The Historical Society of Haddonfield will showcase 19 hats and a dress worn by the borough’s first female mayor, Letitia “Tish” Colombi, in an elegant display called Hats Off to Tish.
The display begins Sunday, Nov. 5, from 1 to 4 p.m. The idea came from one of the male members of the society, who thought it would be cool to do. The exhibit also features a wide variety of historical hats from 1830 to 1990 that were donated locally to the organiztion.
Notable pieces include a hat donated by former Gov. Alfred Driscoll that he wore to his first inauguration, and one from Eugene Kain Jr., a retired funeral director for Kain-Murphy. The head coverings vary in style, too, from top hats to bowlers, derby hats to fedoras. Some have been embellished and others are more plain.
“We do not have a budget to purchase acquisitions, portraits, furniture, fine arts (or) rugs, so we rely on donations,” noted Dianne Snodgrass, museum curator for the historical society.
A closer look at some of the pieces may reveal the manufacturer’s label, though not all have been marked. On display will also be a salesman sample – four miniature versions of hats made for both men and women – that also will have labels.
“What’s really interesting is that there were people who made hats, and then there were people who distributed hats, and then there were shops that sold hats,” explained Dianne Snodgrass, museum collection curator for the historical society. “Where you bought the hat was not necessarily where it got made.”
Snodgrass noted that the exhibited hats were custom ordered and became popular shortly after wigs went out of style following the Revolutionary War. They could be ridiculous or useless, but that designation was often a product of socio-economics or religion.
“You put a hat on your head and that made you look important,” Snodgrass said.
In addition to the hats of hers on display, there will also be an exhibit of Colombi’s red dress, donated by Haddonfield resident David Hunter, who will also speak at the event about Colombi’s accomplishments as a longtime borough commissioner and mayor for 12 years.
“(Hunter) brought the red dress, and he wanted to know if our archive center was interested in the paperwork,” Snodgrass recalled. “And I said 100% yes, because that’s what our history center is about.
“We’re saving the history of our town.”
The society accepts donations in good condition that have a relationship to or connection with Haddonfield. The hats will be on display through November on the second floor of Greenfield Hall in Haddonfield.