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.

  1. Who in society do you think dictates what is fashionable at the time? Why?
  2. Why are articles of clothing, such as the beaver hat, indicative of an individual’s social status and wealth?
  3. 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?
  4. Why do you think conservationists wanted to reintroduce beavers to the Adirondacks, despite their reputation as being a nuisance to many people?