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Collection Tier:
Tier 3

Central American
Clothing Accessories
Clothing and Accessories
World Culture Clothing
Women's Clothing
Headwear ➔ Hat

This brown bowler hat, sometimes referred to as a derby hat, is made of felt and has a brown satin ribbon around the base of the crown decorated with a bow and tassels. There is a label on the underside of the top that reads "La Cholita, Extra Fine, I.B.U.S.A.". 

The bowler hat was created by London hatmakers Thomas and William Bowlers in 1849. It was designed to protect horseback riders from low hanging tree branches and quickly became an iconic piece of men's clothing.

This bowler hat is likely from La Paz where bowler hats such as this were very popular among women.  According to legend, a shipment arrived for European railway workers with bowler hats that were too small. The hats were then sold to local women, often called cholitas. It has since become part of today's traditional outfit in Bolivia. The position on the head is also important. If the hat is worn in the middle of the head, it means the woman is married. If tilted to the side, she would have been single or widowed.
circa 1980
Felt, Vinyl, Plastic, Satin
5" h 12" w 9" d
Current Location Status:
Education Program
Gift Of Alice Vanfossen

Discovery Kit: Hats (November 2018)
Discovery Kits include a variety of artifacts and specimens from the Museum’s Collection that allow students to investigate global and local objects. The Collections support the Museum’s mission of inspiring curiosity and discovery around science, history, and culture. Each kit includes objects from the Museums archives, helpful resources and suggested activities. Discovery Kits are a great way for teachers to incorporate primary source and object-based learning into the classroom or as a way to prepare for or extend a Museum visit.

Virtual Discovery Kit: Hats (May 2020)
Hats and headwear have been worn for centuries by people around the world to serve a variety of purposes, cultural traditions and religious practices. This resource provides tools and activities for investigating a number of hats in the Grand Rapid Public Museum’s Collections.
Alice VanFossen
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