Hats, Hats, & More Hats: MdHS Millinery collection

By: Jeanmarie Tucker 

The Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) has a fantastic collection of hats and bonnets.  As fashion and hairstyles changed, the hat also evolved. Here is a glance at some of the hats within the MdHS collection. Each hat is a document of fashion and history with its own story waiting to be discovered.   

A Tie to People

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Above is a beige brocade bonnet trimmed with purple ribbon and adorned with large blue and red ostrich feathers. The bonnet has a tall, draped crown fashionable around 1815-1825. The bonnet shows how artifacts contain personal ties to those of the past. The bonnet could have been worn by Mary Jones Rieman(1788-1860), a member of a prominent Baltimore family. Daniel Reichman(1755-1829) emigrated from Germany to the United States and opened a sugar refinery in Baltimore City. Daniel’s last name was changed from Rieman after he immigrated. Daniel Rieman's son Henry Rieman(1786-1865) married Mary Jones. Henry Rieman continued his father’s sugar refinery and expanded the company to a grocery and bacon store.


A Tie to Fashion Trends

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Donated by Miss Mary G. Kilpatrick, this bonnet is a wire structure covered by moss green tulle. Paper flowers are attached under the brim. Gold drips embellish the tulle. Silk green ribbons hang on either side of the bonnet and would have tied under the chin . Lace trim decorates in the front. Small hats and fanchon bonnets became popular around 1865. The fanchon bonnet is a small square or triangular bonnet that sits on the crown of the head, often with a ribbon that ties under the chin. Milliners used wire frames to support the delicate fabrics used in these types of bonnets such as tulle. After the close- fitting cloches of the 1920’s came, the wire frames become obsolete.

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Above is a black velveteen hat topped with a Bird of Paradise. The construction dates around 1940, but taxidermied birds reach popularity between 1900 and 1910. The bird of paradise has long feathers of white, yellow, and iridescent green around the bill. At the end of the 18th century, feathers became commonplace for adornments on hats. Milliners eagerly sought feathers for their hats. During this period laws were passed that restricted the hunting of non-game birds.

A Tie to History

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This boater hat made of braided straw and trimmed with a striped grosgrain ribbon was worn by the donor's father, Mr. W. Emil Thompson, who purchased the hat from Hutzler Brothers department Store in the 1940's. The Hutlzer Brothers Co. department store was founded in 1858 by Moses Hutzler, an immigrant from Bavaria, Germany.  The store, located in downtown Baltimore, grew in size and popularity throughout the early 20th century.  This hat represents a time when Hutzler's was flourishing, expanding their store by adding floors and extensions to accommodate their vast customer base.


Each hat is not just an accessory, but also a document that records the history of individuals, places,  and fashion. Here are more photographs of the MdHS hat collection.


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For more information on how we process and store hats and bonnets From Pratt House in refer to Lidia Plaza, “Making A Rehousing Home: Mounts for Hats."


Langley, Susan. Vintage Hats & Bonnets 1770-1970: Identification &Values. Paducah, KY: Collector Books, 1998.

Smith, Desire.  Hats with Values. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Pub., 1996.