The Stetson hat, a badge of the stereotypical Texan, was the contribution of John B. Stetson of Philadelphia, who went west to regain his health in the 1860s and fashioned himself a big hat that would protect him from rain, sun, and wind. After his return to Philadelphia, Stetson made a hat that he called the "Boss of the Plains," and sent samples to Western dealers. Texas Rangers adopted the hat and found that it could be used to drink from, to fan a campfire, to blindfold a stubborn horse, to slap a steer, to smother grass fires and to serve as a target in gunfights. It could also be brushed for dress wear. Because of its versatility and durability the hat became a distinguishing characteristic of the real cowboy as well as of popular fictional ones. The hats were manufactured by the Stetson Hat Company until the mid-1960s when its chief stockholder, Ira Guilden, closed down operations due to a decline in demand. Guilden switched to licensing the Stetson name. In one of the more successful ventures, Cody cosmetics purchased rights to use the trademark for Stetson Cologne. In 1984 Guilden, with the advice of one of his top executives, bought out the Stevens Hat Company and returned to manufacturing Stetson hats. The company also began to manufacture men's and women's accessories. In the late 1980s it overextended itself and fell upon hard times. Upon Guilden's death in 1986, his daughter, Frances Gardner, took over the management of the company and was forced into bankruptcy.
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Mary Blount Christian, Hats off to John Stetson (New York: Macmillan, 1992). Forbes, September 22, 1986. Elbert Hubbard, A Little Journey to the Home of John B. Stetson, 3d ed. (East Aurora, New York: Roycrofters, 1916). San Antonio Express, November 22, 1925.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
April 16, 2019