Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell

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TThe Workman's Hat (aka The Carpenter's, Printer's or Pressman's Hat)
 
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of The Workman's Hat (aka The Carpenter's, Printer's or Pressman's Hat). 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.

Not all Workman's Hat are of the same design but they all seem to originate in some way from the Newspaper Hat.

It should not be supposed that the wearing of Workman's hats by carpenters or other trades was ubiquitous. It is far easier to find illustrations of workmen wearing hats of other kinds, or not wearing hats at all, than it is to find illustrations of workmen wearing paper hats.

I do not know of any evidence of paper hats being worn by workmen in the 18th Century. Assertions to this effect on the internet seem to relate to an article (of unknown date) in the Indianapolis news, which is shown below and states that 'Records show the hats were worn in the United States as early as 1748'. This is a very specific date and suggests that the writer had some clear documentary evidence in mind. Unfortunately I have no idea what this could have been.

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The following information is taken from an on-line article by Kathryn Kane 'The Rise of the Paper Hats' (https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/the-rise-of-the-paper-hats/). The article states that 'There is some evidence that paper hats were first worn in the last few years of the eighteenth century, quite probably by men working in the carpentry trades, almost certainly in London. By the turn of the nineteenth century, they had become common headwear for men in a number of trades which involved a high level of manual labor, and their use was expanding across the country. By the Regency, these paper hats were worn by men working not only in the carpentry and woodworking trades, but also by paper-stainers, chandlers, braziers, glass blowers, house painters, printers and paper-makers, among others.' 'Though paper was still fairly expensive during the Regency, prices were lower than they had been in the eighteenth century since more parts of the paper-making process were becoming mechanized. Despite the fact that paper was no longer a very labor-intensive, fully hand-made product, it was still made almost completely of linen rags until several decades after the Regency came to a close. Paper made of 100% linen is extremely strong and flexible, therefore hats made from it would be quite sturdy'. 'Some craftsmen may have folded their own paper hats. However, there is tantalizing evidence that these special hats were available for sale, ready-made ... There are no advertisements in period newspapers which have been found from hatters offering paper hats for sale. However, there are a few advertisements from upscale hat-makers in which they specifically state, "No Paper Hats Sold."' ... 'It must be noted that the paper hats made during the Regency were probably not made from newspapers, as were the later pressmen’s hats ... these hats were made of plain white paper, without any printing.'

The article is worth reading in its entirety but it is a shame that detailed sources are not given, although in reply to a comment the author states that her source was 'Occupational Costume in England: From the Eleventh Century to 1914' by Phillis Cunnington and Catherine Lucas. I have not been able to locate a copy of this book or check the details of the information given in the article.

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An oil painting by John Hill, dated around 1800, in the collection of the Tate Gallery in London, shows two carpenters in a workshop wearing paper hats. The picture is titled ‘Interior of the Carpenter's Shop at Forty Hill Enfield'.

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In The Workbench Book, by Scott Landis, there is an illustration which reproduces an 1816 painting by G. Forster of an English woodworking shop. Two of the carpenters in this painting are wearing paper hats, which in this case have not been flattened at the top.

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These four satirical prints from the British Museum all show workmen wearing folded paper hats. Information from Juan Gimeno / Jaume Coll Guerrero.

From April 1827

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From February 1830.

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Also from 1830

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From 1832

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The frontispiece to G. A. Siddon's 1833 book 'The Cabinet Maker's Guide' also shows carpenters wearing paper hats.

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In his novel David Copperfield, first published in 1849/50 as a serial, Charles Dickens writes 'Hither, on the first morning of my so auspiciously beginning life on my own account, the oldest of the regular boys was summoned to show me my business. His name was Mick Walker, and he wore a ragged apron and a paper cap.'

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This cartoon featuring a man wearing a Workman's Hat appeared in Volume 18 of the British satirical magazine 'Punch' in 1850.

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In 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London, John Jaques and Son Ltd commissioned John Tenniel to design a set of cards for a new game to be called Happy Families. It is possible that it may have been intended for display at that exhinbition, although John Jaques and Son Ltd are not listed as contributors in the official catalogue. The set included the four cards shown below, in two of which the characters are wearing Workman's Hats.

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This cartoon from the October 22nd 1853 issue of the British satirical magazine 'Punch' shows a carpenter (note the saw on his shoulder) wearing a Workman's Hat. (Information from Juan Gimeno)

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This picture of a carpenter wearing a Worknam's Hat is from the magazine 'British Workman' vol 1, nº 12 of 1856. Information from Juan Gimeno.

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In the opening paragraph of her novel 'Adam Bede', first published in 1859 but set in 1799, George Eliot wrote, ' In his tall stawaltness, Adam Bede was a saxon, and justified his name; but the jet-black hair, made more noticeable by its contrast with the light paper cap, and the keen glance of the dark eyes ...' and in the next paragraph describes Adam's brother Seth, stating that 'He has thrown off his paper cap, and you see that his hair is not thick and straight ...'

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These 1872 illustrations by John Tenniel for the Lewis Carroll poem 'The Walrus and the Carpenter' show the carpenter wearing a Workman's Hat.

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The December 1872 issue of Scientific American included these diagrams for making a protective paper cap from a sheet of brown paper.

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This painting from 1876 by Enoch Wood Perry titled 'Young Franklin at the Press' shows a young Benjamin Franklin wearing a workman's paper hat. This may be a historical anachronism.

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The German born Robert Koehler, who spent time in America, painted this famous work, 'The Strike', in Munich in 1886, Although painted in Germany the picture is set in America. It includes three figures wearing Workman's Hats, one of whom is bending down to pick up a rock, presumably to throw at the top-hatted figure on the left. The hat this bent-over figure is wearing appears to be made from paper which is blue on one surface and white on the other. I do not know if there is any particular significance to this. The work was heavily restored in 1971 and is now in the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin. I learned of the existence of this picture from Juan Gimeno.

The history and significance of the painting is discussed in James M. Dennis 'The Strike: The Improbable Story of an Iconic 1886 Painting of Labor Protest', University of Wisconsin Press, 2011. In her review of the book Melissa Dabakis writes inter alia 'Displayed in New York at the National Academy of Design in April 1886, the painting took on a broader significance when viewed within the context of contemporary labor concerns. A reproduction of the work appeared as a two-page engraving in the May 1, 1886, issue of Harper’s Weekly, referencing the demonstrations taking place across the country in support of the eight-hour work day. The engraving reached the homes of middle-class readers with the news of the notorious Haymarket bombing that had taken place on May 4. At this historical juncture, the painting and engraving produced a record of class tensions rarely addressed in American visual culture.' (www.caareviews.org/reviews/1787#.XlEldG52uUk)

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There is a reference to an apprentice typographer wearing a paper cap in 'Longues et Briefs' by François Coppée, published in 1893. (Information from Juan Gimeno.)

In the original French: 'Si quelqu'un lui avait dit alors que cette satisfaction instinctive lui était commune avec l'apprenti typographe en bonnet de papier qui faisait une glissade sur le ruisseau gelé d'en face, M. Godefroy eût été profondément choqué.'

In English: 'If someone had told him that this instinctive satisfaction was common to both him and the apprentice typographer in a paper cap, who was sliding on the frozen stream opposite, Mr. Godefroy would have been deeply shocked.'

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A cartoon of a carpenter wearing a paper hat appeared in the magazine Punch of November 23rd 1878. (Information from Juan Gimeno)

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A version of the Workman's Hat in which one flap is folded forwards and the other backwards, which makes the construction awkward, and the central flap is allowed to be upright rather than flattened, appeared under the title of 'Bonnet D'Eveque / Bonnet Carre' (Bishop's or Square Hat) in 'L'Annee Preparatoire de Travail Manuel' by M P Martin, which was published by Armand Collin & Cie in Paris in 1893.

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The introduction to the novel 'The Paper Cap' by Amelia Barr, which was published in 1918, associates the Workman's Hat with the Reform Bill of 1832. I cannot, however, find any other evidence to support this view.

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In his book 'The Days of Dickens', published in 1926, the author, Arthur L Hayward, writes:

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