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We were at the Kansas Sampler Festival where Jim Gray and Dennis Katzenmeier were manning a booth for the National Drovers Hall of Fame. Jim had set up a saddle on a frame just to give folks a feel for it. My grandson, Devyn, climbed on again and again, and asked Jim if he might borrow his hat so he could be a real cowboy.
As generous as Jim is, he said no. “You just don’t loan yer hat.” Devyn was bummed, to say the least that he had not brought his own cowboy hat from home, and we spent the rest of the day searching for a hat. Lots of ranchers do the same, putting in a considerable amount of time looking for the just right hat, one that fits, keeps out the sun and the rain, and just feels right.
For lots of folks, that hat is very often a Stetson, the iconic hat that is marking its 150th anniversary. In 1865, with $100, John B. Stetson rented a small room, bought the tools he needed, bought $10 worth of fur and the John B. Stetson Hat Company was born.
A year later the “Hat of the West” or the now famous “Boss of the Plains” hat was born and the name Stetson was on its way to becoming the mark of quality, durability, innovation and beauty.
John B. Stetson experienced trying times in his life but after it all he relied on the one thing he did exceptionally well, making hats. He was trained by his father, a master hatter, and applied his skills and knowledge to a trade that, at the time was not held in high regard.
Back then, a hatter was seen as unreliable, lazy, or aloof, only looking to make his money and go have fun. John B. Stetson changed all that and built one of America’s most well known and successful businesses.
The longevity and history of the Stetson Company is based on innovation and quality. John B. Stetson led the hat industry his entire career by designing new hat styles for fashion and function. Stetson has become the standard in hats, the essence of the spirit of the West and an icon of everyday American lifestyle.
Because of its authentic American heritage, Stetson remains as a part of history and for the same reason will continue into the future. Jim said his chocolate, Will James style hat is a Stetson. Bill Cody wore a Stetson, as did his Little Sure Shot, Annie Oakley. Will Rogers and John Wayne wore Stetsons.
You just can’t get more American than that!