Harold Cotton, Sr. rim for hat block

Wooden hat blocks included pieces such as this, known as the flange. It held the brim of a hat while it was being shaped. From the late-nineteenth century to to the mid-twentieth century, work attire required hats for men and women and most Americans had at least one hat in their wardrobe. Daily wear meant hats got scuffed, dirty, and misshapen. Thrifty consumers did not throw away hats, but had them cleaned and reformed by hatters to extend the life of their purchases. As the fashion of wearing hats declined in the 1960s, hat blocking became a fast-receding craft.
Hatter and small businessman, Harold Cotton, Sr. used this block and others in this collection, in his shop in Greensboro, NC beginning in the mid-1950s. A black entrepreneur, Cotton used the income from his shop to move up the economic ladder and promote the welfare of the black community. Profits from the shop supported institutions within the black community, including St. Stephen’s United Church of Christ, the local black Boy Scout troop, and the NAACP.
For other blocks used by Cotton, see 2012. 0201. 01, 2012. 0201. 04, 2012. 0201. 03 and 2012. 0201. 05.
Currently not on view
Object Name
flange, black
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
black (overall color)
overall: 2 1/2 in x 12 in x 9 1/2 in; 6.35 cm x 30.48 cm x 24.13 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
African American
American Enterprise
See more items in
Work and Industry: Work
American Enterprise
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Michael J. Cotton and Harold C. Cotton II

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