Episode 8: The Beaver Hat
Beaver hats were a global fashion trend among men for centuries. At one time, the Adirondacks provided the world with many of the beaver pelts needed to make these high-demand hats. Find out the devastating effects this had on the region’s beaver population and learn about the hat-making process.
A beaver top hat made by Dunlap & Co. (1956.081.0002)
A beaver top hat from the early 1800s. This hat belonged to William Gilliland Jr., son of the founder of the town of Willsboro, New York. (1970.171.0001a)
Header Image: New York State Conservation Department’s beaver exhibit for the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the City of Albany.
(Source: New York State Archives, Conservation Dept. Photographic Prints and Negatives, 14297-87 B254 57A69EXB)
Connecting To Curriculum
Read-aloud – Students can follow along while listening. Download a copy of the transcript here.
Vocabulary – Explore new words. Students listen to high level vocabulary in context. Click here for the vocabulary page.
Watch this video to provide for more context to the phrase “mad as a hatter.”
How much did a beaver hat cost? Find out from this National Park Service article.
Higher grade level students may want to explore some topics in more depth.
- Who in society do you think dictates what is fashionable at the time? Why?
- Why are articles of clothing, such as the beaver hat, indicative of an individual’s social status and wealth?
- Why do you think the beaver hat went out of style in the 1900s? What events were happening in the world that could have affected this change in fashion?
- Why do you think conservationists wanted to reintroduce beavers to the Adirondacks, despite their reputation as being a nuisance to many people?