THE M1858 UNIFORM HAT
By Scott Cross
NOTE: Was posted on the Authentic Campaigner in 2001 with Scott's permission.
One of the most important elements in creating a plausible Civil War military impression is headgear. To achieve a proper 19th century appearance, great attention should be shown in the selection of the proper hat. An examination of photographs of Federal soldiers from Midwestern regiments during the Civil War shows the popularity of the M1858 Uniform Hat. This hat is sometimes also known as the Hardee Hat. Originally intended to serve as a dress hat it is also seen in images of Eastern troops such as the Iron Brigade and several Heavy Artillery regiments. The hat became popular in the West due to its practicality in providing shade and cover from rain. It is essential to have good research in hand before purchasing a reproduction of a uniform hat.
General Order No. 3 dated March 24, 1858 describes the hat as:
A contract dated July 30th also calls for "Inside trimmings to be of the best quality black japanned leather, three inches deep, sewed to but not through the hat, a double row of stitching of the best black silk instead of binding around the edge of the brim�"(1) For Officers: of best black felt. The dimensions of medium size as follows:
The binding to be 1/2" deep of best black ribbed silk. Width of brim, 3 1/4"
Height of crown, 6 1/4"
Oval of tip, 1/2"
Taper of crown. 3/4"
Curve of head, 3/8"
For Enlisted Men: Of black felt, same shape and size as for officers, with a double row of stitching, instead of binding around the edge. To agree in quality with the Pattern deposited in the clothing arsenal.
Edgar Howell's survey of twenty hats in the National Museum reveals that surviving specimens in the collection had 5 1/2" crowns, 2 3/4" brims, but otherwise conform to the prescribed regulations. (2)
Paul McKee's research on uniform hats revealed some that conformed to these features, but had 2 1/2" wide maroon leather sweatbands and paper labels in the crown.(3) All of these hats had identical hat labels in the crown suggesting a single manufacturer. They also have no provenance and are found in near perfect condition. This suggests that these hats may have been from a late war contract and never issued. (4)
A close examination of several identified hats reveals some interesting features. Three of the hats examined for this article are in the collection of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum and one is located at the Oshkosh Public Museum. Three are identified to the original owners.
The first hat examined (V1964.86.1) is attributed to First Sergeant Philander B. Wright. Wright served with Company C, 2nd Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. He was present at the Battle of Gettysburg and was wearing this hat at the time. The hat retains the original brass company letter and regimental number, which are secured with leather thongs through the back loops. The red First Corp badge and infantry hat cord are also original to the hat. Wright modified the hat by inserting two brass grommets in the front on each side of his insignia and a third grommet in the back. This would presumably create cross ventilation on warmer days.
The second uniform hat examined was purchased for the collection of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (V1996.54.63) and transferred to the Veterans Museum. The third hat is identified to Lieutenant Colonel Casius Fairchild of the 16th Wisconsin Infantry (V1998.1.336). Warnock and Company of New York City manufactured Fairchild's hat. This firm made the very first M1858 Uniform Hats.(5) The fourth hat is located in the collection of the Oshkosh Public Museum (Accession # 759-3) and is attributed to Private George W. Bedient, Company E, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry. Bedient died of disease on January 22, 1862 in Georgetown, D.C., making this a hat of early manufacture.
The thickness of these hats range from 1/16 inch to 7/64 inch (Fairchild's hat) and all are made of fur felt. Crown height is consistently 5 1/2" except the Bedient Hat, which measures 7 5/8 inches tall. The brim width varies from 3 inches to 3 1/4 inches (Fairchild). Black silk ribbon is present on the base of the crowns of all the hats except Fairchild's hat. Most have grosgrain ribbon in widths of 5/16 inches to 1/4 inch. The ribbons are either tied in a bow on the right side of the hat or have an applied bow, as is the case with the Bedient hat. All the hats have a double row of black silk stitching near the edge of the brim sewn between 4 inches per inch on the later war produced hats and 7 1/2 stitches per inch (Bedient) on the earlier hats. Two of the hats retain their black leather sweatbands. One is 2 1/2" wide with cross hatch embossing and the other is 3 3/16" wide. Fairchild's hat has an unusual 3 1/8" brown leather sweatband with a red silk ribbon bow tying the ends of the band together.
All of the labels are constructed of black oilcloth. This is plainly evident in the areas where the label is torn and folded back and the weave of the cloth can be seen. Unfortunately, the crown is damaged in the Wright hat and the label is missing. The other labels vary. In the unidentified hat the crown retains its label, which has the American eagle in flight with flag, thirteen stars, "U.S. ARMY / No. 4" printed in gold leaf. The Fairchild hat has an ornate Warnock hat label that is intact. Fairchild's own paper label with his signature has been pasted onto the label. In the Bedient hat the original label has a simple, "U.S.A. / No. 8 / 7" printed in gold ink.
With this information in hand you should know what to look for in a reproduction M1858 Uniform Hat. Ideally it should be made of real fur felt as opposed to wool felt. It needs to have at least a 5 1/2" crown and a 3" brim. A 2 1/2" black japanned leather sweatband and 1/4" black silk ribbon around the crown with a bow on the right side. The hat should also have a painted black oilcloth label with a gold printed maker�s mark. Two rows of brim stitching and an outer covering of shellac are also essential.
Most purveyors of reproduction hats fall far short of these requirements, but there are a number who try to conform to these standards. The following sutlers are making acceptable reproductions.
1. TP & H Trading Co.
Tim Bender is producing excellent hats in every aspect, real fur felt, proper dimensions, shellac, stitching, oilcloth label, real silk ribbon, and the sweatband is painted black as in most identified originals.
TP & H Trading Co.
121 Carriage Dr.
Birdsboro PA 19508
These hats are mostly correct including shellac, stitching, and black sweatbands, but are constructed of wool felt, and have silk ribbon and paper label.
01/02/07 Daley no longer offers these.
3. Dirty Billy Sutlery
These hats are also mostly correct including shellac, stitching, and black sweatbands, but are constructed of wool felt, and have rayon ribbon and paper label.
Dirty Billy's Sutlery
7574 Middleburg Rd
Detour MD 21757
Correct dimensions, complete with a paper label, maroon sweatband, rayon ribbon, brim stitching, and shellac.
0/1/02/07 Artifakes is no longer in business.
Wool felt hat blanks can also be purchased and the required features added. There are however the problems of coming up with a printed oilcloth label and a genuine silk ribbon. Having done the conversions on several blanks myself; it is much easier to buy one ready made.
PHOTOGRAPH CAPTIONSPhotograph #1
Accession # 759-3, M1858 Uniform Hat worn by George W. Bediant, Company E, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, circa November 1861. Photograph courtesy of the Oshkosh Public Museum.
Accession # 759-3, Interior view of Bediant�s hat illustrating the leather black sweatband and black oilcloth label with gold printing. Photograph courtesy of the Oshkosh Public Museum.
V1964.86.1, M1858 Uniform Hat worn by 1st Sergeant Philander B. Wright, Company C, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, circa June 1863. The brass company letter, regimental number, corps badge and ventilation grommets are visible. Photograph courtesy of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
V1964.86.1, A close-up view of Wright�s hat reveals the details of the grosgrain ribbon at the crown of the hat. Photograph courtesy of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
V1964.86.1, This detail view of Wright�s hat illustrates the crosshatch pattern in the embossing of the black leather sweatband. Photograph courtesy of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
V1996.54.63, A close-up view of the gold printing on the black oilcloth label in the hat without provenance. Photograph courtesy of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
V1996.54.63, The double row of brim stitching is present on all the hats examined. Photograph courtesy of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
V1996.54.63, the bow on the right side of the hat is either applied or is simply knotted and tied as in this example. Photograph courtesy of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
V1998.1.336, Casius Fairchild�s M1858 Uniform Hat. Photograph courtesy of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
V1998.1.336, The elaborate Warnock and Company label in Casius Fairchild�s hat. The weave of the oilcloth label is also evident in this photograph. Photograph courtesy of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
V1998.1.336, This interior view of Fairchild�s hat reveals the brown leather sweatband and red silk bow. Photograph courtesy of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
(1) Edgar M. Howell, United States Army Headgear 1855-1902, Smithsonian Institution Press, City of Washington, 1975. P. 6.
(2) Ibid. p. 8.
(3) Paul McKee, More Than Just Making the Hat Fit, The Company Wag, Volume 3, Number 1, January 1990, p. 1-8.
(4) William Brewster, Interviews conducted from 1997 � 1999.
(5) Howell, p. 5.