With the advent of “hipster” fashion, dress hats enjoy a resurgence.
1830 - 1864
A Young Man Goes West
John Batterson Stetson is born in 1830 in Orange, NJ, the seventh of twelve children. His father, Stephen, is a successful hatter who founded the No Name Hat Company. With little formal schooling, young John B. Stetson is taught to read and write by his mother and the hatter’s trade by his father. Contracting tuberculosis in his twenties, Stetson ventures west.
1865 - 1869
Return to Philadelphia
Stetson reaches Pikes Peak and regains his health but does not strike it rich. In 1865 he returns to Philadelphia, borrows $60 from his sister and rents a room at Seventh and Callowhill Streets, launching his own hat business. With many hat makers in the city, Stetson struggles to compete, until he gambles on his instinct for a market out west…
1870 - 1875
Factory is Established
In 1870, less than a year after making his first “Boss of the Plains”, John B. Stetson purchases a building on the northern outskirts of Philadelphia, establishing what would become the largest hat factory in America. Stetson builds his legacy as a business innovator, steward of a company as concerned for the welfare of its employees as in its commercial output.
1876 - 1900
In the Twilight of a Century
As America celebrates its 100th birthday, Stetson is renowned as an established industrial power, collecting awards, admirers in many fields and international attention.
1901 - 1919
As the century dawns, John B. Stetson shepherds the company to unimagined success. Combining an instinct for marketing that is ahead of its time with traditional yet innovative techniques, his leadership makes Stetson a household name and its hats the embodiment of American quality. Sadly, this also marks the time of the founder’s death.
1920 - 1929
The Roaring Twenties
Stetson rides the wave of the Jazz Age, creating new and fashionable hats to align with the major Hollywood stars – and politicians – as well as the high living and trendy “swells” of this generation.
1930 - 1939
Hard Times, New Opportunities
In the extreme hardship felt by all during the Great Depression, Stetson thrives by continuing to innovate: expanding manufacturing and variety of product to meet the aspirational hopes as well as the practical needs of a struggling nation.
1940 - 1949
Stetson readily joins the war effort in World War II, producing tens of thousands of hats for the military, contributing enlistees, labor and materials – and launching an intriguing ad campaign based on the importance of discretion during times of war.
1950 - 1959
In tune with postwar optimism, Stetson creates “The World’s Most Expensive Hat”, taking it on a worldwide publicity tour. Closer to home, Americans enjoy peace and upward mobility, reflected in the advertisements of the time.
1960 - 1969
The Sixties: a Hatless President and LBJ
Decline in hat sales begins in the fifties, and John F. Kennedy’s universally seen hatless inauguration in January, 1961 delivers a near-fatal blow. However, his successor, a hat-wearing Texan, exemplifies both the legacy and direction of Stetson for the next decades, as Stetson celebrates its first one hundred years.
1970 - 1979
With hats no longer a required accessory, many hat makers fold and Stetson ceases production in the Philadelphia factory. The land is donated to the city in 1977. Manufacturing continues in the St. Joseph, MO factory, primarily servicing the flourishing Western market.
1980 - 1999
A Second Century Draws to a Close
Stetson divests from manufacturing and moves to licensed production, establishing itself as a lifestyle brand, extending merchandising to fragrances and eyewear. Films such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Urban Cowboy” spark hat sales.
2000 - 2014
The Dawn of the 21st Century
Defining the Stetson lifestyle: product additions include apparel, footwear and home. License is inked for Europe. A salute to history with a limited edition collector’s Colt® revolver. At the same time, with the advent of “hipster” fashion, dress hats enjoy a resurgence.
Today and Tomorrow