Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Top Hat n Tales

John Hetherington a haberdasher, is often incorrectly credited as the inventor and wearer of the first top hat, which supposedly caused a riot when he first wore it in public on 15 January 1797. Some years later The Huddersfield Chronicle and The Times of London  reported that John Hetherington who wore the first top hat was arrested for breach of the peace after ‘several women fainted at the unusual sight’.

The Times
10th June 1927

The First Top Hat.

During a discussion in the columns of "The Times" of London on the pioneer of umbrellas, a correspondent sent an extract from an old journal in her possession, dated January 16, 1797, giving the following amusing account of the wearing of the first silk hat in London.

John Hetherington, haberdasher, of the Strand. Was arraigned hereto the Lord Mayor yesterday on a charge of breach of the peace and inciting to riot and was required to give a bonds of £500 pounds. 

It was in evidence That Mr Hetherington who is well connected appeared on the public highway wearing upon his head what he called a silk hat. (which was offered in evidence) a tall structure having a shiny lustre and calculated to frighten timid people. 

As a matter of fact, the officers of the crown stated several women fainted at the unusual sight. while children  screamed and dogs yelped and a younger son of a Cordwainer Thomas  who was returning from a chandlers shop was thrown down by the crowd which had collected and had his right arm broken. 

For these reasons the defendant was seized by the guards and taken before the Lord Mayor. in extenuation of his crime the defendant claimed that he had not violated any law of the kingdom. but was meanly exercising a right to appear in a head dress of his own design - a right not denied to any Englishman.

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