Stetson Cowboy Hat

This page is dedicated to the first and the greatest cowboy hat in existence. The quality of the stetson cowboy hat is unparalleled and if you don't already own one, I reckon you better rectify that before mornin'.

The Stetson Hat History

It was all started by a young American entrepreneur in the mid 1800ís named John B. Stetson and this is his story.

If there was one thing John B. Stetson hated, it was the patter of raindrops on his head. He knew the rain and East coast cold weather would make his tuberculosis worse. In 1859, on doctorís advice, the 24 year-old John B. moved out West.

By the 1860ís, John B. was panning for gold in Colorado but found the rugged life made him sicker. When he was trapped in the mountains and threatened by sudden rainstorms and howling winds, ordinary clothing didn't keep him warm and dry. He knew he had to act fast to protect himself " or die " so he hurled himself into the task. He noticed how beaversí pelts repelled water in streams, so he trapped a few and created a thick fur felt that he used to make a tent, which kept him warm and dry.

John B., who came from a family of Hat makers, then decided to try using the fur felt for a Hat. His father, who taught John B. how to make felt in the first place, also taught him that a big air pocket between the top of the head and the Hat s crown created a cushion of warm air that kept the head warm. Outdoor western living taught him that a Hat had to have a wide brim to keep out the elements. It also taught him that hauling water was vital on the frontier, so he made the inside lining of his Hat waterproof. This meant it could double as a water bucket if needed. (Thatís how Stetson Hats got nicknamed the "10 gallon" Hats even though the original never held more than a half-gallon.) John B. pulled all these elements together in his design. The finished product had an unusual 6-inch high crown and a 7-inch brim. The first famous Stetson Hat had been born.

The industrious Mr. Stetson decided to manufacture and sell his Hat after a mule driver paid him a $5 gold piece for the Hat right off his head.

John B.ís success didn't happen overnight. In 1865, he returned to his native Philadelphia to open his first Hat factory. He only had $100 in capital so he rented a tiny room and bought tools and $10 worth of fur to make felt cloth. He was the sole employee.

But he wore his Hat everywhere, knowing it would spark interest. Within a year, he was adding workers and making Hats in quantity. Stetson paid close attention to details. He made sure people knew that he used only the best materials. The name "Stetson" was stamped with a long lasting 14-karat gold leaf on the inside hatband.

The Hats were a big hit in the thinly populated West, where taking a beating was a requirement for clothes (and for people). The Stetson was heavy enough to knock a man down in a fight. In a celebrated incident, a Stetson kept its shape after being hit by 20 bullets. The rugged individualism of the West was perfectly represented by a Hat that could be shaped differently by each wearer -- a punched-in crown, a bended brim, a braided leather band were all different ways for to make a Stetson oneís own.

Big-city Easterners scoffed at these Hats at first, unaware of their practicality. But Stetson didnít give up. He knew that as sales grew, word would circulate about his product. He was right. Variations of the Hat eventually appealed to city slickers and to cowboys alike. It was a Hat for all seasons; it catered to whatever position in life you had ó whether you were rich or poor, whether it was dress, work or play.

By 1886, Stetson owned the worldís biggest Hat factory in Philadelphia and employed nearly 4,000 workers. The factory was putting out about 2 million Hats a year by 1906. John B. transformed Hat making from a manual to a mechanized industry. He introduced iron cutting and shaping machines, improving quality control. He was also among the first U.S. tycoons to offer benefits to reward workers for hard work. He dispensed free health care to employees and gave shares in his company to valued workers. As a philanthropist, he founded Stetson University in Deland, Florida, and built a Philadelphia hospital.

The original Hat that John B. had named the "The Boss of the Plains" became the symbol of the American West and helped turn the cowboy into an American icon. In Hollywood films Stetsons became symbols of good (white Hats) and evil (black Hats). But in the end John B. was not alone concerned with making better Hats; he was interested equally in making better men.

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