A paperfolding paradise
The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell
|Paper Hats and Caps|
page attempts to record what is known about the origin
and history of wearable paper hats and caps. Please
contact me if you know any of this information is
incorrect or if you have any other information that
should be added. Thank you.
There are many references to paper hats and paper caps in old books and periodicals but many of these are not accompanied by descriptions or illustrations and it is not therefore possible to know what particular design or style of paper hat or cap they refer to. I have only recorded such references here where they are interesting for other reasons.
There are separate pages for some of the most common styles of wearable folded paper hats ie for the standard Workman's Hat (also known as The Carpenter's, Printer's or Pressman's Hat), for the Newspaper Hat, the Pyramidal Hat, which all appear to be derived from the folding sequence for the Paper Boat, and for the 'Soldier's Cap', which is closely related to the Waterbomb.
According to Lexico (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/paper_cap) the phrase 'paper cap' is first found in the late 17th century in the writings of the antiquarian John Lewis (16751747). I have not been able to verify this information.
The earliest reference to paper hats, of an undefined kind, that I am aware of occurs in a letter which Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th of January 1796, which includes the words 'We have trimmed up and given away all the old paper hats of Mamma's manufacture; I hope you will not regret the loss of yours.' Footnote 14 to this letter in 'Jane Austen's Letters', 4th Edition, collected and edited by Dierdre Le Faye, Oxford University Press, 2011 states that 'Dr Avril Hart at the Victoria and Albert Museum suggests that these were made from narrow folded strips of paper woven and plaited together. Alternatively, stamped paper (finely perforated with delicate patterns) was used in the Eighteenth century to make fans; this might also have been used for making hats. See Sacheverell Sitwell and Doris Langley Moore 'Gallery of Fashion 1790 - 1812.' I have not been able to find any other information that would verify or prioritise either of these suggestions.
In the January 1894 issue of the American children's magazine St Nicholas is an article about 'How Money is Made'. It explains how each printed bill is individually examined and that: