Magnificent Millinery: Three Centuries of Women’s Hats in Danbury CT

Join First Lady of Danbury, Phyllis Boughton at the Danbury Museum & Historical Society Authority on Saturday, June 4, 2011 for the opening of the Society’s newest exhibit, “Magnificent Millinery: Three Centuries of Women’s Hats in Danbury.” The ribbon cutting will take place at 10 a.m. and will be followed by refreshments.

Twenty display cases, filled to the brim, will feature over 300 ladies hats from the museum collection – caps, bonnets, felts, furs whimsies, pillboxes and more. The exhibit showcases hat design from the colonial period through the mid-20th century along with hat related accessories. Visitors to the exhibit will be amazed by the artistry of the hats on view.

An entire wall in Huntington Hall will be dedicated to articles of ephemera including historic newspaper advertisements and city directory listings related to the millinery trade in Danbury. Vintage photos and antique postcards from the archives of the Society illustrate styles and trends.

The exhibit was inspired by the work of Catherine Vanaria, Western CT State University photography professor and Danbury small business owner, who spent time during the summer of 2010 photographing the hat collection. Erika Askin, guest curator and museum volunteer, spent countless hours cataloging each hat, writing the scripts and staging the exhibit.

Joretta Kilcourse, museum docent and volunteer crafted a special ‘Magnificent Millinery Quilt’ featuring Vanaria’s photos of some of the finest hats in the collection. The winning ticket for this fundraising raffle will be drawn at the close of the exhibit on October 15, 2011.

The Magnificent Millinery: Three Centuries of Women’s Hats in Danbury’ exhibit will be open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m from June 4, 2011 through October 15, 2011. Suggested donation for viewing the exhibit is $5.00.

Danbury was once known as the “hatting capital” of the country. An abundance of water and marshes that attracted beavers were the key elements essential to hat making and at that time Danbury had both. The industry has been traced back to Zadoc Benedict who began a shop in Danbury in 1780. By the early 19th century there were over 40 shops making hats in Danbury.

By 1909 Danbury was making 36 million hats a year from cowboy hats to fedoras to top hats and became known as Hatting Capital of the World. The decline of the “hat culture” is attributed to the automobile industry because hats became cumbersome to wear in cars. In 1987, Stetson was the last hat factory to leave Danbury marking the end of an era.

Special Note: June 4th is also National Trails Day. The DMHSA is happy be joining in by distributing maps for our “Museum In the Streets” walk that winds through CityCenter Danbury. Park your car, put on your hat, refill your water bottle and take a stroll downtown. Stop along the way at each of twenty-one history panels and learn about our wonderful city!

About the DMHSA:The Danbury Museum & Historical Society was formed in 1947 to acquire, preserve, exhibit and interpret New England’s past; focusing particularly on the heritage of Danbury. Situated in downtown Danbury, the museum preserves the John and Mary Rider House (c.1785), the Dodd Hat Shop (c. 1790), the Marian Anderson Studio and the Charles Ives Birthplace. Huntington Hall, a modern exhibit building houses the museum offices and research library.

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