This text was copied from Wikipedia on 19 June 2024 at 5:11AM.

1886 cabinet card photograph of men in beaver hats

A beaver hat is a hat made from felted beaver fur. They were fashionable across much of Europe during the period 1550–1850 because the soft yet resilient material could be easily combed to make a variety of hat shapes (including the familiar top hat).[1] Smaller hats made of beaver were sometimes called beaverkins,[2] as in Thomas Carlyle's description of his wife as a child.[3]

Used winter coats worn by Native Americans were a prized commodity for hat making because their wear helped prepare the skins, separating out the coarser hairs from the pelts.[4]

To make felt, the underhairs were shaved from the beaver pelt and mixed with a vibrating hatter's bow. The matted fabric was pummeled and boiled repeatedly, resulting in a shrunken and thickened felt. Filled over a hat-form block, the felt was pressed and steamed into shape. The hat maker then brushed the outside surface to a sheen.[5]

Evidence of felted beaver hats in western Europe can be found in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, written in the late 14th century: "A Merchant was there with a forked beard / In motley, and high on his horse he sat, / Upon his head a Flandrish [Flemish] beaver hat."[6] Demand for beaver fur led to the near-extinction of the Eurasian beaver and the North American beaver in succession. It seems likely that only a sudden change in style saved the beaver.[7]

Beaver hats were made in various styles as a matter of civil status:

  • the Wellington (1820–40)
  • the Paris beau (1815)
  • Black beaver hat with high, straight-sided, flat-topped, oval-shaped crown; flat narrow brim up-turned slightly at sides; narrow (1/2" wide) black cross-grain ribbon encircles base of crown, tied in small bow at side; tan felt-lined sides; crown top lined with red and black checked paper; royal blue shield-shaped paper, label marked "PARIS" glued to center of paper lining; approx. 4 1/2" width of sides extending from top lined with red and black plaid paper; edges of brim and crown frayed and worn, 3" long tear in paper lining sides; - Worn by Benedict Macy (1819–1910)
    the D'Orsay (1820)
  • the Regent (1825)
  • the clerical (18th century).

In addition, beaver hats were made in various styles as a matter of military status:

  • the continental cocked hat (1776)
  • Navy cocked hat (19th century)
  • the Army shako (1837).[8]

The popularity of the beaver hat declined in the early/mid-19th century as silk hats became more fashionable across Europe.

In Judaism

A Biberhut or Bieber Hit is a hat worn by some Ashkenazi Jewish men, mainly members of Hasidic Judaism. Two variations exist; the Flache (flat) Bieber Hit, which is mainly worn by adherents of Satmar Hasidim and some Yerushalmi Jews, and the Hoiche (tall) Bieber Hit also referred to as the Polish Hat, worn by most other Hasidic Jews.



  1. ^ Wallace-Wells, D. "Puritan Inc." The New Republic, 2010.
  2. ^ Picken, Mary Brooks (1999). A dictionary of costume and fashion : historic and modern : with over 950 illustrations. Courier Dover Publications. p. 160. ISBN 9780486141602.
  3. ^ Carlyle, Thomas (2012) [1881]. Froude, James Anthony (ed.). Reminscences. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781108044790. ...dainty little cap, perhaps little beaverkin (with flap turned up)...
  4. ^ Hämäläinen, Pekka, 1967- (2019-10-22). Lakota America : a new history of indigenous power. New Haven. ISBN 978-0-300-21595-3. OCLC 1089959340.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Brigham, Walter. "Baltimore Hats".
  6. ^ Chaucer, Geoffrey (1392). The Canterbury Tales and other poems. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1499629361.
  7. ^ "The Role of Beaver in the European Fur Trade", accessed 2019.07.26.
  8. ^ Gray, Charlotte (2004). The Museum Called Canada: 25 Rooms of Wonder. Random House.

External links

Media related to Beaver hats at Wikimedia Commons

7 Annotations

First Reading

Phil  •  Link

L&M's glossary says "Beaver, fur hat."

Louis  •  Link

On the same page, 570, of the L&M Companion's Large Glossary, we have
BEVER: ii.127, beaver, fur hat
BEAVER: ii.203, hat made of beaver's fur or of an imitation of it: 1528
(apparently the earliest OED usage of it in that sense)

language hat  •  Link

Nope, there's a considerably older citation:

1528 ROY Sat., To exalte the thre folde crowne Of anti-christ hys bever.

JWB  •  Link

"The initial stage in the hat making process would be the plucking of the coarse guard hairs from the beaver pelt, which was then brushed, with a solution of nitrate of mercury.

This would raise the scales on the fur shafts so that they would become firmly locked together. This process became known as "carotting" and if carried out in a poorly ventilated room, the mercury fumes could damage the brain, hence the expression "mad as a hatter". The fibres would then be cut from the skin and placed on a bench in a workroom known as the "hurdle". Over the bench would be suspended a hatter's bow, very much like an oversized violin bow and the fibres responded to the vibrations of the bow which was controlled by the craftsmen, separating themselves and becoming evenly distributed until they had formed into a thick but loosely structured mat of material known as the "batt". Several batts would then be shaped into a cone and reduced in size by boiling and then rolled to create a firm dense felt. The hood would then be sent onto the hatter who would mould it to the required shape and then line and finish it."…

Carolyn  •  Link

Beaver hats were any hat made of felted beaver fur; they were quite expensive and began to be manufactured in England during the Elizabethan period. The demand for Beaver fur to make felted hats (which looked like a gentleman's silk top hat) was great enough to spur on the American Fur trade (roughly 1620-1850).

Second Reading

Terry Foreman  •  Link

1600–50 in Western European fashion - Wikipedia
Wikipedia250 × 309Search by image
Frans Hals' Laughing Cavalier (in the Wallace Collection) wears a slashed doublet, wide reticella lace collar and cuffs, and a broadbrimmed hat, 1624.…:

Log in to post an annotation.

If you don't have an account, then register here.


Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.