Westward Bound! Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree

By Maureen A. Taylor

This week I’m off to the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree and a meeting of the California Genealogical Society. I hope to see you there! Please stop by my booth at the Jamboree to say hello.

All this California travel makes me think about western American style clothing worn in family photos—in particular Stetson hats, jeans and frontier bonnets. Do you have a photo of someone dressed for the West? I’d love to see it. You can email me.

I love the story of the Stetson hat. It’s an example of American ingenuity. John B. Stetson, son of a Philadelphia hat manufacturer, took a trip West to recover from consumption. He showed his companions how to make felted fabric and created a hat from that material.

In 1865, Stetson founded his hat company. He called his hat the “Boss of the Plains.” It wasn’t a new design: Similar style hats were worn by Army units, and wide-brimmed hats were also popular on plantations because they offered shade.

It was Stetson’s marketing efforts that made his hat a success. He wore his hat everywhere and each hat bore a gold leaf Stetson on the inside to mark it as authentic.


Wearers could use them to retrieve water for washing or drinking, earning them the nickname, “10 gallon hat.”

You’ll find more information on Stetsons and other types of western hats in my book Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900.

Solve your family photo mysteries with these books by Maureen A. Taylor:

  • Fashionable Folks: Bonnets and Hats 1840-1900
  • Preserving Your Family Photographs
  • Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900
  • Finding the Civil War in Your Family Album