This item is actually a small poster, meant to be displayed in the hat or the sporting goods department of a store. It’s not dated, but various clues point to a date of around 1880.
I spotted this on eBay and talked myself into buying it mainly because the hats were designed to be worn by both men and women. In a time when clothing was strictly divided as being either for men or for women, I thought it was so interesting to have this example of two very early unisex hats.
The seller had found an ad for the hats in an 1882 issue of Clothier and Furnisher, a journal for the garment trade. Besides helping to nail down the date of the poster, the ad gives the names of the manufacturer, Topping, Maynard & Hobron, which was located at 667 Broadway in New York City.
For the benefit of our numerous correspondents and the trade in general, we would announce that the Land and Water Hats are made in scarlet, butcher blue and white and sell at $9.00 a dozen.
The Mash Hats are made in scarlet, butcher blue, navy blue, seal brown, brown mixed and white. Price $12.00 per dozen.
They are just the thing for the sea shore or mountains, and in fact for all athletic sports.
Handsome lithograph show cards go with the goods.
Without the ad, I would have assumed that the Mash Hat and the Land and Water Hat were one and the same. But look closely and you can see that some of the hats have a very wide brim but others have a smaller one.
The woman tennis player is wearing the Mash Hat, and the man has just lost his Land and Water.
The woman sailor and the poor man taking a dunking are wearing the Land and Water, while the guy holding the rudder is wearing a Mash Hat.
The women’s clothing helps to date the poster. Both are wearing the Natural Form, or Princess line, with just a hint of the bustle that came back into fashion in 1882.
I love the woman painter with her somewhat awkward pose.
I would guess that the great majority of these posters got cut apart and ended up in scrapbooks, as scrapbook making was a big Victorian craze. It’s a miracle this one survived, and in such beautiful condition.
According to a 1919 obituary for Benjamin Hobron in The American Hatter, the company was formed in 1868 along with Howell Topping and Frederick Maynard as partners. The partnership was dissolved in 1896, with Hobron going into the soap business and the other two keeping in the hat trade. It appears that the firm finally closed in 1911 when Topping died.