1920s California Sport Hat

If you follow me on Instagram then you have already had an opportunity to ohh and ahh over my new hat.  Well, it’s not exactly new, as it dates to between 1928 and 1930, though it has never been worn. And to make it even better, the original box was included with the hat. You may wonder how such things survive, but as someone who has had the pleasure of visiting several old stores that looked like they had been swallowed up in some time travel vortex, there are treasures like this still to be found.

I didn’t find this hat in a dusty old store storage room. It came from Dallas, Texas, from the shop of Vintage Martini. And thanks so much to Jonathan for spotting it and letting me know of its existence. Everyone needs friends who help them shop.

I thought it was rather humorous that at California Sport Hat was made in Milwaukee, so I spent some time googling. At first I got only ads for the brand, all dated from the late 1920s and very early 30s. When I added Milwaukee to the search I got a bunch of links to the Federal Trade Commission Annual Reports of 1930 and 1933.

Thanks to Google Books, these reports have been digitized and are available online. I had no idea that government reports could be so interesting. I could barely get past the cases of a maker of cotton shirts who made the consumer think their product was linen and of a men’s hatter who was taking old hats and refurbishing then, and then selling them as new. It seems like cheaters and those willing to stretch the truth to its breaking point have always been with us.

So what was the deal with California Sport Hats? There had been a complaint filed in 1929 by makers of hats located in California that the Milwaukee hats were false advertising, and even worse, cutting into their profits. There had been an earlier complaint and in 1928 the makers, Everitt & Graf, Inc., put the “Made in Milwaukee” line in the lining of their hats to try and fend off a lawsuit.  Instead, the line pretty much proved the case, and in 1930 the company was issued a cease and desist order from the FTC.

Everitt & Graf evidently complied with the order, as in 1932 the FTC closed the case. I didn’t find any ads for California Sport Hats after 1930, and I wasn’t able to find out what happened to Everitt and Graf.

The “Reg. U.S. Patt. Off.” line is interesting. I could not find any reference to either California Sport Hat or to Everitt & Graf in the Patent Office database. And it’s weird that there are two T’s in that abbreviation.

But regardless, what a peachy hat! According to the box, the color is Blush Rose. There’s a little turned down brim in the front, and the hat can be worn with a slight tilt.

The graphics on the box were used as evidence in the complaint. The illustrations of palm trees, which I’m pretty sure do not grow in Wisconsin, were pointed out as being associated with California, and were meant to deceive.

It really is the box that makes this set so special. By the 1920s Americans were benefiting from labor laws that allowed working people to have more leisure hours. And to be clear, this was not a high-end product. The  price tag is still present, and so I know this model retailed for $4. Part of the complaint against Everitt & Graf stated that their prices undercut the actual California makers, whose hats started at $5, with most costing much more.

And wouldn’t this hat be perfect paired with this 1920s knit sports dress?



Filed under Collecting, Sportswear, Summer Sports

24 responses to “1920s California Sport Hat

  1. Vicky Loebel

    What a cute little hat! I’m from Milwaukee, originally, so I’ll have to defend the right to call “our” hats what we want – I bet people in California made and sold Panama hats! 🙂


  2. jacq staubs

    Adorable little cloche hat. Fantastic find especially with the original box!


  3. I have scans of a 1939 Dunlop shoes leaflet with almost identical sandals
    I can send you the pics if you like – or they may already be online somewhere


  4. That adorable hat is in such wonderful condition! And, to me, there’s nothing more thrilling than finding a vintage/antique item with its original box! Thanks for sharing.


  5. The box is almost as good as the hat! I’m a Californian and those sure look like CA palms to me, also the top down touring car, the sailboat, and that domed structure which could be in several parks in CA, especially thinking of Balboa Park in San Diego. I would have thought they could have just put the word “Style” in the name and solved their problem. That’s what e-bay sellers do ……
    bonnie in provence


  6. As another Californian, I find it fascinating that my state was already a selling point in the late 1920s. I always think of the thirties as the time that California began to rival Florida as a sun and fun destination. Live and learn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As a San Diegan, I discovered that there were two major events that brought California to prominence early in the century. One was the Panama Pacific Expo of 1915, the other the Panama California Expo which opened on New Year’s Day 1915. People came from all over the country to see these fairs, and were amazed that, in the middle of winter, we had oranges and sun in San Diego. At that time you could sell your farm in Wisconsin and buy a new bungalow in San Diego and have money left over. It was paradise. (I used to give historical and horticultural tours of Balboa Park ….)
      bonnie in provence

      Liked by 1 person

    • In the FTC complaint it was mentioned that California hat makers had been marketing sports hats using the “California lifestyle” since 1919.


  7. How beautiful, what a treat!
    Do you know what material the hat is made of? I am playing with the idea of crocheting a hat of bast or something of the like, and this looks quite similar to what I imagine. Thank you for showing it, this definitely pushed the crocheted hat way up on my list of projects!


  8. Lizzy, I saw this in an email, and thought you might be interested in it. It seems to be right up your alley.

    https://www.rubylane.com/item/406272-GEC-001222?utm_medium=email&prfid=%24encmailingid&utm_source=monthlyfinds&utm_campaign=2019-02-18%20Ruby%20Lane%27s%20February%20Finds&utm_term=406272-GEC-001222 [https://cdn0.rubylane.com/_pod/item/406272/GEC-001222/Two-Volume-Hardcover-Set-x93The-Sportswomanx92s-pic-1-2048-676-f.jpg]

    Rare Two Volume Hardcover Set of “The Sportswoman’s Library”, c1898 This is a fascinating book documenting the history of sporting activities for women, published in 1898 by Archibald Constable Co., 2, Whitehall Gardens and edited by Frances E. Slaughter. It is http://www.rubylane.com



  9. Timelesslady

    Hi, I found your blog while researching the Spadea Mill and it took me to a post you wrote in 2010. I also blog on WordPress so I gave you a follow. I live in NJ.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t know how I missed your post on Instagram! But I am thrilled you blogged about your find! First, what a truly amazing addition to your collection. Second, THAT BOX!!! It really is a work of art on its own!! I’m in love!



  11. Susan Maresco

    Straight out of the “House of Elliott”, a must-watch series about two destitute sisters who create a fashion house that goes on for some time in the early 20th century. IT was on PBS a few decades back, available via the usual methods online. I have watched it twice and own the whole series. So satisfying re the clothes and story.


  12. kickshawproductions

    SO glad you got the hat AND that you have the perfect matching dress! We have to do a sportswear show! In the meantime I will happily keep looking for ways for you to spend you money! lol


  13. kickshawproductions

    PS: California passed an injunction in 1946 that limited manufacturers from using ‘California’ in a garment’s name, like your hat does, unless the company was actually located in California.


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