Artifact Spotlight: Top Hat and Travelling Case

Point Ellice House Museum & Gardens


This fine hat (PEH 975.1.9654) is made from felted black beaver fur and, according to the milliner stamp on the inside, came all the way from Wright and Oxley hatters on Sackville street in Dublin. This hat likely came with Peter O’Reilly to British Columbia in 1859 (you can see his name engraved on a small brass plate attached to the lid strap of the case).

Beaver fur top hats faded out of style not long after this particular one was manufactured. Beaver fur was a popular material as it was somewhat waterproof, and was therefore more likely to keep the wearer dry. During the latter half of the 19th century, notable figures such as Prince Albert began to model new hats made of silk and beaver felt became less popular.
The numerous stickers on the hat case suggest that despite the changing fashions, this was Mr. O’Reilly’s preferred hat.
Do you have a favourite hat? Is it still fashionable?
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