In much of
Europeduring the period 1550-1850, hats made of felted beaver fur were fashionable. The soft, yet resilient material could be easily combed to make a variety of hat shapes including the familiar top hat.
The demand for beaver pelts in Europe ultimately drove the animal to near extinction. The dwindling supply helped the beaver trade boom in the new world, fueling colonial expansion to a significant degree.
In 1624, the year
New Yorkwas first settled, Dutch settlers were recorded having shipped 1500 beaver and 500 otter skins to Europe.
Used, smelly winter coats worn by Native Americans were actually a prized commodity for hatmaking because their wear helped prepare the skins, separating out the coarser hairs from the pelts.
The demise of the beaver hat came around the time silk hats came into vogue.
* [http://www.whiteoak.org/learning/furhat.htm Hatmaking information and history]
* [http://www.feltstudio.com/exhibit_view/ex_history.html Textile Museum of Canada article]
* [http://www.carnegiemnh.org/exhibits/north-south-east-west/iroquois/03.html A mention of the dutch fur trade]
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