Saturday, September 14, 2013

Unusual Artifacts: A Top Hat Box, 1890-99

Hat Box of Leather and Silk
Containing two fine hats
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This hatbox, dating to about 1890 to 1899, is made of brown leather, and boasts two leather straps with snap fastenings and a handle for transportation. The box is lined with red grosgrain—essentially, a heavy, corded silk which is primarily used for ribbon.

The case contains two fine hats. Inside the bottom part of the hatbox is a top hat of black silk plush, lined with white satin. The V&A notes, “The top of the hat has a ventilation hole marked 'Extra Quality Trade Mark Dunlop & Co Reg. US Patent Office'.” The top portion of the hatbox contains a gibus (a top hat with a collapsible crown, which came into fashion in the 1840s and was worn with evening dress) of black silk grosgrain lined with black silk marked 'Extra Quality Trade Mark Dunlop & Co., Copyrighted CBH'.  Sadly, we have no pictures of the hats.

While this box contains two hats, some hatboxes included a storage space for a the type of brush which was used to keep the hats shiny and smooth by bushing the nap. These brushes were often used for advertising by hatters and were given away with new hats. 

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