Harold Cotton, Sr. Hat Block

Harold Cotton, Sr. Hat Block

Usage conditions apply
The wooden hat block sports the distinctive indented crown characteristic of the popular fedora. Fedoras, first worn by gender-bending women, became a fashion staple of middle-class men in the mid-twentieth century. The adaptable felt hats had brims that could be turned up or down and the creased or indented crown made it easy to hold and remove the hat with one hand.
From the late-nineteenth 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
hat block
hat block, fedora
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
brown (overall color)
overall: 5 in x 8 in x 6 1/2 in; 12.7 cm x 20.32 cm x 16.51 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of Michael J. Cotton and Harold C. Cotton II
African American
See more items in
Work and Industry: Work
American Enterprise
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object