As anyone who is involved in a nonprofit knows, most nonprofits cannot function without the amazing work of their volunteers — people who give hours of their own time to help a cause near and dear to their hearts. At the Red Mill Museum Village, our volunteers have been the backbone of our organization since 1963.

One particular group of women has been working with the Red Mill’s textile collection for many years. They help to conserve it and improve the education and exhibition access for the public by inventorying, photographing, digitizing and repacking items like clothing, quilts and hats. In honor of these dedicated volunteers we are pleased to share our newest exhibit, “Hats Off to The Textile Volunteers”.

This latest exhibit was the inspiration of Lynn Burtis, one of our longest working, dedicated textile volunteers, who thought it would be fun to research our collection of hats and display an assortment of 39 of the most meaningful and historic in the collection in honor of the textile committee and their hard work. The exhibit was curated and designed by our textile volunteers.

Most of the hats in the exhibit are from the Victorian era, when hats were an important part of social norms and fashion custom. We thought it would be fun to share some Victorian hat etiquette.

  • Don’t forget to raise your hat to every lady acquaintance you meet, and to every gentleman you salute, when he is accompanied by a lady, whether you know her or not. (Quoted from Don’t by Oliver Bell Bounce,
  • A gentleman invariably stands when introduced. If the introduction takes place out of doors, he is expected to lift his hat and bow slightly.
  • When introduced to a lady, he must wait until she takes the initiative of offering hi her hand. If she does not offer hand in acknowledgment of the introduction, he may merely nod, lift his hat and offer a word or two of gracious pleasure at having been introduced to her.
  • Every mother should train the small boy of the house to remove his hat as soon as he enters the front or back door.
  • On a railroad a man removes his hat in a parlor-car, but not in a day coach. (Quoted from A Dictionary of Etiquette by Walter Cox Green, 1904)
  • As with a gentleman, when a lady went outdoors, she wore a hat. It might be a practical hat or sensible bonnet, or it might not serve any conceivable purpose of protecting the wearer from the ravages of nature — it might be little more than a tiny caricature of a hat, but it would be a hat.
  • Unlike a gentleman however, etiquette did not demand that she remove it when meeting people or moving in and out of public and private spaces.
  • Ladies’ hats were often precisely pinned to their carefully composed coiffures, and removing them would cause all that painstaking work to collapse ignominiously – so in all social situations, etiquette never demanded that a lady remove her hat.
  • If a lady were entertaining in her own home, her guests would wear hats but she would not; though in the 19th Century she would almost certainly have worn some sort of linen or lace cap. It wasn’t that naked hair was somehow scandalous, it was just that an adult Victorian lady did not feel like she was properly dressed without something on her head.

New Jersey played an important role in hat making and some of the hats in this exhibit were made right in Clinton 140 years ago.

Therefore the selection of the exhibit title is representative to the admiration for the textile volunteers and this exhibit signifies the important work our volunteers do behind the scenes in helping to care for over 5,000 textile items. “Hats off” to Lynn Burtis, Melissa Mohlman, Kay McGuire, Maureen Polt, Judy Audett, Jill Lasher, Carolyn Creed, Pam Molnar and Dana Bala, our textile collection volunteers!

This exhibit is running now through September 10. You may visit during regular museum hours. For information about visiting and to purchase tickets for general admission, click here

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