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Top hat bell curve machine

metropd

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I have heard there was a machine developed in the 1800's that could create bell curves on a top hat that lacked curves. Is this true? How could they have changed the shape of such a structured hat that had a silk finish too it?
 

Stoney

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Currently on the East Coast
Metro.

I have no idea how they are shaped, you might pm Topper who would be sure to know. I just had to say that your new avatar looks smashing old man!

:eusa_clap :eusa_clap
 

Spatterdash

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310
Your question wasn't so much the type of machine but more how the shaping could be done on that sort of a hat. Well, I'm not Topper, but we spatophiles keep our nose to topics like top hats as well, so let me see if I can help.

Silk hats really took off when they were given a structure completely different than the top hats or high hats of the day. Before silk showed up, hatters were making beaver top hats, from stovetops like Lincoln's to lower bell curves. These were shaped on blocks like most felt.

However, a technique was developed whereby a newer style of hat could be made. A stiff form was made out of several layers of muslin, muslin that had been soaked in a heat-activating adhesive that hardened when cool, a shellac pretty much like what beaver felt is impregnated with today.
The felt or silk was put over this form and the silk was brushed to get that high, oily luster.
(By the way, the silk is why you'll never see a brand new silk top hat like they used to make them. The silk was called hatter's plush, and the silk came off of specially designed looms that made only silk hatter's plush, the silk that made a silk hat the elegant thing it was.
The last working plush loom was destroyed. You'll see some new extraordinary beaver felt hats, both blocked and on modern forms, but that brushed plush silk is now only available second-hand, never new.)

Now, if it got overly warm again, this shellac could soften, so a booting machine (which is what top hat shapers were called) could certainly change the shape of one of those vintage silk hats.
In fact, most top hats had their shape put in them by a booting machine before sale, and since most of those hats were made by appointment only, you can be sure the customer took an active role in deciding the curves of the crown.

Almost overnight the felt industry collapsed. Sure, felt hats were still made, but the primary market had gone to silk because, ...get this, silk was cheaper than beaver. The common phrase of the age among felters and trappers was "The road to Hell is paved with silk hats." The quote was credited to Kit Carson.
 

Topper

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Agree Silk hats were made for everybody and around the 1830ies it was the cheapest method, thus is one of the reasons for their slow uptake, until Prince Albert in 1850 also started to wear them! ( one couldnt doubt it after that!) About teh same time the beave industry fell, alone with taxes to import to the UK , which made silks take off as not everyone could afford the expense of beaver.

As to a "booting machine" I have not heard of one in the manufacture of silk hat... if you could email/pM the source would like to find out more.

The machine you may be referring to may be what i would consider a hat screw . Prior to early 1800 a lot of wooden hats blocks were merely circular ( not oval). And thus hat were shaped to the users head by using a hat screw in shop.....as the predomant hats in general were...toppers ... , so use if there was a machine at the time it was more than likely used on toppers to get the head shape - and could possible be used on the crown shape... though unsiure how it would work.

This would be easy to do with "felt" top hats ( actually there were call tall hats or high hats at time time)

Silk hats on the other hand are more complex, around the beginning of 19th Century the 1st generation were silk plush either covering a felt underbody, so could 'possibly' be stretched somewhat by the screw, but the outer plush would then come apart as not very stretchable.... so have doubts on it.

As to re-curving a calico/muslim shell ( around 1830 onwards) I would doubt it. Stretching is not possible, conforming to different shapes using heat is possible, but the overall size remains the same. I have inspected samples of "as new" unused plush dating back to 1837 1839 and even that time was non-stretchable.

Silks hats typically (due to bell curves) using 5 piece blocks and are made using a hand process, though i have seen some records to show of a factory machine press to make them semi-automated ... but not anything relating to in-shop "crown" shape re-conforming.
 

metropd

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Thank you Topper. I am very happy I managed to find a taller pronounced bell curve top hat.


How often do the House of Lords members wear top hats, and which other important people in London wear them for work? I hear certain bankers wear them too, who are they?
 

Topper

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Glad to see your new one, looks great.

Within the Houses of Parliament the last key tradition of wearing of Toppers within the "House of Commons" was to wear anOpera Hat to raise a point of order during a division. Though this was stopped in in 1998. Within the The House of Lords, as a Peer one wears a Crown, though limited to coronations etc. not a day to day thing :D

Toppers still worn to speical occasions such as dress code dictates, Royal Ascot, Weddings, Funerals ... Personally would like to see the Members wear Top Hats with morning bands to Rememberance Sunday each year.

That last principal job to wear Toppers in London was Stock Jobbers (who worked in the London Stock Exchange) who stopped wearing them in the 1980ies, nowdays more relagated to doormen at Hotels...
 

Spatterdash

A-List Customer
Messages
310
Topper,

I think we're agreeing far more than you realize. Hat screw was a term for a booting machine, or, booting machine was a term for a hat screw.
In fact, my grandfather has in his possession a sign for an abandoned hatshop in Kansas that read "Not Our Hat? Not A Problem - Will Boot Your Top, ". I am convinced we are talking the exact same machine, just a difference of terms.

As to that machine belling felt, yep, but I don't think it stretched it as much as it pushed the sides in a little with a press and some heat. There wasn't any real stretching on that machine as far as I can tell.
Both felt and muslin/calico (or "hat card") could be shaped with that machine and the surface would not be changed enough to stress the plush. The top simply lowered a little to accomodate the belling, like a fine-tuned, rigidly controlled collapse of sorts.

BTW, Topper, I know the plush is essentially extinct, but do know of anyone who still makes card form?
 

Topper

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England
The sign merely mentions "Top" so possibly intended for felt toppers were more commonly used ( beaver felt was more common in the US) though really do doubt it was used to "stretching" a hard shelled hat, felt i can understand, but hard shelled i find difficult to envisage.

The "hat screw" at first it was to make standard circular hats to ovals, the device is now called a common called a "hat stretcher", and used to stretch to variable sizes, when at first made it primary creation was due to restrictions in block making abilities. and was used to stretch the "headand area"

Even if "hat screw" was was a generic name ... What you talk about now is slightly different, it is not the changing the "headband" area moreso the "crown" shape. So I do not think we are talking the same machine....

Though agree terms do differ:) What the US calls a "Tolliker" is called a "Dummy" in the UK.


You mention pushing in the side crown to create a bell rather than stretching the tip crown .... this is possibly and doo able, though result can become quite mixed ( I have done similar vith an off the shelf felt top hat i wanted to give more curve to, but never silk calico shell) interesting it the term "booting" which may be beacuse it pushed in the side, like kicking the side in with a boot on a foot!

So what you say mostly most likely to be true but never seen a "machine" myself.

Will you PM regarding the plush.
 

Topper

Vendor
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Location
England
what was the program on- recently - do you remeber which program it was?

Pip-pip
Topper

metropd said:
I was wondering because I watched BBC and they interviewed 2 seperate buisness men in silk top hats that were off to work.
 

Spatterdash

A-List Customer
Messages
310
Very cool, Topper.

I appreciate the info. I can see I still need some clarity on the making of these hats. Thought I had it down, but you got some details that I never considered.
For instance, if the hat screw you refer to is essentially a hat stretcher, no, it isn't the crown shaper device I have had described to me. I'm also beginning to wonder if the machine I recall wasn't some much for shaping the finished hat so much as it was for making the inital card form.

I don't know, but I'm beginning to think that you're in the best position to figure it out, Topper. Would the folks at Locke & Co. be willing to describe the old process, or is that something we'd need to go to Paris for? [huh]
 

Charlie Huang

Practically Family
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Birmingham, UK
Within the The House of Lords, as a Peer one wears a Crown, though limited to coronations etc. not a day to day thing :D

Actually, these 'crowns' are called coronets and are indeed only worn at coronations after the Sovereign is crowned. At other times, Peers in parliamentary robes would wear bicornes (aka 'beaver hats') but the use is now limited to those who sit on Her Majesty's Commission as Lords Commissioners on the Woolsack when giving the Royal Assent, approbabtion of the new Speaker of the Commons and when proroguing parliament (they used to be required for Introductions but was done away with in 1999, as was kneeling in front of the Lord Chancellor and 'placing the Lord', etc). Women nobles wear a special tricorne. The Lord Chancellor when sitting on the Commission wears his black gold lace gown (with full bottom wig but the last time he sat, Jack Straw, he wore a business suit and no wig) and a normal tricorne. These hats are doffed at the appropriate point when they are bowed to (women do not doff but do a head bow).

_46720452_-7.jpg


http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_lords/newsid_8357000/8357802.stm

This is the Lord Chancellor in undress when he still sat as the Speaker of the Lords (the Lords Speaker now does the job and does not wear wig or tricorne)
0995_03.jpg


http://www.explore-parliament.net/nssMovies/09/0995/0995_.htm
 
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