Cottage Grove

Hats off! Special exhibition on display at Cottage Grove Historical Museum

Mary Vetch Mosby, Hat with Ostrich Plumes Photo provided/Cottage Grove Historical Society

Up until the late 1950s and early 60s, no self-respecting man would think about going out in public without a hat. I am not talking about the ubiquitous ball cap of today, but a real solid affair of felt such as a fedora, homburg, or trilby. If you look at a street scene photo from a hundred years ago there is scarcely a bare head visible. Even boys wore caps of various styles.
Women too liked to sport headgear. And while the societal pressure was not as heavy to cover one’s head for the ladies, some of the hat creations that bloomed during the Edwardian times looked as though they would require a strong neck to support. My grandmother, who was born in the 1890s, would never think of going to church bare-headed.
There are many theories as to the decline of hat-wearing.
Some blame Eisenhower’s interstate highway system. As men fell to driving more rather than using public transportation, the loss of head room caused them to leave off their hats.
Others accuse the counter-cultural revolution that shook the 60s and 70s; hats became a casualty of the wrath against anything ”establishment.” JFK famously was the first United States president in modern times to forgo the traditional top hat at his inauguration.
Regardless of the reasons why, you can take a trip back through the years to a more formal time at the Cottage Grove Historical Museum. A special exhibition entitled ”Hats! Hats! Hats!” will be on display through June 30 at the museum.
The curators have delved into their collections and ferreted out a variety of head gear as well as pictures of our hatted past. From a formal top hat to an extravagantly plumed ladies’ model, you can see the changing hat fashions over the years.
Located at the corner of Birch and H streets, in the old 1897 Catholic Church, the Cottage Grove Museum claims to be the only octagonal public building in the Pacific Northwest.
While you are checking out the hats, you can also take in other aspects of Cottage Grove’s colorful history. There is a photo gallery of pioneer families, a series of pictures showing the filming of Buster Keaton’s ”The General,” and the famous Marion Woolcott’s Titanic coat. What always fascinates me are the everyday items from the past that show how folks used to live.
The museum is open Saturday’s and Sunday’s from 1 to 4 p.m. And while there is no charge for admission, donations are always welcome to help this 501c3 nonprofit keep preserving our history.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the museum please consider doing so. If it has been a while why don’t you slap on your best hat and go see if you can keep up with some of our illustrious hat-wearing Grovers of the past?
Hats On.
Dana Merryday is a Chronicle columnist for the Through the Grove-vine section. He can be reached at 541-942-7037 and [email protected].



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