John Batterson Stetson was a U.S. hatter, hat manufacturer, and, in the 1860s, the inventor of the cowboy hat. He founded the John B. Stetson Company as a manufacturer of headwear; the company's hats are now commonly referred to simply as Stetsons.
John Stetson was born in New Jersey, the 7th of 12 children. His father, Stephen Stetson, was a hatter. As a youth, John Stetson worked with his father until John was diagnosed with tuberculosis and his doctor predicted he had only a short time to live. Given this dire prognosis, he left the hat-making business to explore the American West, afraid this would be his only chance to see it.There he met drovers, bullwhackers and cowboys. The former hat-maker turned a critical eye to the flea-infested coonskin caps favored by many of the gold seekers, and wondered whether fur-felt would work for a lightweight, all-weather hat suitable for the West.
John decided to offer people something better. Durable and well-made from waterproof felt, its high, open crown and broad rim would keep the hot sun off their faces, necks and shoulders.
The hat achieved instant popularity and was named the “Boss of the Plains.” The first real cowboy hat. Stetson went on to build the Carlsbad, easily identified by its main crease down the front.
His hat was called a Stetson, because he had his name John B. Stetson Company embossed in gold in every hatband. The Stetson soon became the most well known hat in the West. All the high crowned, wide brimmed, soft felt western hats that followed are intimately associated with the cowboy image created by Stetson.
The Stetson Cowboy hat was the symbol of the highest quality. Western icons such as Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane, Will Rogers, Annie Oakley, Pawnee Bill, Tom Mix, and the Lone Ranger wore Stetsons. The company also made hats for law enforcement departments, such as the Texas Rangers. Stetson's Western-style hats were worn by employees of the National Park Service, U.S. Cavalry soldiers, and many U.S. Presidents.
"United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/MWJ6-GTH : accessed 20 Jan 2014), John B. Stetson, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing sheet 175D, family 0, NARA microfilm publication T9-1175
"United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M3QV-185 : accessed 20 Jan 2014), John B Stetson, Cheltenham Township (southeast part), Montgomery, Pennsylvania, United States; citing sheet , family 164, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1241442.
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