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President Abraham Lincoln wore a top hat

In the seated Lincon statue, pictured above, Lincoln's top hat is on the bench.
In the seated Lincon statue, pictured above, Lincoln's top hat is on the bench.
Lucy Santos

Have you ever noticed the hat from the seated Lincoln statue outside of the Essex County Courthouse in Newark, New Jersey? Indeed Gutzon Borglum, who created the seated Lincoln statue and carved the presidents’ heads on Mt. Rushmore, had observed Lincoln’s attire when he created this masterpiece. President Abraham Lincoln always wore his top hat, which was also called a stonepipe hat, to political and social functions. Inside his top hat, he kept important letters and documents. When he went to Ford’s Theatre for a time of leisure with his family, he was wearing his famous top hat. That night would end tragically for Lincoln, for he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre in 1865. The top hat that Lincoln wore, an American treasure, is at the Smithsonian Institution.

After Lincoln wore his top hat, many other American presidents also wore top hats to their inaugurations. President John F. Kennedy wore a top hat to his inauguration. The last president to wear a top hat to his inauguration was Richard M. Nixon.

George Dunnage, who sold and repaired hats for a living, made the first silk top hat in England in 1793. John Hetherington, who was an English haberdasher, was the first person to wear a top hat on 15 January 1797. When Hetherington walked through the streets of England wearing his top hat, he drew the attention of the public.

When we see Uncle Sam wearing his red, white and blue top hat, we know that the top hat is a symbol of America. The top hat is also worn by beloved children’s characters such as the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland and the famous cat, Dr. Seuss.

Today the top hat is more popular in England than in the United States, but some Americans still wear the top hat on special occasions.