In 2014, The Straw Shop posed the question, Do You Know Yeddo? That article introduced knotted straw hats described as Yeddo hats. Additional research exploring straw hat fashion, history and advertisements now provides additional insight in this updated article.
Young men in boater (skimmer) hats 1930s. Courtesy Gentleman’s Gazette
During the summer months, from the 1870s up until the 1940s, almost all men on public streets wore a boater hat, no matter if they were in Rio de Janeiro, London, Paris, New York, or Berlin. Straw boaters in many styles were a world-wide men’s fashion sensation. Have you ever looked at those hats? If you had, you may have observed that not all are made of plait. Some have a very different type of construction and that is the topic of this page.The Yeddo hat was very popular in the United States but as far as The Straw Shop is aware has never been researched.
Before we get into this intriguing Yeddo story, we will briefly mention that in the early 1900s many straw boaters were made from Japanese straw plait, but there are few references to hats being made up and exported as finished hats. The link to Japan will become apparent as this story develops.
Boater constructed by knotting whole straws into the hat shape.Made in Switzerland.The Straw Shop Collection
Look at the above closely and notice the hat is not straw plait (braid) that has been sewn together, but rather whole straw stems that have been knotted together. It is very different from the boaters of stitched straw plait worn by the young men pictured in the first image. This knotted straw construction method has been used in various countries around the world.
The search for other examples of knotted straw hats revealed possibly the earliest known example of its kind. The black and white illustration shown here is described as a bathing hat. It was found in Schloss Ambras, Austria and is held at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.This hat is referred to in the 1596 inventory records of Schloss Ambras.
Another resource, a booklet (Bruggisser Centenary booklet 1812-1912) says hats were made on the Italian island of Ischia, off the Bay of Naples from where they were brought back to Switzerland in the 1700s.This booklet also says they were popular and an important part of trade between 1892 to 1903, after which time production decreased.The booklet was published in 1912 so could not anticipate what later years of the 20th century would bring to the hat trade.
So far research by The Straw Shop has established that knotted hats are also associated with Switzerland where they are called Röhrlihüt.They may have been introduced into Switzerland from Ischia, Italy and the technique appears to date back as far as the late 1500s if not earlier.
Continuing our search, Japanese products became incredibly fashionable at the end of the 1800s early 1900s and all things Japanese were in high demand.The Straw Shop has discovered that Jeddo Hats were being imported from Japan into the United States in 1860 significantly before the period of heightened popularity.
The Baltimore Sun, Maryland, May 31,1860
“Real Simon-pure Jeddo Hats” from Japan.The term “Simon-pure” became part of American culture beginning in 1834 and the term meant authentic or genuine.
The following advertisements indicate the excitement this new style of imported hats was creating along the Eastern seaboard of the United States.
The Baltimore Sun, Maryland, June 1,1860
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, New York, June 27,1860
Richmond Dispatch,Virginia, June 27,1860
Was 1860 the year the Jeddo hat debuted? These are the first references so far found. Advertisements for Jeddo hats continue to appear in American newspapers up until the early 1880s. It should be noted newspapers of that era did not commonly include illustrations to accompany the text, as a result the description is the only way to understand the hat. Seldom were shapes of the Jeddo hats themselves described in advertising. Other than being of straw, light weight, and “the coolest hat a man can wear” (1867) we still don’t know what Jeddo hats look like nor the different styles offered. What exactly was this new style of straw hat? What made this Jeddo hat “an entirely new and original hat.”? The newspaper advertisements thus far have been hats for young boys and men.
Extraordinarily, an example of illustrated Jeddo hats for women is found in an 1881 sales brochure from William R. Horton & Co. of Boston, Massachusetts. Among the hats advertised for the Spring and Summer of 1881 are three named styles of Jeddo hats with illustrations. St. Dennis appears to have a colored straw section between the crown and brim. Rossmore has a pattern of raised straws making a surface pattern. Garden is a plain pattern but has raised straws forming a pattern on the brim edge.This catalog is critically important historically as it is the only illustrated record of any style of a Jeddo hat so far found. We are unaware of the existence of any examples of hats in any museum collection that document a Jeddo hat either by name, style, or material.
1881 Sales catalog issued by a Boston, Mass., hat seller
Jeddo hats advertised in 1881 catalog
For a minimum of 21 years, Jeddo hats were sold in the United States. Additional research is needed to learn how widespread the import was. When searching newspaper archives the use of “Jeddo” appears to cease in United States advertisements after 1881 and at that point “Jeddo” becomes “Yeddo”. Based on the evidence of newspaper advertisements, the actual transition to the use of the word “Yeddo” appears to have begun in 1879. One advertisement, in 1879, announces: “Just received, another lot of Yeddo Hats, in all new shapes.” “Another lot” implies there had been previous imports and readers knew what they were.
The 1879 introduced word “Yeddo” for a hat appears again a year later in several 1880 advertisements described as: “The Imperial Yeddo Hat $1” (1880) and another advertisement as: “The Yeddo reed hats, which are so popular abroad, find equal favor here this season, and during the past week at the Grand Depot there has been quite a “run” on them. The cheaper grades are bought for bathing hats, as the reed is proof against salt water, while the finer qualities promise to be a favorite shade hat of the summer.” (1880).
An advertisement dated 1880, describes “500 Yeddo Shade Hats, embroidered, 38 cents.” Yeddo hats are described as bathing hats and embroidered shade hats?
The words Jeddo and Yeddo are found in an 1861 article in the Evening Star, Washington, District of Colombia:
“Yeddo (wrongly pronounced by some, Jeddo) is the capital of Japan.”
Jeddo, Yedo or Yeddo are the anglicized names for Edo. Edo was renamed Tokyo in 1868 around the time of these advertisements. No other definition for the word Yeddo, other than in these advertisements has been found to link to hats. The word Yeddo seems to have disappeared from the American language by 1969 as a newspaper snippet offered the following information as a point of interest:
The Daily News Journal, Murfreesboro,Tennessee, Dec 2, 1969
It is unclear why the word Jeddo describing a Japanese imported straw hat changed to Yeddo when relating to what might be the same straw-hat goods. Since Jeddo, Yedo or Yeddo refer to the city and port of Edo, Japan, and its adjacent large bay, do we have the same use of the point /port of export being used to define the product? It happens with Leghorn and Panama hats. As with Leghorn and Panama, Jeddo or Yeddo may not mean the hats were made in the city of Edo they could have been made in another place on the Japanese islands and exported through that port. Most hat references to the words Jeddo and Yeddo are capitalized, as are Leghorn and Panama.
When does the word Yeddo become associated with boater-shape hats? Is reference made to a Japanese Yeddo boater, in an advertisement in the June 7, 1893 edition of The Gazette published in York, Pennsylvania? The advertisement reads: “We have just received two cases of Senuets and Yeddo Straw hats, 2 – 3 1/2-inch brims.” This is a time of great popularity for the boater-shape and as Senuet (sennit) hats are often boater-shape, the Yeddo hats may have been as well.
We believe that confirmation of Japanese Yeddo boaters appears in the 1929 advertisement shown below. Surprisingly the Swiss boater, called a Röhrlihüt appears here as Yeddo. This is the first time in our research that we have found this name switch. Would it make sense for European manufacturers not to jump on the popularity of the lightweight Japanese product and call their knotted straw hat Yeddo too? At this point in the story, it is important to note that 1929 is simply the year of advertisement, not necessarily the Swiss or Japanese Yeddo boater’s introduction into the United States and elsewhere. It is also important to mention one other possible source of confusion in this complicated story. Yeddo should not be confused with references to Yedda. In the hat trade Yedda is a plant material used to make hat products. Yedda became increasingly popular in the early 1900s, and in the 1930s to 1950s frequently appears in hat advertisements, usually for women’s hats. Yedda does not have a hollow stem, so it cannot be used to make knotted hats, but can be used to make other forms of hats and hat products. The use and introduction of Yedda into the hat industry requires more investigation and may in the future change our understanding of this subject. Yedda and Yeddo are two different subjects in the hat trade. In the following advertisement Japan and Switzerland are associated with boater hats, but it adds another confusion by calling one type of hat “Japanese Yeddo Straws”. Does this imply Yeddo was also a type of straw not just a construction technique?
Edmonton Journal, Alberta, Canada, Jun 10,1929
This advertisement from 1929 leads our story back to Switzerland. Statistics from 1923 and 1924 for one Swiss company, Fischer and Son, record that it produced 50,000 Röhrlihüte. In 1926-1927, 450,000 hats were produced but by 1928-1930 the number of hats produced was reduced to 100,000. In a book by a Swiss researcher called Rodel, he claims the rapid decline in trade was in part due to the introduction and popularity of lightweight felt hats in the early 1930s. He also writes there were four companies in the Swiss canton of Aargau exporting to the United States, but he does not mention they were sold under the name Yeddo as seen in the 1929 advertisement. To date we have not located any Swiss hat company records specifying the word Yeddo for an export.
Confirmation of the Swiss production of Yeddo boaters does appear in an undated catalog, thought to be printed in the late 1940/50s, that was distributed by the Swiss manufacturer, Georges Meyer. Georges Meyer presented their catalog in English, German, French and Spanish for their global clientele.
In this catalog are photographs of women making Röhrlihüt and the first caption reads:
“The knotting of a Straw-Hat in Sarnen (Obwalden) (so called “Yeddo-hat”).”
Sarnen is in the Obwaldener region of Switzerland to the south of Luzern (Lucerne). This is the only reference so far found to Yeddo in connection with production in Switzerland.There is further intrigue to this story. The Straw Shop has discovered several knotted hats which are labelled “Yeddo” made in Italy. So far, except for Ischia, Italy, a production center for these knotted hats has not been found in any documentation.
On investigating Italian publications within , Per una storia della paglia attraverso i documenti archivistici , translated, “For a history of straw through archival documents”, by Benelli, Bertini, Puccetti, published 1996, pages 72-73 states:
“A valid alternative was also suggested by the Vicenza industry, which introduced on the market a brand new version of the most classic boater with a peculiar rigid flat crown shape and wide brim made with coarse straw sampled in Montappone, Massa Fermana and in the Plana di Falerone, which made its mark of the market with the name of hat yeddo, derived from oriental prototypes together with the more rustic version of the “knotted hat” or tuyaux.”
Note: This is translated from the original Italian.
The making of straw hats in Italy is normally associated with areas around Florence therefore this information indicating other areas such as Vincenza, which is sometimes mentioned in documents and towns in the region of Marche which are not, is important. At time of writing no further information has been found.The 2010, “From Straw to Hat” Exhibition catalog, informs that Swiss companies set up factories in Italy and so it is possible they instructed Italian workers to produce this type of knotted hat. By the 1920s our research has established there was demand that might outstrip production capacity within Switzerland.
The Straw Shop sought additional information through United States Customs Records. According to the United States Tariff Act of 1930, under 19 U.S.C.1504(b)(3) of the United States Tariff Commission, imported straw hats were identified as either “Yeddo” or “Other”. In one report, for the years 1939-1947 imports, under Straw Hats, all “Yeddo” classified straw hat imports were noted as being from Switzerland or Italy. Within what category of import the Japanese Yeddo hats would have been considered is unknown. It is unlikely many Japanese imports occurred, if indeed any were, since this report period, 1939-1947, covers WW2.
According to the February 13, 1936 United States Tariff Commission report, entitled, “Trade Agreement Between the United States and Switzerland”, we find the following U.S Customs definition of Yeddo hats within the Agreement:
“Yeddo hats are also known as “Swiss straws”. In a typical Yeddo hat, strands of tubular or unsplit straws are held together very tightly by knotted cords, preventing separation or looseness of the straws.”
United States Tariff additionally describes Men’s Yeddo hats as: 19 U.S.C.1504 (b)” Hats composed wholly or in chief value of straw” and 1504 (b) (3) ” blocked or trimmed (whether or not bleached, dyed,colored
We approached The Museo Della Paglia e Dell’Intreccio, (Museum of Straw and Straw Weaving) Signa near Florence who referred to a book titled “La Manifattura Della Paglia New Novecento“ (translates to “ The Manufacture of Straw in the Twentieth Century”), where the glossary offered the following:
“Yeddo: it seems to derive its name from a suburb of Tokyo. The yeddo is a hat made with a particular technique practiced in Ischia, where such hats were called “cannette” or precisely “Ischia”. It is worked using stems of wheat that has yielded fruit, therefore with a larger diameter than the marzuolo. The hat is worked directly on the shape, following the shape, bending the straw threads and stopping them with cotton thread.”
Note: This is translated from the original Italian.
Unfortunately, this glossary does not provide additional information to this research since the definition only provides knowledge already gained. There is no explanation, at this time, why the word Yeddo was used in the United States as an agreed upon name for an import, a category or description. Many of the produced hats referred to as Yeddo were exported to the United States, but not exclusively. Another reference from “Per una storia della paglia attraverso” states that the Italian Yeddo hats were also exported to Egypt, Greece, Algeria, Turkey and Colombia.
Here is an advertisement from 1914 offering the everyday man two boaters attributed to Switzerland: “Triple Brim Straw Yeddo Hat” and “Swiss Basket Weave Yeddo Hat”. Their descriptions sound very similar to one another but perhaps refer to different finishing of the brim edge, or perhaps to the surface knotting pattern.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania, May 16, 1914
Recognizing both Switzerland and Italy produced Yeddo boaters, the similarities between the Yeddo Boaters are shown below: (Click on the image to enlarge.)
This hat is labeled Swiss Yeddo. The Straw Shop Collection
Note the very minor difference at the center start point on this hat labeled Italian Yeddo. The Straw Shop Collection
Surviving examples of imported Swiss and Italian Yeddo hats are difficult to find, but The Straw Shop has located several examples for purposes of this research. Here are a few examples of labels that appeared in boaters described as Yeddo: (Click on the image to enlarge.)
The labels in the crown and on the headband give so much information. The headband says Italy. The three labels in the crown tip, two retailer's labels, say Switzerland. Images one and two The Straw Shop Collection. Images three and four Courtesy eBay
Although providing information the labels also create further areas of uncertainty. The story of knotted straw boaters appeared to end here, but just as this article was due for relaunch a new discovery was made. Finally, a straw boater marked Made in Japan was found by The Straw Shop. For the first time we can show it. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
This hat marked made in Japan. The Straw Shop Collection
The important label telling the hat's Japanese origin is in the crown.The Straw Shop Collection
Detail of knotting pattern on the Japanese boater. The Straw Shop Collection
The straws have been knotted to form a surface pattern and the boater has a double brim to add strength and durability. The label does not state Yeddo, but the construction is that associated with other hats labelled Yeddo. Currently we have no understanding of the “No. 2” on the label which could refer to a factory, a production district, or a style. At last, The Straw Shop has visual evidence to support the history of the Yeddo industry.
So far we have investigated the boater-shape hat but there is another shape that survives. A knotted straw cap.
The Straw Shop discovered a new style of hat. Courtesy AbandonedTreasures2011
Two caps labelled Japan and one Italy. Without the labels we would not know their origins. The Straw Shop Collection
Between 1846 and 1936 the sport of baseball was emerging in the United States. As the sport grew in popularity, so did the wearing of caps by men. Allegedly, the first baseball hats for a baseball team were of straw, although this has not been confirmed by extant examples.The shapes of the early baseball caps evolved over time as did the materials used to make them. “The History of Baseball Caps” by Promo University author Alyssa Mertes, states the familiar shaped baseball cap known today first appeared in the 1860s. Some of the caps were made with green added to the underside of the hat’s bill. A company in the United States that has manufactured Major League Baseball (MLB) caps since 1920, a century ago, was contacted for an explanation. New Era Cap Company advised:
“When New Era Cap first began producing the official on-field caps for the MLB, the under-visor color was always green. It was a common belief at the time (fully adopted 1954) that green coloring would help the players see better by matching with the grass and creating a narrow field of vision resulting in less distraction for the players”.
How long before 1920 the green color was used to deflect the sun’s glare in hats is unknown.
On the three examples shown, two of which are labeled “Made in Japan” and one “Made in Italy”, the green is added as a separate under-bill. Creating a second layer adds strength to the cap.
Analyzing the otherwise dark charcoal hat shown below, the green is added as an additional bill knotted to the underside of the hat’s bill as seen below: (Click on the image to enlarge.)
Detail of the Italian cap shown in previous image. This cap's construction started in a different way, circular instead of oval. The Straw Shop Collection
Detail showing the label and joining of the green underbrim. The Straw Shop Collection
Many of the caps have a tall angular crown, which resembles a Kepi. These amazing examples of straw fashion are generally overlooked and unappreciated for their craftsmanship. Notice the hats shown below begin the same way as a Röhrlihüt hat. The gallery below is only a sampling of a few knotted hats that were exported as “Genuine Yeddo”. The number of surviving examples seem to indicate this was a huge export market in the mid-20th century. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
This group of four caps have a higher, square crown. Note the variations in decorative details. The Straw Shop Collection
Details of the fourth cap, showing two colors of straw. The Straw Shop Collection
This Kepi style cap incorporates straw plait (braid) to make the crown and introduces new construction methods. Only the bill is made by knotting the straws to shape. Courtesy thespectrum
As our research continued, we noted small changes in the Italian caps marked “Genuine Yeddo”. The straw products incorporated into the caps and the starting of the crown evolved.
The number and variety of caps marked Italy is interesting. In the late 1920s into the 1930s there was a move to revitalize the Italian hat industry and a range of new styles were introduced. Perhaps these shapes were part of that initiative, as may have been our next discovery.
The Straw Shop discovered another type of cap that combines the knotted technique and woven components. Sometimes the weaving materials are plaits or braids and possibly other types of straw. Some of these Yeddo hat designs are ventilated, some are more of a Kepi shape, some incorporate dyed straw and straw plait, some had paper wrapped around the stalks to creating visual interest.
The examples of caps shown in this article, from The Straw Shop Collection, are labeled as Italian in origin and Genuine Yeddo. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
Notice how straw plait has been added to these caps. Some designs incorporate more, some less. The Straw Shop Collection. The final cap shown in the group is courtesy eBay.
(Click on the image to enlarge.)
These two caps appear to use a different type of plait, perhaps made from chip (wood chip). The Straw Shop Collection. The final cap shown in this group is courtesy eBay.
Note how the decorative cord ends to look like a button. It is stitched to the straw. The Straw Shop Collection
One stylistic common feature Yeddo caps share is the addition of a cord trim at the junction of the crown and bill. Perhaps this is designed as a decorative replica referencing a chin strap found on other types of cap. A variety of cord colors are used and usually there is a coiled finish to the end of the cord, replicating the metal button found on other types of cap. As well as being decorative this trim also masks the addition of the bill to the crown.
This group of caps seem to keep up with fashion but perhaps were also introduced to speed production since the weaving element is much faster to produce than knotting an entire crown. As the hat style and materials changed in the Italian exports of “Genuine Yeddo” the one part of the cap that remained the same throughout their creative straw hat production is the brim. The brim, at times, is the only part of the hat, remaining true to the knotted straw Yeddo origins. It is unknown how many different styles of straw hats were exported under the name “Genuine Yeddo”.
In fashion there are always exceptions. We located a hat minus the signature cord feature. This unusual “Genuine Yeddo” hat’s brim is attached by weaving it’s straw color around the entire base of the hat. Below are two views of the hat. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
The cap does not have a decorative cord.The Straw Shop Collection
Detail back of crown.The Straw Shop Collection
We should record that there is a similar cordless cap in the collection of the Costume Institute, New York (accession number C.I.48.63). However the design and finish appears to suggest it was intended not to add a cord. The loose straw ends shown in the cap above appear to indicate the cord has been removed by a previous owner. Additional research is required to learn and understand the extent of this worldwide export. The number of examples indicate a considerable market existed making it frustrating so little information exists.
The Straw Shop has presented three styles of “Genuine Yeddo” hats. Another shape was discovered and added to The Straw Shop Collection. As with the boaters these examples are made in one piece and the cording is simply decorative. Here are two examples of a Yeddo Trilby (Click on the image to enlarge.):
Trilby on left trimmed with a feather. Trilby on right trimmed with a straw Spreuer. The Straw Shop Collection
Next we sought to understand why some hat labels were marked Genuine Yeddo. Up until 1930, no identifying markings were required on goods imported into the United States. In the United States, the marking statute, Section 304, Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C.1304) requires that, unless excepted, every article of foreign origin (or its container) imported into the United States shall be marked with its country of origin in English. As a result many labels began to appear. All the label had to say, in English, was where it was made.The declaration of “Genuine Yeddo” on the label is perhaps descriptively familiar for the consumer, as well as for the United States Customs Office.
To conclude our look at Yeddo hats The Straw Shop wants to include a few of the different labels found in the selection shown. As previously explained not all would have been put into the hat by the original manufacturer, some would have been attached by the retailer. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
This group of labels show both leather, faux leather, and fabric headbands all providing slightly different information, but all showing Italy as the country of origin. The Straw Shop Collection
These final two caps in the group also have head size labels. The Straw Shop Collection
After 1881 it was seventy years, apparently, before advertisement illustrations for Yeddo hats appeared again. Illustrations were new and popular advertising tools in United States newspapers in the 1950s.
Here are a few illustrated advertisements from the 1950s. Note the similarity to some of the caps previously shown:
The Rock Island, Argus, Rock Island, Illinois, May 20,1955
The Marshall News Messenger, Texas, May 27,1956
Is this inspired by French President de Gaulle? The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah, June 16, 1956
This advertisement informs of Japanese imports. Note the price.Tucson Daily Citizen, Arizona, May 16, 1957
Detroit Free Press, Michigan, June 12, 1958
We have discussed Genuine Yeddo marked as made in Switzerland and in Italy but where are the hats made in Japan? Japanese Jeddo hats led us into this Yeddo discussion. The Straw Shop research has discovered three examples labelled made in Japan. Although the word Yeddo is not included on these Japanese-made hats they are made using the same technique as the caps made in Italy. Both Japanese hats, shown below, have the green bill. (Click on the image to enlarge.)
Made in Japan, this hat has been splattered with white paint in previous ownership. The fine fiber decorative lattice may be made from Yedda. The second image shows the underside. The Straw Shop Collection
Note the ventilated pattern on this Japanese cap with a green bill. The Straw Shop Collection
The final newspaper advertisement in the United States for any style of Yeddo hat seems to have appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on April 20,1965. The men’s department store, Roos Atkins, lists among the straw hats they were selling, Yeddo straw caps for $2.50.
The final occasion a large organization offered Yeddo hats in any sizeable quantity may have occurred in Canada. According to Canadian newspapers, so far researched, like the United States, Canada embraced Yeddo hats of all styes for many years. In 1967, Canada celebrated its centennial in the form of a six-month long International Exposition, held in Montreal,Quebec, nicknamed “Expo 67”. The organizers offered visitors from around the world an interesting souvenir. An Italian made Yeddo boater.
Souvenir from Expo67, (1967). Labeled made in Italy. The Straw Shop Collection
The days of hats like these have disappeared, so too have the fashion words of the day: “Jeddo”, “Yeddo”, and phrases such as “Simon-pure”. While acknowledging this article still has questions to answer on this subject it does preserve a much-needed understanding of Yeddo hats. At various times these straw hats were high fashion items seemingly widely available.
Although the commercial production days are behind us, The Straw Shop is aware of only a handful of skilled Swiss artisans keeping the Röhrlihüte technique alive. Watch for a future page about Röhrlihüte.
As always,The Straw Shop welcomes and invites additional information on this topic.
The Straw Shop wishes to acknowledge the importance of advertising. Without which this article would not exist as no records found in the countries of hat origin seem to have been kept. With a special acknowledgement to Newspapers dot com for their indispensable records. Thank you Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, The Spectrum, Ebay- US and abandonedonedtreasures2011 for the use of their images for this article. Special thanks to “Straw Boater Hat Guide”, written by Preston Schlueter, “The History of Baseball Caps” by Promo University author Alyssa Mertes, New Era Cap Company, Museo Della Paglia E Dell’Intreccio, Signa, Italy, United States National Archive and Records Administration and The Kyoto Costume Institute in Japan for additional information provided.
Copyright 2021, Jan Huss and Veronica Main MBE and The Straw Shop.