The “Great Students of Bonnets”

When first reading the following article, I honestly could not decide whether to laugh, or to be insulted. Either way, I suggest putting down your tea or beverage of choice while reading.


We are a great student of bonnets. Circumstances have led us to observe them. In fact, we hire our rooms of a fashionable milliner. – This gives us a great advantage.

We divide the human race into two classes: those who wear bonnets and those who don’t. The bonnet-wearers are our weakness. The wearing of bonnets is the great fact of our lives. We like them the better for it. It shows they have heads. A woman without a bonnet is like a cat without a tail; she don’t know what to do with herself. When a ship wishes to go ahead, she puts a bonnet on her jib. A woman does the same. The bonnet is the capsheaf of her glory; moreover it covers a multitude of sins. To judge of female character, Fowler feels a woman’s head; he’s an animal. We look at her bonnet; we are a philosopher.

There’s always a whole row of bonnets in Mrs. F’s show-room. They are mounted on sticks. The room looks as if it had been planted with bean-poles, and each pole had blossomed into a bonnet. Some of the poles, though, look like Broadway belles, “in undress.” There are all sorts of bonnets, from the modest straw trimmed with white, to the rich satin, surpassing the rainbow – the bonnet of the sky. There are all shapes, too from the jaunty chaise-op, thrown back to show the whole features, to the projecting coal-hod, exhiniting the face through a long perspective. There are the Touch-me-not, the Kiss-me-if-you-dare, the Kiss-me-if-you-can, the Kiss-me-if-you-please, etc., etc.

It is our favorite speculation, as we gaze into these empty bonnets, to imagine who is to occupy them. So when we see a fine lady descend from her carriage, and enter the tempting rooms, we take pleasure in wondering which of the flaring bean-poles will first attract her attention.

We have not had time, yet, to classify our observations; but, as soon as we have don this, we intend to publish a work on bonnetology, which we flatter ourselves will throw phrenology completely into the shade. We shall prove, in this work, that the bonnet is the organ of the mind. We shall show that every female faculty from philoprogenitiveness to philoprovocativeness (a faculty of our own discovery) is represented, not by a bump, but bay a bow. – We shall show also, in our analogical chapter, that w woman, like a horse, is to be managed by “the ribbons,” and that the old proverb – “straws show the way of the wind,” – had original reference to straw bonnets. We shall also establish a Bonnetian School of High Art, and demonstrate that although bonnets are above the heads of people, they may be made intelligible to the lowest comprehension. N. Y. Leader. (Huntingdon Journal (PA), August 2, 1854.

I will, of course, be keeping an eye out for the published work on “Bonnetology.” 😉 In the meantime, lets compare the above with this additional “insight” into a woman and her bonnet:

A Woman’s Bonnet

A woman’s bonnet (always providing that her means are sufficient to gratify her taste) is a sure index of her character. Show me a gaudy bonnet, loaded with feathers and ribbons of all hues of the rainbow, decorated with j[sic]poneas and cabbage roses of bright blue and glaring yellow, and I will know its wearer before I see her, to be a vulgar woman, loud voiced intrusive and fond of show and finery. Beneath the brim of that little straw bonnet with its band of white ribbon, its little boquet of half opened and delicate face trimming of spotless blonde, with just one blossom nesting amid its purity, I can see a fair young face with eyes as blue as violets, and a mouth rosy and kiss invitign. It is a young wife, perhapes having the first [sic] of a newly married life. Under that fairy compilation of white and green, transparent and gossamer, with its soft, white marribouts[sic] and floating full of lace I can imagine a pair of worked, dark [sic] eyes and mass of braids and [sic] to susceptible masculine hearts Under black velvet, with drooping plumes and drapery of lace, and just a thought of white and crimson about the face, belong to mamma matronly and plumb – who would not be too gay for the world, but tells the milliner to put a little crimson on her bonnet be cause “he” likes it. That is just as certain as the lace that the drab satin without a particle of face trimming, and no cape to speak of, will grace the countenance of aunt Me[sic], who lives “up to Tompkinsvill,” and belongs to a Methodist meeting. Various pretentious bonnets, with a multiplicity of bows, and a perfect arbor of flowers and fruit about the face, and evidently the property of single ladies who have long since forgotten their birth days, and earnestly wish that other people would forget them also. And that gorgeous concern, evidently made with the intention of discovering how much a bonnet could cost if it tried, belongs most certainly to Miss Skewton, of one of her clique. Laugh if you choose, but show me a woman’s bonnet, and I’ll draw her a portrait for you. (Democratic Watchman, Bellefont, PA. June 23, 1855.

Published in: on April 23, 2013 at 4:30 pm  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I wish I could go back there. To sit in a park and observe for an afternoon. To evesdrop on conversations. They don’t seem so very distant.

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