Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fore and Aft Hat

In the museum's gallery is this hat, known as either a "cocked" or "fore and aft" hat. U.S.N. uniform regulations adopted in 1813 stated that senior officers, "when in full dress, [are] to wear half boots, cut and thrust swords with yellow mountings, and gold laced cocked hats, the lace not to show more than three-quarters of an inch on each side."

While many 18th and 19th century U.S. Naval officers spent a lavish amount of their pay to ensure they were well-dressed, this particular cover took luxury to a different level. According to regulations, the hat only had to have gold lacing on wool cloth. This particular hat, however, used real beaver skin instead of wool, and real ostrich feathers, along with a lavish amount of gold in the lacing. The ostrich feathers by themselves probably cost more than did the lacing.

The use of animal parts--bird feathers in particular--was common in the 18th and 19th centuries in both military and civilian (men and women) headwear.The practice led to a sharp decline in the population of several bird species.

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