What better fashion for a lovely spring day in Charleston than a straw hat? Men and women, especially in a climate like Charleston’s, have loved straw hats of all kinds. The man’s boater was popular and stylish from the late 19th century well into the 1940s.
Our classic boater is a sharp Knox Fifth Avenue example with a wide blue striped ribbon band. It was worn in Charleston by George Stephen deMerell (1893-1989). Our collection also contains two additional men’s boaters, both in very poor condition, but both with Charleston retailer labels. A. Beauregard Betancourt (1861-1944) began his haberdashery career with C. C. Plenge, the oldest hat store in South Carolina, at the corner of Broad & Church Streets. He bought the business in 1910, modernizing and improving over the years. The label is also stamped with the owner’s name, R. B. Comar – for Robert B. Comar (1901-1976), who started as a shipping clerk and progressed to vice president of a steamship company in the 1930s. He probably wore this hat in the 1920s and 1930s.
Our other Charleston retailer label is from Berlin Bros. / Downtown / Clothiers & Furnishers / Charleston, S.C. Samuel and Benjamin Berlin took over the business (founded by their father Henry Berlinsky in 1883) in 1912, at the corner of King & Broad Streets. The store continues today as a premier shop for fine clothing. The hat was made by the Townsend Grace Company of New York & Baltimore. Founded in 1885, the company was one of three large straw hat makers in Baltimore, making it the Straw Hat Capitol of the U.S. in the 1920s. At that time the industry had over 3000 workers and produced three million straw hats annually.
Our ladies straw hat offering for spring is this wonderful woven corn shuck hat encircled with sprays of dried flowers and grasses. It too probably dates to the 1920s, with its deep, domed, close-fitting crown. It is lined with white silk.
TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from the Charleston Museum’s textile collection. Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday