and fall vertically. The counterpoise was effected by a chain, attached
to the top of the bag chamber, passing over a wheel supported by a
bracket at the back of the machine and loaded with sufficient weights
to adjust the balance. A hand or foot lever pressure was sufficient
to raise or depress the bag chamber, and water connection to it was
obtained by means of a corded re-inforced india-rubber swan neck. When
the chamber had descended to its proper position it was locked by means
of a stout steel three-armed part like the hub of a wheel, with three
spokes radiating from it at equal distances. The hub was pivoted on the
centre of the top of the bag chamber, and a short lateral movement of
this part brought all three spokes under very strong hook-like lugs,
and locked the bag chamber securely to the pan chamber.

[Illustration: Fig. 18 MACHINE BLOCKING
By Press of Beresford-Keston Type]

Water pressure above the supply pressure was effected by means of a
hand worked hydraulic pump, and the force was reckoned by a pressure
gauge. This method was so much simpler and easier to work, and also
was so much more rapid, that it quickly superseded its predecessor;
and now, after forty years’ experience, is still the favourite model,
although the machines of to-day contain many improvements not to be
found in the original. By all these descending bag chamber models
the blocking of the hat is identical. The only difference made is in
the amount of pressure, some straws taking more than others without
injury. The hat having been properly “roughed out” or “sweated,” that
is shaped to its exact size without pressure by hand or machine, and
still holding a little steam moisture, is placed accurately in the pan,
the outside of the hat to the metal; inside the hat is distributed as
evenly as may be a thick felt dummy (to prevent the straw from cutting
the bag). If the edge of the crown is very sharp, such as one finds in
a man’s boater, a ring of vulcanized rubber or similar material with
angles corresponding to the crown edge is placed in position inside
the crown before the felt dummy is introduced. The bag chamber is
then brought down, securely locked, and the water pressure applied.
Different materials require different periods of time to properly set,
but while one is setting the operator “roughs out” another hat, so that
when the mechanical process on the one is complete, its successor is
ready for the operation.

A machine, the principle of which was intended to apply to the making
of buckram shapes, was also adopted by the straw trade. Its first
adoption was due to the introduction of the felt hat manufacture
into the districts hitherto peculiar to the straw hat making, but it
was found to possess points of advantage in the blocking of certain
materials. This machine has a “female” pan of metal into which a
properly fitted “male” block, with the accurate amount of space for
the material to be used, may enter, forming with the pan and the hat
one solid piece. This “male” block is also of metal. They were first
of iron and afterwards were generally of spelter or aluminium. In the
particular case for which they were most extensively used, the hat
was made of a cotton braid, the stiffening of which was effected by
a shellac and methylated spirit mixture, as gelatine was not found
entirely satisfactory. Both the “male” and the “female” blocks were
heated by gas jets, and when the hat was still wet with the highly
inflammable stiffening it was placed in position on the lower block,
the other was adjusted to it, and when in proper place the heat of
the blocks, or the light of the gas jets, fired the stiffening, which
rapidly burned the spirit out, leaving the shellac or other resinous
material in the fibres of the braid in sufficient quantity to render
the hat hard enough for its purpose, and at the same time creating an
almost waterproof fabric, that enabled the cotton to withstand the
softening influences of damp weather. The operation was completed by
releasing the movable block and taking out the hat.

An entire revolution in the system of blocking straw hats was
introduced in 1913-14 by a M. Stoffel, of Paris. This method depends
for pressure on air only, and by its means shapes almost if not
impossible by any other method can be beautifully blocked. The
apparatus consists mainly of a vacuum reservoir from which all air is
extracted, creating a suction pressure of about 13 lb. to the square
inch, exhausted by means of a vacuum pumping engine and perforated
blocks placed over copper tables that are also perforated and connected
with the vacuum chamber. The blocks are of wood or metal, and both
crowns and brims are made to the form of the outside of the hat, and
are in themselves quite independent of the copper table. The _modus
operandi_ is as follows: the block to be used is warmed by steam and
is placed bottom uppermost on the copper table. The hat, slightly
moistened by steam, is adjusted carefully on or in the block, covered
with a large water and air proof cloth which can envelop the whole of
the block and table, and leave a sufficient quantity to fill up the
cavity caused by the interior of the crown, or the undulations of the
brim. The vacuum force is then brought into action, and the suction
created draws the cloth, with a pressure of about 10 to 12 lb. to
the square inch, into every crevice or corner formed by the shape of
the hat and block; the suction set up draws off as well any moisture
evaporated by the heat of the block, and in a few moments the hat is
sufficiently dry to be removed. By this method crowns of hats with
concertina-like folds and creases can be perfectly “ironed,” using a
block made of only two sections, whereas in any other form of blocking,
where similar blocks must be made in five sections, the result
obtained, comparatively speaking, is more or less imperfect. Moreover
the process, while being much more rapid, does not require anything
like the same amount of force expenditure on the part of the workman
as do either hand or machine blocking. Another important benefit of
this invention is that the actual working apparatus can be arranged
in ordinary blocking benches, the copper perforated table taking up
no more room than that usually occupied by a hand blocker, whereas,
while other blocking machines do not occupy in themselves a greater
area, the “roughing out” or “sweating” necessitates the ordinary hand
blocking space which makes the actual amount nearly double. It must not
be forgotten that the preliminary, as one may call it, apparatus of the
“Stoffel” system requires space for the vacuum engine and pump, while
the vacuum reservoir tank is, of course, of considerable magnitude,
according to the services required. Both these, however, can be placed
in some basement, etc., quite away from the actual blocking room.
Whereas the earlier models need no extra area than the actual working
spaces, with the exception of the steam generating plant, which,
however, is common to all systems, and further is a necessity for other
purposes such as heating the various work and drying rooms, and also
for melting and keeping warm the gelatine used for stiffening, etc.

But compared with the Desbordes and Keston models, this system is not
so well adapted for men’s boaters work. Up to about 1910, the great
bulk of rustic boaters was blocked on presses of the Keston type, and
even to-day boater makers still make use of them. The hard-natured
straws that are generally utilized for boaters require heavy pressure
in varying degrees according to the different varieties of plaits,
and in this respect the suction method is not sufficient for the high

[Illustration: Fig. 19 MACHINE BLOCKING By Press of “Brochier” Type]

About 1910 another French engineer put a blocking machine on the market
with special claims for boater work. M. J. B. Brochier, of Lyons,
introduced the model now known wherever boaters are made by the name of
“Carre Vive,” of which the free translation, “sharp edge,” sufficiently
indicates the peculiar claim of the inventor. This machine in structure
is a combination of some other blocking presses, but with a special
contrivance for creating the extra sharp edge, and of extra lightness
and simplicity in working. It has the guillotine frame of the machine
mentioned for blocking cotton braids stiffened with shellac stiffening,
the pan chamber heated by steam, the india-rubber bag for hydraulic
pressure, and the bag-chamber moving vertically on uprights of the
“Keston” or “Beresford” type. But it differs from that machine in,
first, the bag chamber is really a plate with a hole in the centre to
carry the bag, and is only of the most meagre dimensions of the least
possible weight. Second, this is caused to descend into the pan chamber
by a lever actuated by the operator’s foot, the little weight of it is
balanced at the end of a lever with a small counterweight, obviating
the overhead chain and pulley. Third, the fixed contact with the pan
chamber is made by means of a screw wheel, a small turn of which when
the hat and bag are in position, firmly tightens and locks the two
portions together. Fourth, the special crown edging action is done by
a rising and falling movement made by the bottom of the boater pan,
which is actuated by means of a lever working on a ratchet by which the
pressure can be retained until the hat is ready for removal. This model
is now extensively used for boaters, although at the moment of writing
that extreme sharpness, desirable in boaters a few years ago, is not
required in the season’s models for the home trade, the crown edges
of which are an almost imperceptible bevel. These practically exhaust
the machines for blocking, but there are in use throughout the trade
blocking presses for the brims of boaters and of some varieties of hats
with rolling brims. These consist either of a flat metal plate, or open
pan conforming to the curves of the rolled brim, heated either by gas
or steam on, or in, which the brim of the hat is arranged, and a wooden
block placed over it. Affixed to the plate or pan are two uprights
with a crossbeam, in the centre of which is a long quick acting screw
with a small plate at the bottom. This descends on to the wooden block
and creates sufficient pressure to put the brim of the hat in correct
shape. It is found very useful in “touching up” the shape of a brim
that may have been bent or damaged in the trimming, as to put the hat
into either of the other machines would necessitate the taking away of
all trimmings and linings. The mention of these articles brings our
history to its next stage--that of the actual “Finishing,” as the trade
calls all the operations done to the hat after blocking.


[2] About this there is some uncertainty; the writer, from personal
recollection, believes it to be correct, but some modern Frenchmen
claim the honour on behalf of M. Desireau, while others assign priority
to M. Légat.



The straw hat having now arrived at the stage where its actual
manufacture ceases, has still further to undergo the process of
embellishment necessary for its proper appearance on the counters of
the merchant, or in the showroom of the milliner. A great many hats
of the “Leghorn” variety leave the factories without any finish of
trimming or lining, but after they leave the blocking room they have to
undergo a process of polishing. This is done in one or two ways. The
“dry” way is for the hat to be put through a severe brushing, done by
rapidly revolving brushes carrying powdered sulphur, in an air shaft
which takes away the residue of the powder. This gives to the Leghorn
hat a velvety smoothness and incidentally imparts a richer colour,
owing to the sulphur that finds its way into the crevices of the straw
fibres; although the brushing is intended to leave the hat free from
the powder, in actual working that is found to be nearly impossible.
The other way is the “wet,” and in this case the hat is covered all
over with a thin paste, of which sulphur is the principal ingredient.
When dry the blocking process is gone through, and the hat subsequently
receives a brushing similar to the “dry” method, but in this case the
object of the brushing is to remove every available particle of the
dried paste. The advantage of this method is great where the colour of
the Leghorn is none too fine. The wet sulphur mixture has a bleaching
effect on the straw, and naturally tends to penetrate better into the
fibres and crevices than the powder alone. The result is that the tone
of the hat is immeasurably beautified and with a longer lasting colour
than is obtained by simply polishing with dry powder. When properly
brushed and ticketed Leghorns are then completely ready for the market.

Some few other kinds of hats go out without any trimming or lining,
but the processes they undergo will be set out in one or the other of
the following descriptions. Every kind of straw needs some variety of
treatment before the actual “Finishing,” but generally speaking these
treatments are confined to the darker coloured plaits. Thus for chip
plaits black receives a coating of some oil such as olive or nut, etc.
This levels up the colour of the plait and intensifies the black; all
other colours are simply cleared by steam, and receive no further
treatment. For plaits of actual straw various things have been used
during the course of time. The first method, when only black, navy blue
and brown colours were available, was to smartly brush the dry finished
hat with stiff hand-brushes. This imparted a fairly good shiny surface
to the straw, but it had two drawbacks, one was that the brushing
did not in any way improve the colour of the sometimes faultily-dyed
plaits, and the other was a tendency during the brushing of roughing
up the fibres of the straw. In those early days when lowness of price
was not the main consideration, many hats have been glossed by brushing
over with white of egg, but the expense of that rendered it useless
for the bulk of the goods. The “Japan Black,” that in the time of our
fathers was utilized every spring on the household grates, was also
tried on black straw hats, but its viscous nature was quite unsuitable
for the proper polishing of straw. It was not until about 1870 that a
polish made of some resinous gums and methylated spirit was put on the
straw hat market. For black this “polish” was tinted with a suitable
colouring matter, and at first the finding of the proper ingredient
that would remain in solution without precipitation was a long and
tedious job; however, this was eventually effected, and now for some
years the various best brands of straw hat spirit polish leave nothing
to be desired. A German firm, Messrs. Conrad Schmidt & Co., was about
the first to market in Great Britain a satisfactory spirit polish,
and with recurring improvements this brand of polish, now made by the
London Varnish Co., still obtains a large share of straw hat makers’
demands. Brown and blue spirit polishes were produced by dyeing the
gum and spirit mixture with an aniline dye. White spirit polish was of
two varieties, one nearly opaque white, and the other a clear fluid
with just a slight yellow tint. These can be used on all coloured
straws other than black, brown and navy, but many manufacturers omit
to polish the very light tones such as champagne, silver grey, sky
blue, etc. White, of course, is never polished. When spirit polish was
first introduced it was very costly, and on the advent of the China
plait to these markets, it was found to be rather out of proportion
expensive to the very cheap Canton hats. A polish made of ordinary glue
mixed with lamp black or charcoal was current in Luton about 1870, and
lasted in use for the lowest price goods until spirit polish became
a reasonable price. The glue polish often smelt very nasty, and was
always badly affected by a humid warm atmosphere. During the past few
years when so many varieties of fibre have been utilized for making
plaits, all kinds of polishing _media_ have been experimented with,
even the household bees’ wax and turpentine has not been left out in
the cold, but those that have made any lasting mark on the making of a
straw hat are all of them in some way combinations of gums and spirit.
The rapid evaporation of any liquid put on a blocked hat is an absolute
necessity, it must also not be able in any way to soften the gelatine
or other stiffening material, and it must leave a desired gloss on
the hat without being glassy or “fatty” looking. Further, it must not
materially harden the fibres. Some plaits are required quite bright;
for these ordinary straw hat polish is correct; others are wanted with
an “egg shell” shine, these are provided for in one or the other of the
“Lustres” and “Silk Finishes” that are to be obtained. In fact, to-day
there is no material of which hats are made that cannot be properly
polished. The last advantage of the spirit polish is that it gives
a slight water proofing to the ladies’ hat, and the mention of that
brings up the question of the waterproofing of men’s boaters. A boater
is generally made of rustic plait of which the saw-like edges lapping
over each other form a surface similar to a tiled roof, and if it were
possible to sew the plait with the serrations as regular as tiling,
the result would be showerproof, but such regularity is impossible,
and in order to make this most useful hat still more serviceable,
one or two patents have been taken out in the direction of making it
absolutely waterproof. As far as one can gather in the trade, the only
method of rendering straw hats rainproof now extensively used is that
known as the “Cravenette.” After the “shell” of the boater is sewn
and stiffened, a special powder is applied carefully over the entire
surface of the hat, after which a spray of the patent liquid is made
to evenly and thinly cover the powder causing it to dissolve and form
the waterproofing medium. After drying the hat is blocked in the usual
manner, and when done, only an expert can tell from sight that the hat
has been treated, as the colour is in no way deteriorated, nor are the
fibres of the straw changed in any manner.

The straw hat, whether boater for masculine wear or the ladies’
fashionable hat, is, when the polish or finish is quite dry, ready
for the attentions of the “Finisher” or “Trimmer.” In the early days
of the British trade, that is about a century ago, the work of the
finisher was very limited. Practically all that was done was to insert
some kind of temporary lining to the head fit, and affix a small tab
or ticket for reference purposes. Gradually as more intricate shapes
began to be in public favour, it was found necessary to add to the
above operations, by inserting at the edge of the brim a metal wire
covered with either cotton or silk. This had in view two purposes, the
first that by skilful bending and shaping the desired outline of the
brim could be produced, and the other was that when the proper form
was achieved, the support of the wire assisted in its retention. As
plaits of lace-like appearance came on the market (those of crinoline
and fancy adornments, for example) the temporary linings were made from
various colours of tissue paper. These not only permitted a possible
purchaser to see at a glance all the beauties of the plait, but
afforded means by which the bonnet could be tried on the head, with the
least chance of damage, either to the shape or the wearer’s hair. And
mentioning bonnets, up to 1860 so much predominant in public request,
and even to the present time, the wholesale manufacturer of them has
always used paper for the temporary lining for all made of chip or
fancy plaits, while for straws with their hard sharp heads, likely
to tear the tissue paper, the probably equally short lived lining
was made of fine white muslin. A common reason for these temporary
linings (for they were always removed by the milliner when trimming)
was that as bonnets were kept on the show counter or dispatched to
their destination, in sausage like rows where one bonnet nested in
another, the lining prevented any protuberance of the plaits used
from catching, and thus any part of the row could be taken from the
other with the greatest facility. But by 1850 hats began to assume a
considerable volume, and for these in addition to paper, which, of
course, was intended to be temporary, head-linings of sateen silk,
sarsenet, and other similar materials, gradually began to be used. They
were made with a draw cord at the edge intended to fall into the top
of the crown, where a “tip” of the same material was already in place.
The lining having been sewn, as it were, upside-down to the head entry
inside the crown, was turned over the stitches until the drawn cord
edge met the tip; this edge was then sewn to the circumference of the
crown, the draw-cord was tightened to make the lining sit exact to the
oval, and this operation was complete. But at that time and until about
1900 every hat was wired at its edge with a silk or cotton mixture
covered wire. This was made especially for the millinery trade, and
consisted of a fine iron wire, of which it was necessary to have the
“temper” even and ductile, so that when once bent there would be no
resilience, or “springing,” as it was known to straw workers. Parallel
to and all round the wire, which thus formed a core, were varying
numbers, according to the thickness ultimately required, of strands of
cotton. Around this was twisted the silk fibres, which at the same time
kept all in position, and made a glossy exterior to the wire. In some
qualities the silk laid so thickly as to show no break, while others
according to value, showed varying spaces between the silk spirals;
others of the cheapest qualities were entirely of cotton inside and
outside. The advantage of this cushion-like pad around the wire was
that stitches could be taken through it, and if affixed to the hat
or bonnet with a “slip-stitch,” no trace of the stitching could be
seen. The ladies’ hat trade also uses another variety of wire known
as “miniature.” This is wire of similar gauge to the “silk,” but it
has no padding, and consists solely of the metal and a silk or cotton
yarn covering. In putting this into or on any hat, it is, of course,
necessary to sew over and over as the closeness of the cover does
not permit of any needle penetration. In some kinds of hats of which
the brims are required hard and straight edged, steel wires of watch
spring-like temper are used, and in others strengthening and shaping
are assisted by strands of cane, cut into round strips, of different
gauges for various kinds of work. When the wiring of hats for female
wear became universal, machinery was introduced to put the wires at the
edges of the brims, but this was done only to hats of the lower grades,
because the stitch was very visible. Mention has been made of the tab
or ticket attached to the hat by the “finisher.” This is primarily, in
fact absolutely, for purposes of reference; the shape number, according
to the manufacturer’s registry, is written on it before dispatch,
together with any other special markings required by the purchaser,
but almost every wholesale distributing house in Paris, London, New
York, etc., etc., has some distinctive ticket. This generally bears a
trade mark, crest, or other sign peculiar to the house in question,
and may be of any colour; even black, with gold or silver printing,
has been used, and as they vary in marks and colours, so they vary in
size, from, say, 3/4 in. wide and 2 in. long, to even 2 in. wide to 4
in. long. Their shapes are very numerous, rhomboids ellipses, circles,
pentagons, conic sections, parallelograms, half-moons, stars, and all
other geometric-like forms may be found in ticket shapes, but the
major part of those used partake of a “sweep” that has some conformity
with the outline of the hat or bonnet.

Generally speaking, trimming a lady’s hat is the special province of
the milliner, and in this case, of course, hats are not confined to
those made of straw or plait, and, in fact, this is an industry of its
own, and is, therefore outside the scope of the making of a straw hat.
But for many years both ladies and gentlemen have worn what have been
at different epochs called “sailors” or “boaters.” The making of these
hats for men has nearly always been accompanied by the trimming; and
when, about 1880, women commenced to wear “sailors,” many of them were
dispatched from the St. Albans factories with some trimming. About 1890
the makers of ladies’ shaped hats of simple form began to add some
little adornment to them, and these were designated as “semi-trimmed.”
It is, therefore, quite inside the history of the straw hat to include
some account of men’s boaters, ladies’ sailors, and “semi-trimmed”
or ready-to-wear hats. The first straw hats to be trimmed by the
manufacturer were men’s boaters. Their trimming has not very materially
altered from the first output up to the present time. There was a
ribbon band and bow at left hand side on the outside of the crown, and
there was also some head lining. Anyone conversant with the boater of
to-day will recognize that these salient features are still maintained,
the only differences from time to time being in their nature and detail.

For the head linings, leather, flannel, cotton, imitation leather,
satin, and various other articles suitable for comfort to the head and
moisture absorption have been and are still used. The most material
change has been effected in the imitation leathers, which have now
been brought up to such a high standard of excellence from what one
might almost term “the lowest depths,” that they are very formidable
competitors of the real article. At the same time they do not quite
compare with good class leathers, which are still always used for the
best hats. Where boaters are lined with flannel, cotton or satin, they
are generally made in the form of a thin pad, and for certain markets
are much esteemed. The other part of the interior of a boater is
sometimes left without any other adornment, but generally the sides are
decorated with a lining of white open work net, and the top is covered
by a tip of silk, satin, sateen, or cotton, which generally has the
centre printed with the retailer’s name and address. For other markets
the side crowns inside are covered with materials similar to the tips,
in all kinds of colours, and arranged in both plain and fanciful
manners. The exact fitting of these head linings, or “sweatbands,” as
some term them, is an operation needing skill, and the work has been
rendered more easy by the invention of Mr. Bracher, of Stockport. This,
now known throughout the world as “Brachering” (pronounced Brashering)
consists of a small strip of material around a fine strand of cane or
other material, which is sewn by a special stitch machine to the lining
or leather, making at the same time a neat, untearable edge and a
convenient means for attachment to the hat.

From time to time various inventions have been made for the ventilation
of boaters, these generally consisting of some open work straw being
used at the base of the crown instead of the nearly impermeable rustic.
This, when covered with a thin band of ribbon, is not visible from the
outside, and affords some fair degree of air passage. Other methods
have been adopted by having a punctured edge to the sweat band, which
permitted air to freely circulate close to and all around the head of
the wearer. To increase the resiliency of the leather or imitation
leather lining, patents have been taken out for pneumatic surrounds,
forming an air cushion all round the hat, which incidentally allows in
the easiest manner for any discrepancies, and they are very common, in
the contour of the wearer’s skull. The various devices for increased
comfort and utility in boater linings are very numerous, and display
great ingenuity. The “Autoform” The “Bon-Ton-Ivy” and the “Eesola”
pads, each of them specialities of various makers of boater sweatbands,
present differing features creating resiliency around the head of the
wearer. These are produced by means of soft material insertions under
the leather or other lining, or of cellular impressions made in the
leather, or of a continuous roll all around the head fitting part, or
even of the insertion of a pneumatic tube, all creating a cushion like
addition to the flatness of the lining material. Each has its peculiar
merits, and for certain purposes are perfect in their utility. Some are
very little more costly than the plain leather, but others from the
extra material and work involved are naturally more expensive, but the
efforts of their manufacturers to raise the standards of quality and of
efficient comfort are such as to deserve special commendation.

The most recent development for ensuring the comfortable wear of the
hardest boater is that of an American inventor. Although the making
of straw hats from plait has been an established industry in the
United States for at least half a century, and the amazing increase of
the trade has been phenomenal, yet up to the present the name of an
American has not been written very prominently on the pages of straw
trade industry. It is true that the first machine to sew plait was the
product of an American firm, but, it was not really successful until it
had been altered and adapted by a Luton engineer; it is also true that
Mr. Bodsworth, an American, introduced a straw sewing machine, but as
previously stated, this was not a striking success, and although at the
present time the principal machine in the trade is made by an American
firm, it is the result of a Briton’s invention. And, therefore, it is
with pleasure that in this record of the trade a real invention, which
promises to be of the highest value to the boater trade, can be laid to
the credit of a citizen of the United States. Mr. Herbert L. Moses, of
Baltimore, has patented a device for attachment just inside the head
entry of a boater which consists of a floating, flexible band, held
in position about 1/8 of an inch from the hat by a series of stitches
at about half an inch intervals all round the crown. The principle is
that the stitches of cotton take the place of the spokes of a wheel
running inside another wheel, where a thrust in one part is compensated
for by a relaxation of the other parts. Over this is sewn the leather
sweat-band, or head lining of any other nature, attached to the hat in
the usual manner. The necessary machinery for the insertion of this
flexible _conformateur_, for that is actually what it amounts to, is
provided by means of mechanical attachments to any suitable sewing
machine. These attachments form the subject of another patent by the
same inventor, who has assigned his rights to Messrs. M. S. Levy &
Sons, of Baltimore, U.S.A. The peculiar features of this patent are,
first, the ease of fit conveyed to the wearer of the hat, and, second,
the great yield given by the device obviates to the utmost extent
the need for small intermediate sizes of the hats, for fitting the
many-shaped heads of customers.

Co-eval with the boater, and perhaps even a little earlier, was the
“Galatea” or “Jack Tar” for boys. This hat was founded on the shape of
the “Sinnett” rustic hat worn by sailors in the Navy for so many years.
The model was in use at the end of the eighteenth century (as pictures
of Lord Nelson’s sea fights clearly demonstrate) made both in straw and
in tarpaulin. It was quickly adopted for boy’s wear, and for many years
formed their summer hat. No boy could go to the seaside without one.

A painting, executed about 1850, illustrative of Queen Victoria, Prince
Albert, with the then Prince of Wales, afterward King Edward VII, shows
the Prince wearing a straw Galatea, and any observer of the pictures of
that time in the various periodicals such as _The Illustrated London
News_ and _Punch_, cannot fail to notice how popular this “Jack Tar”
style was among the youthful males.

The other department of trimming in the straw trade, that of the
“semi-trimmed” hats for ladies, is of comparatively recent origin
compared with the boater, for at most it can claim an existence of
only thirty to thirty-five years, but the trade has now grown to
such large dimensions that any account of the straw hat would be
incomplete without it. It commenced, as most things do, in the trade
that was done for some years in sailors for ladies. Those in the
main were on the same lines as those for men, that is they started
with square edge crowns, upright sides at right angle to a perfectly
flat brim. Developments of a fanciful nature in the brim formation
in the direction of what is known as a “Breton” sailor, of which
the characteristic is a slightly turned up edge, were the first to
be made, and subsequently crowns of softer outline with overhanging
tops attained for some time a great share of fashionable favour. But
to-day, with the exception of straw sailors for girls and young ladies
at school, there is very little demand for hats of this description.
But the trimming, which was nearly a necessity of these hats, had
established, in many factories, departments which on the decline of
their sale, required fresh openings, and attempts were made on “Alpine”
models, then in great vogue for ladies, which proved very successful.
This whetted the appetite of manufacturers, and all kinds of “ready to
wear” hats for sports were speedily on the market, one thing led to
another, and now all manner of shapes, toques, medium size, and picture
hats are being trimmed in a manner that from its departure from the
early extreme simplicity, seems to trench considerably upon what has
always been considered the proper domain of the milliner.

                         Telephone: LUTON 311
                        Telegrams: INGAB, LUTON

                               C. BAGNI
                             R. G. SQUIRES

                            C. BAGNI & CO.


                      Importers and Exporters of
                      ITALIAN, CHINESE & JAPANESE
                             STRAW PLAITS
                          FOR HAT MANUFACTURE

                          36 Guildford Street


    Arab hats, 5
    Argos, 3
    Austin, T. G., 12

    Bamboo, 18
    Bast, 3, 35
    Black Forest, claims of, 6
    Bleaching, history, 60
    ---- methods, 60, 62, 63
    Blocking by hand, history, 93
    ---- tools, 93, 94, 98
    ---- methods, 96, 104
    ---- by machine, history, 100
    ---- ---- various machines, 101, 102, 106, 108
    Blockmaking, history, 66
    ---- method, 67
    ---- woods used, 69
    ---- of plaster, 69
    Bonnet, 5
    British straw plaits, 11, 15, 18
    ---- ---- hats, 6, 9

    Cesare Cantu, 9
    Chinese plaits, 19
    Compo, stiffening, 91
    Cotton plaits, 18
    Coryat’s crudities, 10

    Dyeing, history, 52
    ---- methods, 53, 57, 58
    ---- plant, 54

    Enamelling split, 91
    Etruscans and Etruria, 3

    Fastolfe, Sir John, 6
    Fiesole, woven plait, 30
    Finishing, 111
    Franks, the, 3

    Gerard, 3
    Greeks, the, 3

    Hemp for plaits, 18, 33
    Hera, hat of, 3
    Hood hats, preparation, 37
    ---- ----, method of making, 38
    ---- ----, Bankok, 42
    ---- ----, Bowen, 41
    ---- ----, Brazilian, 42-44
    ---- ----, chip, 42
    ---- ----, Curaçoa, 41
    ---- ----, hemp, 42
    ---- ----, Hinoki, 41
    ---- ----, Java, 41
    ---- ----, Leghorn, 14, 71
    ---- ----, Manila, 42
    ---- ----, Panama, 36
    ---- ----, paper, 42
    ---- ----, raffia, 43
    ---- ----, rush, 42
    ---- ----, Yedda, 43
    Horsehair plaits, 18

    Italian plaits, 10, 14

    Japanese plaits, 19

    Kausia, 2

    La Croix, 3
    “La dame au chapeau de Poil,” 8
    Leathers for lining, 119
    Leghorn, 13
    Lining hats, 115

    Machines, sewing, 21, 22, 23
    ----, blocking, 24
    ----, plaiting, 49
    Machines, milling, 82
    Mary, Queen of Scots, 10
    Mercury, hat of, 3
    Milan or Pedale, 19

    Oiling chip hats, 112
    Oldmixon, 11

    Pausanias, 3
    Penelope, hat of, 4
    Pepys, 7
    Petasus, 2
    Plaits, bamboo, 18
    ----, bast, 35
    ----, cotton, 18
    ----, hemp, 18
    ----, horsehair, 18
    ----, raffia, 18
    ----, rush, 35
    ----, rye straw, 7, 14
    ----, silk, 18
    ----, sinnet, 35, 112
    ----, Tuscan, 14
    ----, wheat straw, 14
    ----, wood shavings, 18
    ----, yedda, 35
    Plaitters, 28, 29
    Plaitting centres:
      Belgium, 30
      China, 19
      Dunstable, 15
      Essex, 15
      Hemel Hempstead, 15
      Japan, 19
      Panama, 36
      Ripon (Yorks), 15
      Saxony, 33
      Switzerland, 18
    ---- machines, 49
    ---- methods, 27, 30, 32, 45
    Poetical allusions:
      Ben Jonson, 7
      Gay, 9
      Shakespeare, 7
      Spenser, 6
      Thynne, 6
      Virgil, 5
    Polishing, 112
    Pompeii, 4
    Praxiteles, 3
    Preparation of straws, 25
    ---- of chip, 33

    Romans, the early, 3
    Rubens, Peter Paul, 8
    Rye straw, 7, 14

    Semi-trimmed hats, 122
    Sewing, hand method, 72, 76
    ----, machine method, 73, 81
    ---- machines, 21, 22, 23, 73
    Signa, 10
    Sparterie, 51
    Speckled plaits, 57
    Splitting of straws, 27
    Stephanos, 3
    Stiffening, history, 84
    ---- materials, 85, 88, 90
    ---- method, 86, 88, 90
    Straw, 3
    ---- pipes, 16
    ---- splints, 16
    ---- splitters, 17
    Swiss plaits, 18

    Tagal, 34
    Tansley, 17
    Tégal, 34
    Ticketing, 117
    Tippers, 70
    Tomlinson, 13
    Trimming, 118
    Tuscan plait, 14
    Tutulus, 4
    Twist plait, 19

    Vatican, 3
    Virgil, pastorals, 5

    Waller, John, 11
    Waterproofing, 114
    Wiring, 115

_Printed in Bath, England, by Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd._

      _A Barry Hat_
              _surpasses all_

    _The production of_

                            CABLE ADDRESS:
                           IMMEDIATE, LUTON
                             TELEPHONE NO.
                               20 LUTON

                          WELCH & SONS, Ltd.
                          LUTON BEDS, ENGLAND

                        IMPORTERS AND EXPORTERS
                            OF ALL KINDS OF
                      JAPANESE, CHINESE, ITALIAN
                              and SUISSE
                          For HAT MANUFACTURE

                        BLEACHING A SPECIALITY

                        ABC 4th & 5th Editions
                           ABC 5th Improved
                           LIEBERS IMPROVED

                             Western Union
                            Marconi Vol. I

                            MANUFACTURERS OF
                          LADIES’, MAIDS’ and
                            CHILDREN’S HATS

                         TRIMMED AND UNTRIMMED

                           ALLEN & SON, LTD.

                           ESTABLISHED 1892
                           'PHONE 124 LUTON

                           59-61 BUTE STREET
                              LUTON, BEDS

                      _Telegrams: KERSHAW, LUTON_
                            Telephone Nos.:
                            LUTON, 742, 743
                          (Branch Exchange).

                     _J. C. Kershaw & Co. Limited_

                           Ladies’ and Men’s
                   Straw and Felt Hat Manufacturers
                          and Plait Merchants

                          A.B.C. 5TH EDITION.

                        George Street, _Luton_

                            Willcox & Gibbs
                    for making the Concealed Stitch
                 so essential in all first-class work.

                      UNAPPROACHED ON ANY PLAIT.

          _All best grade hats are made with the world-famed

                             _The_ W. & G.
                            VISIBLE STITCH
                          Straw Hat Machines
                     are Fast-running, Economical,
                        Adaptable and Durable.

                   *       *       *       *       *

          _Both types of machines are extensively used in all
              plait-sewing centres throughout the world._

                            Willcox & Gibbs
                       Sewing Machine Co., Ltd.
            _Chief Office_: 20 Fore Street, London, E.C.2.
                    _Luton Office_: Silver Street.


                           PATENT No. 182035
                        FOREIGN PATENTS PENDING

                          BROWN & GREEN Ltd.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                  _Hatters’ Machinery Manufacturers_

                   *       *       *       *       *

                     Windsor Street, Castle Street
                             & South Road
                         LUTON, BEDS, ENGLAND

     Telephone 104 Luton.
     Telegrams “Gem Luton.”

                    <--_This is our latest pattern_
                             HAT BLOCKING









                   *       *       *       *       *

                          BROWN & GREEN Ltd.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                  _Hatters’ Machinery Manufacturers_

                   *       *       *       *       *

                     Windsor Street, Castle Street
                             & South Road
                         LUTON, BEDS, ENGLAND

     Telephone 104 Luton.
     Telegrams “Gem Luton.”

                         Telegraphic Address:
                            Telephone Nos.
                         1018 and 1019 (Hats)
                             500 (Plaits)
           Codes: A B C (4th and 5th Editions) and Bentley’s

                          A. HUCKLESBY & Co.

                            Plait Merchants
                           Hat Manufacturers

                   *       *       *       *       *

                         LATEST STYLES in HATS
                             OF ALL KINDS

                 Straws, Felts, Velvets, Panamas, etc.

                        Agents and Importers of
                        Straw Plaits and Braids


                   *       *       *       *       *

                      _Warehouses and Showrooms_:
                          46 & 48 George St.,
                           1, 2 & 3 Bond St.
                          Upper George Street
                           FOR LADIES’ GOODS
                              John Street
                       FOR MEN’S AND BOYS’ HATS

                           A LIST OF BOOKS
                             PUBLISHED BY
                     Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, Ltd.
                   (_Incorporating WHITTAKER & CO._)

                       PARKER STREET, KINGSWAY,
                             LONDON, W.C.2

       The prices given apply only to the British Isles, and are
                 subject to alteration without notice.

                   *       *       *       *       *

      =A complete Catalogue giving full details of the following=
            =books will be sent post free on application.=

                   *       *       *       *       *

                         _ALL PRICES ARE NET._
                                                     _s._ _d._

  ACCUMULATORS, MANAGEMENT OF. Sir D. Salomons        7    6

  BODIES, PROPERTIES OF. A. W. Judge                 18    0

  ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF. A. W. Judge               7    8

  AERONAUTICS, ELEMENTARY. A. P. Thurston             8    6


  AEROPLANES, DESIGN OF. A. W. Judge                 14    0

  and J. D. Frier                                    21    0

  AEROPLANES AND AIRSHIPS. W. E. Dommett              1    9

  A. W. Judge                                        25    0

  AND ORGANIC.    A. W. Judge                        25    0

  AIRCRAFT, DICTIONARY OF. W. E. Dommett              2    0

  ALIGNMENT CHARTS. E. S. Andrews                     2    0

  J. R. Barr and R. D. Archibald                     30    0

  THE DESIGN OF. C. C. Hawkins, S. P. Smith and
  S. Neville                                         21    0

  ALTERNATING-CURRENT WORK. W. Perren Maycock        10    6

  ARCHITECTURAL HYGIENE. B. F. and H. P. Fletcher    10    6



  T. E. Herbert and R. G. de Wardt                    5    0

  A. G. Ellis                                        25    0

  Foltzer. Translated by S. Woodhouse                21    0

  ASTRONOMERS, GREAT. Sir R. Ball                     7    6

  ASTRONOMY FOR EVERYBODY. Prof. S. Newcombe          7    6

  ASTRONOMY FOR GENERAL READERS. G. F. Chambers       4    0


  AND LIGHTING. J. B. Rathbun                         8    0



  BREWING AND MALTING. J. Ross Mackenzie              8    6

  CABINET MAKING, ART AND CRAFT OF. D. Denning        7    6


  CARPENTRY AND JOINERY. B. F. and H. P. Fletcher    10    6

  CERAMIC INDUSTRIES POCKET BOOK. A. B. Searle        8    6


  CHEMISTRY, A FIRST BOOK OF. A. Coulthard            4    6

  Burns. Part 1, 5/-; Parts 2, 3 and 4, each          6    0

  TEXTILE COLOURING. R. Beaumont                     21    0

  COMPRESSED AIR POWER. A. W. and Z. W. Daw          21    0

  PRINCIPLES OF. H. M. Hobart                        10    6

  W. Perren Maycock                                   7    6

  D. H. Jackson                                       6    0


  ELEMENTS OF. H. F. Trewman and G. E. Condiffe       7    6

  APPLIANCES. R. H. Davis                             7    6

  DRAWING AND DESIGNING. C. G. Leland                 3    6

  DRAWING, MANUAL INSTRUCTION. S. Barter              4    0

  AND FABRIC MANUFACTURE OF. R. Beaumont             42    0

  DYNAMO, HOW TO MANAGE THE. A. R. Bottone            2    0

  THE. C. C. Hawkins. Vol. I                         21    0

  FOR LIGHTING, HEATING, &C. S. C. Batstone           6    0

  S. R. Bottone                                       6    0


  W. Perren Maycock                                  10    6

  ELECTRIC GUIDES. HAWKINS’. 10 volumes, each         5    0

  ELECTRIC MINING MACHINERY. S. F. Walker            15    0



  A.C. W. Perren Maycock                              6    0

  Vol. I. W. Perren Maycock                          10    6

  Vol. II. W. Perren Maycock                         10    6

  ELECTRIC LIGHTING IN THE HOME. L. Gaster                 6

  J. S. Dow                                                6

  ELECTRIC TRACTION. A. T. Dover                     21    0

  W. Perren Maycock                                  10    6

  ELECTRIC WIRING DIAGRAMS. W. Perren Maycock         5    0

  ELECTRIC WIRING TABLES. W. Perren Maycock           5    0

  ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS’ POCKET BOOK. Whittaker’s     10    6

  Murdoch and Oschwald                               12    6

  L. Oulton and N. J. Wilson                          6    0

  Martin                                              6    0

  Perren Maycock                                      6    0

  S. R. Bottone                                       4    6

  ELECTRO-PLATERS’ HANDBOOK. G. E. Bonney             5    0

  ELECTRO-TECHNICS, ELEMENTS OF. A. P. Young          7    6

  IN DRAWING OFFICES.                                 2    6

  Part 1, 3s.; Part 2, 2s. 6d.; Complete              4    6

  ENGINEERING WORKSHOP EXERCISES. E. Pull             3    6

  ENGLISH, GERMAN, DUTCH. W. H. Steenbeek             2    6

  ENGLISH FOR TECHNICAL STUDENTS. F. F. Potter.       2    0

  Book  I, with Answers                               1    4
  Book II, with Answers                               1    4

  W. MacDonald                                        9    0

  THE BRITISH.                                       18    0

  A. Lovat Higgins                                   21    0

  FIELD WORK FOR SCHOOLS. E. H. Harrison and
  C. A. Hunter                                       2     0

  FILES AND FILING. Fremont and Taylor              21     0

  FITTING, PRINCIPLES OF. J. G. Horner               7     6

  FIVE FIGURE LOGARITHMS. W. E. Dommett              1     6

  FLAX CULTURE AND PREPARATION. F. Bradbury         10     6

  FUSELAGE DESIGN. A. W. Judge                       3     0

  GAS, GASOLENE AND OIL ENGINES. J. B. Rathbun       8     0

  B. Rathbun                                         8     0

  GAS AND OIL ENGINE OPERATION. J. Okill             5     0


  H. Y. Webber                                       4     0

  P. W. Scott                                        5     0

  GEOLOGY, ELEMENTARY. A. J. Jukes-Browne            3     0

  A. Osborne                                         3     0

  GRAPHIC STATICS, ELEMENTARY. J. T. Wight           5     0

  A. Scott                                           2     6

  HEAT, LIGHT AND SOUND. J. R. Ashworth              2     6

  HIGH HEAVENS, IN THE. Sir R. Ball                 10     6

  HOSIERY MANUFACTURE. W. Davis                      9     0

  HYDRAULIC MOTORS AND TURBINES. G. R. Bodmer       15     0

  MODERN. Dow and Gaster                            25     0

  INDICATOR HANDBOOK. C. N. Pickworth                7     6

  INDUCTION COILS. G. E. Bonney                      6     0

  INDUCTION COIL, THEORY OF THE. E. Taylor-Jones    12     6

  Turner and H. M. Hobart                           21     0

  IONIC VALVE, GUIDE TO STUDY OF THE. W. D. Owen     2     6

  IRONFOUNDING PRACTICAL. J. G. Horner              10     0

  LEATHER WORK. C. G. Leland                         5     0

  LEKTRIK LIGHTING CONNECTIONS. W. Perren Maycock    1     0

  LENS WORK FOR AMATEURS. H. Orford                  3     6

  Sir O. Lodge                                      15     0

  LOGARITHMS FOR BEGINNERS. C. N. Pickworth          1     6

  P. W. Scott                                        2     0

  COURSE OF PRACTICAL. J. R. Ashworth                3     0

  MAGNETO AND ELECTRIC IGNITION. W. Hibbert          3     6

  J. Cullyer                                         3     0

  W. Roberts                                         5     0

  MATHEMATICAL TABLES. W. E. Dommett                 4     6

  Stringfellow                                       1     6
  With Answers    Do.                                2     0


  MECHANICAL ENGINEERS’ POCKET BOOK. Whittaker’s    12     6

  MECHANICAL TABLES. J. Foden                        2     0

  W. E. Dommett                                      2     6

  METAL TURNING. J. G. Horner                        4     0

  METAL WORK--REPOUSSÉ. C. G. Leland                 5     0

  METAL WORK, TEACHER’S HANDBOOK. J. S. Miller       4     0

  MEASURES. F. M. Perkin                             3     6

  METRIC CONVERSION TABLES. W. E. Dommett            2     6

  MILLING, MODERN. E. Pull                           9     0

  Hatch                                              6     0

  AND ILLUSIONS. H. C. Horstmann and V. H.
  Tousley                                            7     6

  MECHANISM. T. H. Russell                           8     0

  T. H. Russell                                      8     0


  ENGLISH-ITALIAN. W. T. Davis                      10     6

  OPTICAL INSTRUMENTS, MODERN. H. Orford             4     0

  LENSES. J. T. Taylor                               4     0

  PATTERN-MAKING, PRINCIPLES OF. J. G. Horner        4     0

  JOINTING. P. R. Björling                           6     6

  THE. B. C. Boulton                                 7     6

  POLYPHASE CURRENTS. A. Still                       7     6

  POWER WIRING DIAGRAMS. A. T. Dover                 7     6


  A. Atkins                                         10     0

  QUANTITIES AND QUANTITY TAKING. W. E. Davis        6     0

  W. H. Marchant                                     5     6

  RAILWAY TECHNICAL VOCABULARY. L. Serraillier       7     6

  REINFORCED CONCRETE. W. N. Twelvetrees            21     6

  PRACTICAL DESIGN OF. W. N. Twelvetrees             7     6

  METHODS OF CALCULATING. W. N. Twelvetrees          5     0

  E. S. Andrews                                      6     0

  ROSES AND ROSE GROWING. R. G. Kingsley             7     6

  Redvers Elder                                      2     6

  Andrews                                            6     0

  SLIDE RULE. A. L. Higgins                                6

  SLIDE RULE. C. N. Pickworth                        3     6

  SOIL, SCIENCE OF THE. C. Warrell                   3     6

  STARRY REALMS, IN. Sir R. Ball                    10     6

  Kearton                                           15     0

  STEAM TURBO-ALTERNATOR, THE. L. C. Grant          15     0

  Ibbotson                                          12     6

  STORAGE BATTERY PRACTICE. R. Rankin                7     6

  E. S. Andrews                                      6     0

  SUBMARINE VESSELS, ETC. W. E. Dommett              5     0

  T. Middleton                                       6     0

  SURVEYING, TUTORIAL LAND AND MINE. T. Bryson      10     6



  TELEGRAPHY, ELEMENTARY. H. W. Pendry               7     6

  TELEPHONIC EXCHANGE, PRACTICAL. J. Poole          15     0

  TEXTILE CALCULATIONS. G. H. Whitwam               25     0

  CURRENTS. G. Kapp                                 12     6

  Dunkley                                            5     0

  TRIPLANE AND THE STABLE BIPLANE. J. C. Hunsaker    3     0

  TURRET LATHE TOOLS, HOW TO LAY OUT                 6     0

  UNION TEXTILE FABRICATION. R. Beaumont            21     0

  MATHEMATICS OF. F. Birks                           5     0

  VOLUMETRIC ANALYSIS. J. B. Coppock                 3     6

  WATER MAINS, THE LAY-OUT OF SMALL. H. H. Hellins   7     6

  H. C. Adams                                       15     0

  WIRELESS FOR THE HOME. N. P. Hinton                2     0

  WIRELESS POCKET BOOK, MARINE. W. H. Marchant       6     0

  S. R. Bottone                                      3     6

  FOR OPERATORS AND STUDENTS. W. H. Marchant         7     6

  WOOD-BLOCK PRINTING. F. Morley Fletcher            8     6

  WOODCARVING. C. G. Leland                          7     6

  WOODWORK, MANUAL INSTRUCTION. S. Barter            7     6

  WOOL SUBSTITUTES. R. Beaumont                     10     6

       _Catalogue of Scientific and Technical Books post free._

                   *       *       *       *       *

                    PARKER STREET. KINGSWAY, W.C.2

                       BEST VALUE IN THE MARKET

                Merchants, Shippers & Wholesale Houses
                              PANAMA HATS
                        Should correspond with
                           _GREGORY & SONS_
                      8 & 9, NEW ZEALAND AVENUE,
                             LONDON, E.C.1

                 who are experts in the Trade, and are
                       The Largest Importers in
                             Great Britain

                   *       *       *       *       *

                          “GREGORIO, LONDON.”

                          A B C (5th Edition)

                           _Telephone No._:
                               CITY 1755


                             COIGNET No. 1


                             COIGNET No. 2

                         _Established in 1818_

                           Were the first to
                        be used for stiffening
                              straw hats
                             and are still
                           . . the best . .

                   *       *       *       *       *

                   _For Samples and Prices apply to_
                    Société des Produits Chimiques

                  PARIS: 114 Boulevard Magenta (X^e)
                  LONDON: 90 Fenchurch Street (E.C.3)
                       NEW YORK: 17 State Street

=Transcriber’s Notes=

Minor punctuation errors have been corrected.

The following typos have been corrected.

  p. 18.  “plaits similiar” changed to “plaits similar”.
  p. 24. “Legat” changed to “Légat”.
  p. 70. “of a models’” changed to “of a model’s”.
  p. 78. “the headfit” changed to “the head fit”.
  p. 120. “in the easist manner” changed to “in the easiest manner”.
  Index “Tegal” changed to “Tégal”.

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