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The Headwear Information Bureau’s National Straw Hat Month

April 19, 2024

Though previously unaware of the Headwear Information Bureau (HIB) prior to finding out that April is National Straw Hat Month, I am glad to know of this organization’s existence now. Founded in 1989, HIB promotes hat making (or millinery) through contests and public relation promotions. National Straw Hat Month is just one of many celebrations throughout the year that were created by HIB. This month was created to remind hat enthusiasts to put away their heavier cloth hats and make way for the lighter and breezier straw hats.

Gene Stratton-Porter’s supplies with straw hat; Freiburger family member or friend, Ft. Wayne, ca. 1900; Shorty wearing ladies garb and hat with Miss Healy in a suit, Indianapolis, ca. 1900; Cephas Huddleston portrait of a young man, Spiceland, ca. 1900. IHS, M1235 (cropped); Indiana Jewish Historical Society Collection, IHS (cropped); IHS, P0017 (cropped); IHS, P0159 (cropped)

When I think about straw hats, my mind is most often drawn to Boaters, the men’s hat that was popular in the early 20th century. I also consider Easter bonnets and big floppy-brimmed hats, perfect for wearing to the beach or while gardening on a sunny day. There are many varieties of straw hats though, and I want to share a selection of those from the IHS collections.

Guedelhoefer employees, Indianapolis, ca. 1915; Mayor Joseph E. Bell and others, Indianapolis, 1916; Horace A. Lingo, Indianapolis, ca. 1910. IHS, M0122 (cropped); IMCPL-Riley Collection, IHS (cropped); IHS, P0017 (cropped)

While I often think of straw hats being a more casual piece of headwear, some can be rather elaborate. The following three ladies are certainly styling their straw hats with elegance.

Mrs. Charles F. (Bertha) Bretzman, Indianapolis, 1930; H.P. Wasson hat model, Indianapolis, 1946; Mrs. Flora Guilick, Terre Haute, ca. 1925. Bretzman Collection, IHS (cropped); IHS, P0569 (cropped); Martin Collection, IHS (cropped)

I’m not much of a hat wearer myself. However, I do have several baseball caps (obviously not straw) as well as a few beach or sun hats. I call these types of hats floppy hats. Here are some ladies sharing in the floppy hat trend.

Lois Roderick, model for Madam Walker Co., Indianapolis, ca. 1945; Woman with wolfhound, Greenfield, ca. 1930s; Rogelia Piñon working in garden, Madison County, ca. 1969. Madam C.J. Walker Collection, IHS (cropped); IHS, P0003 (cropped); Raul Piñon Family, IHS (cropped)

For my final group of images, I share some cute kids wearing straw hats to brighten your day.

Future governor Paul McNutt, Martinsville, ca. 1894; Little girl with hat, location and date unknown; Two children in costumes with hats, Indianapolis, ca. 1950. IHS, M1171 (cropped); IMCPL-Riley Collection, IHS (cropped); O. James Fox Collection, IHS (cropped)

I hope you enjoyed this review of some of the fabulous straw hats shown in our digital collection. Visit our blog site to see other recent blogs including National Library Lovers Month and National Umbrella Month blogs. Please keep an eye out to see other great content shared through the IHS blogs.

Amy Vedra

Amy Vedra is the director of reference services. She is currently reading her way through the Great American Reads list.

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