Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
This paper is an attempt to describe developments in the European hatting industry as a background to the evolution of the North American beaver trade. Most studies of the fur trade trace the movement of the furs no further than the fur market; interest is centred on production and marketing with insufficient attention directed to the ultimate sources of the demand. Vague references to style changes usually suffice as explanations of long-run demand movements. There were, however, certain technological discoveries and evolutions in hat-making which underlie both the style changes and the long-run demand fluctuations. My intent is to examine these developments and to relate them to the Canadian fur trade.
The cornerstone of this essay is L'Art de faire des chapeaux, by M. I'Abbé Nollet, published at Paris in 1765. This mid-eighteenth century work examines the sources of raw materials, the methods of production, and the history of the French hatting industry. In order to understand the industrial background against which this book was written and to explain several of the references Nollet makes, it is necessary to begin with a history of the felt hat industry. In sketching this history I have drawn extensively on other sources. Some of the hypotheses advanced in Section I may be open to question; the evidence upon which they are based is fragmentary, and I have had to content myself with material in secondary sources. In later parts of the paper I shall compare L'Art de faire des chapeaux with the article on hatting in Diderot's Encyclopedia published in 1753.