An Old Fore-n’-Aft Bicorne

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A few years ago, I was given an old bicorne, a fore-n’-aft. It’s a nice little hat, but it’s in really terrible condition: one side is completely destroyed. It was made by Charles Naylor at 118 North and 5th Street, Philadelphia, a company that I can find no record of.

It’s a small hat, made from buckram, beaver skin, and silk. The flaps punched and tied together with bits of tape. In the inside of the hat, underneath the ripped silk lining, is a piece of paper with “6×7 Frederic” written by hand in pencil – the size and style. Originally, there was something pinned to the body of the hat, in between the flaps at the front – but this something was taken off and put back on ten times, judging by the holes (or maybe I’m completely wrong in assuming there was something pinned there?).

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I’m still debating how old it might be. I find fore-n’-afts from 1850 that look similar, but I find others from the early 20th century that look similar as well. I know it’s not older than 1850 or so, because it’s sewn by machine. Also, the logo for Charles Naylor has a pickelhaube-style helmet in the middle, a style that was purportedly invented in the 1840s. Both facts push the date of the hat past the 1850s, which is what I had also assumed by the brim: it’s not the crazy-tall or crescent-shaped 1790-1840 type of bicorne. I feel fairly safe saying it might be from 1880-1920.

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I am fairly sure that it’s not a military hat: it has no gold whatsoever; the only decoration is a band of black velvet around the brim edge. It’s actually quite cheaply made, with as little beaver used as possible. The top of the hat isn’t even covered! Finally, the hat is quite small, which leads me to one idea that I’ve liked for a while – perhaps it was a photography studio prop for children. If that is the case, maybe it was made in an older style than the fashion of the day, which might explain why I am having a tough time dating it.

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About Amanda Goebel

I'm an Anthropology / Fashion History and Material Culture graduate from The University of Delaware, currently working on a Master's in Museum Studies. I'm a living historian interested in costume and culture from years before. I love researching the mundane and the everyday that has changed or disappeared since. I re-enact the 18th century, and I recreate clothing from that time. This blog is where I'll write about my research and projects. View all posts by Amanda Goebel

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