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Few out of the countless thousands of persons who thankfully.don their light straw nats when the sun streams down so powerfully as to make the ordinary felt or silk headgear too heavy for comfort have ever thought of the origin of the cool, sheltering, wide-brimmed straw.hat. Vet it haß (says the ' Western Morning News') an interesting history, dating back at least to the sixteenth century, and the well known, Italian historian, Cesar Cantu, says it can be traced to the beginning of the fourteenth, century, though no reliable evidence can be procured to corroborate this statement. The actual date of the origin of the manufacture of hats.from wheat straw is wrapped jo obscurity ; but it is certain that by 1574 the industry was of considerable importance. Florence, of course, was the centre of the manufacture, the straw being imported from abroad at that date, aa the peculiar quality required for the industry was not then cultivated in Italy. Experiments, however, were made with the view of establishing the production of the straw required for hat-making, and the efforts in this direction were crowned with great success. Experience enabled improvements to ha effected in the plaiting, which became the principal occupation of the people. Tne straw for the manufacture must have ag-.od length between the knots, a clear, golden color, and not bo brittle. A certain Domenico Michelacci was the -initiator of the scheme for cultivating the straw, and he started the wot k at Signa, a village near Florence. The industry flourished and spread all over the district, continuing with unabated success until 1771- An important trade had been by this time established with England and other countries. At the end of the last century, however, a rude check was given to foreign exportation by political troubles, and the trade was for some time confined to local consumption. The tide turned again in 1810, when a certain Guiseppe Carbonari, a native of Leghorn, introduced an improved broad-brimmed hat called " fioretto, ,; which became popular in Franco and Germany, and afterwards in Eugland and America. It has been estimated that no fewer than 60,000 hands Were then engaged in the manufacture of the hats, un 1 the average daily earnings of the workers was about '2s each. In 1822, owing to the impetus given to the trade by the opening up of the American markets and the large export to that country, it was calculated that about 80,000 persons found employment, the most expert earning about 6s 51 per day. Naturally, the success of the Florentine article induced other countries to take up the manufacture, and by 1826 Englaud was turning out a description of hat which satisfied the English public, and easily ousted the Italian rival from the Englah markets, ca sng a corresrojding depression in the Florentine !n 'ustry.

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Bibliographic details

THE ORIGIN OF STRAW HATS, Evening Star, Issue 10471, 15 November 1897

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THE ORIGIN OF STRAW HATS Evening Star, Issue 10471, 15 November 1897