We have some amazing items in the RIHS Collection, and some of my favorites were out yesterday.
Zach Allen’s cane with his name on the ivory grip is a wonderful piece of 19th century fashion, and the delicate white kid gloves he wore at a reception for the Marquis de Lafayette are also lovely, but the winner is really the top hat to end all top hats, the “Mad Hatter” hat. It is made of fur, with a leather band inside and a wide, silk band outside that has shattered over time. The material is, in all likelihood, beaver, and would have been extremely fashionable in its time. A similar hat at the Metropolitan Museum in NY dates to about 1830.
We have no date for this hat, but the Los Angeles Public Library Casey Fashion Plate collection contains a plate from 1824 that shows an man in a similarly expansive hat.
Men in Rhode Island certainly aimed for as stylish a look as they could afford, and we have the hats to prove it.
~Kirsten Hammerstrom, Director of Collections