As it did in 1865, Stetson today embodies the resourceful, authentic, and diverse American spirit. Rich in history, the story of Stetson continues in step with the journey of America - ever evolving and timeless.
John Batterson Stetson is born in 1830 in Orange, NJ, the seventh of twelve children. His father, Stephen, is a successful hatter who founded the No Name Hat Company. With little formal schooling, young John B. Stetson is taught to read and write by his mother and the hatter’s trade by his father. Contracting tuberculosis in his twenties, Stetson ventures west.
Stetson reaches Pikes Peak and regains his health but does not strike it rich. In 1865 he returns to Philadelphia, borrows $60 from his sister and rents a room at Seventh and Callowhill Streets, launching his own hat business. With many hat makers in the city, Stetson struggles to compete, until he gambles on his instinct
In 1870, less than a year after making his first “Boss of the Plains”, John B. Stetson purchases a building on the northern outskirts of Philadelphia, establishing what would become the largest hat factory in America. Stetson builds his legacy as a business innovator, steward of a company as concerned for the welfare of its employees as in its commercial output.
As America celebrates its 100th birthday, Stetson is renowned as an established industrial power, collecting awards, admirers in many fields and international attention.
As the century dawns, John B. Stetson shepherds the company to unimagined success. Combining an instinct for marketing that is ahead of its time with traditional yet innovative techniques, his leadership makes Stetson a household name and its hats the embodiment of American quality. Sadly, this also marks the time of the founder’s death.
Stetson rides the wave of the Jazz Age, creating new and fashionable hats to align with the major Hollywood stars and politicians as well as the high living and trendy “swells of this generation."
In the extreme hardship felt by all during the Great Depression, Stetson thrives by continuing to innovate: expanding manufacturing and variety of product to meet the aspirational hopes as well as the practical needs of a struggling nation.
Stetson readily joins the war effort in World War II, producing tens of thousands of hats for the military, contributing enlistees, labor and materials — and launching an intriguing ad campaign based on the importance of discretion during times of war.
In tune with postwar optimism, Stetson creates “The World’s Most Expensive Hat”, taking it on a worldwide publicity tour. Closer to home, Americans enjoy peace and upward mobility, reflected in the advertisements of the time.
Decline in hat sales begins in the fifties, and John F. Kennedy’s universally seen hatless inauguration in January, 1961 delivers a near-fatal blow. However, his successor, a hat-wearing Texan, exemplifies both the legacy and direction of Stetson for the next decades, as Stetson celebrates its first one hundred years.
With hats no longer a required accessory, many hat makers fold and Stetson ceases production in the Philadelphia factory. The land is donated to the city in 1977. Manufacturing continues in the St. Joseph, MO factory, primarily servicing the flourishing Western market.
Stetson divests from manufacturing and moves to licensed production, establishing itself as a lifestyle brand, extending merchandising to fragrances and eyewear. Films such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Urban Cowboy” spark hat sales.
Defining the Stetson lifestyle: product additions include apparel, footwear and home. License is inked for Europe. A salute to history with a limited edition collector’s Colt® revolver. At the same time, with the advent of “hipster” fashion, dress hats enjoy a resurgence.
Stetson invites all to travel over time and place on a continuing journey. We will always be diverse yet unifying, innovative and adaptable while embracing tradition with the highest respect. We are guardians of our legacy and our stories, ready to share with the next generation.