Beaver hat

1886 cabinet card photograph of men in beaver hats
A beaver felt hat.
Shapes and styles of beaver hat 1776–1825
19th century Masonic Knights Templar Beaver Fur hat
Edward Arthur Walton – The Beaver Hat

A beaver hat is a hat made from felted beaver fur. They were fashionable across much of Europe during the period 1550–1850 because the soft yet resilient material could be easily combed to make a variety of hat shapes (including the familiar top hat).[1] Smaller hats made of beaver were sometimes called beaverkins,[2] as in Thomas Carlyle's description of his wife as a child.[3]

Used winter coats worn by Native Americans were actually a prized commodity for hat making because their wear helped prepare the skins; separating out the coarser hairs from the pelts.

To make felt, the underhairs were shaved from the beaver pelt and mixed with a vibrating hatter's bow. The matted fabric was pummeled and boiled repeatedly, resulting in a shrunken and thickened felt. Filled over a hat-form block, the felt was pressed and steamed into shape. The hat maker then brushed the outside surface to a sheen.[4] Beaver hats were made in various styles as a matter of civil status: the Wellington (1820–40), the Paris beau (1815), the D'Orsay (1820), the Regent (1825) and the clerical (18th century). In addition, beaver hats were made in various styles as a matter of military status: the continental cocked hat (1776), Navy cocked hat (19th century), and the Army shako (1837).[5]

The popularity of the beaver hat declined in the early/mid-19th century as silk hats became more fashionable.


  1. Wallace-Wells, D. "Puritan Inc." The New Republic, 2010.
  2. Picken, Mary Brooks (1999). A dictionary of costume and fashion : historic and modern : with over 950 illustrations. Courier Dover Publications. p. 160. ISBN 9780486141602.
  3. Carlyle, Thomas (2012) [1881]. Froude, James Anthony, ed. Reminscences. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108044790. ...dainty little cap, perhaps little beaverkin (with flap turned up)...
  4. Walter Brigham, Baltimore Hats,
  5. Charlotte Gray, The Museum Called Canada: 25 Rooms of Wonder, Random House, 2004

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