I got an email yesterday from Bill Coleman’s archivist asking about an unusual photo found in his collection. He described it as “one of Bill’s earliest Amish photographs” and that he had not seen anything similar in any of Bill’s other photos.
This photo “was taken in the early 1980′s…”[women in] scoop hats” is the only thing written on the negative sleeve, which is odd as well since Bill is known for making copious notes on each of the sleeves.”
You can see this is quite different from the various head coverings Amish women typically wear. I’ve never seen these in person but I believe I have an answer to this question which I’ll post here later today. If you have any thoughts or have seen these types of hats before your ideas are welcome.
UPDATE: You readers are great as usual, some very interesting comments came in below (see Terry Berger’s, Naomi Wilson’s, and Barb’s comments, among others). My initial thought on viewing the photo was that these were hats seen among the Nebraska Amish people, primarily of Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. I am not aware of them being worn by any other Amish.
A reader writes in: “I actually own one of these hats. Bought it from a Nebraska Amish woman in Belleville. Figured it was a collectible and very unique. I have seen Nebraska Amish women wearing these while working in the fields. What Amish women wore before the bonnet became fashionable among Amish women.”
In his classic work Amish Society, Amish-raised author and Big Valley native John Hostetler writes about the Nebraska women:
“When working in the fields the women wear the “scoop” or flat hats, made of straw, which resembles the Swiss and Alsatian peasant hats worn two centuries ago. The wide brim is folded down at the sides by means of a string that is tied beneath the chin.”
With a little hunting I found this image which includes a depiction of a similar-looking hat. The subject is described as “a 19th century French country woman from the Alsace region of France wearing her traditional working dress, hat, and carrying a pitchfork.”