Braids and Bonnets: The straw hat era in Foxborough with Jack Authelet!

This hand-drawn lithograph, a story in itself, shows the many hat styles sold wholesale by the Union Straw Works which were then ornamented by local manufactures for retail sales. (Foxborough Historical Commission photo)

This hand-drawn lithograph, a story in itself, shows the many hat styles sold wholesale by the Union Straw Works which were then ornamented by local manufactures for retail sales. (Foxborough Historical Commission photo)

“Braids and Bonnets: The straw hat era in Foxborough”
At its final meeting of the season on Tuesday evening, May 24, the Foxborough Historical Society will examine the town’s straw hat industry – which put Foxborough on the map.
The straw hat industry in America started with a young girl admiring an imported bonnet in a store window.  She could not afford to purchase it, so she made one of her own, later documented to be the first straw hat made in America.
She had friends in Foxborough and shared her skills.  The rest is history.  Foxborough was soon on its way to becoming the “Straw Hat Capital of the World.”
Town Historian Jack Authelet will share the story of the straw shops in Foxborough, the “cottage industry” of women braiding straw at home, and the enormous factories that one day would rise as many women came to town, some from abroad, others from nearby states, for the “pretty work” offered by the factories.
It brought Foxborough its most robust economy since incorporation, gave rise to many civic improvements, and employment to thousands.  “It was the American Dream for many,” notes our town historian, “but it was so much more than just making hats.  It was the emergence of women as a social, political and economic force within the community.”

The local industry had a humble beginning of straw hats fashioned by the hands of children.  It ended 200 years later in the hands of yet another young lady who finally had to close the last shop operated by three generations of her family making hats in Foxborough.

The fascinating and abundantly illustrated story of the local straw hat industry will be shared at the Foxborough Historical Society on Tuesday, May 24, at 7:30 pm, in the first floor meeting room of the Boyden Library at the corner of Bird and Baker Streets in Foxboro center.

This presentation marks the final official appearance at the historical society of Foxborough Town Historian Jack Authelet.  Former editor of the Foxboro Reporter and published historian, Authelet has made important contributions to the history of Foxborough through his abundant original research.  He has spoken at the historical society twice each season.

There is parking under the library, around Foxboro common and on nearby streets.  Do not park in the Aubuchon lot.
Events of the Foxborough Historical Society are free and all are welcome.  Those interested in joining should ask for an application form at the meeting.  The annual fee is $8 for individuals, $10 for families.  For further information, call Patrick Lyons at 508-543-3728, or email [email protected].

 

With many small straw shops operating in town, owners decided to join in forming one large operation, the Union Straw Works, and soon they were dominating the industry. The factory was on Wall Street, site of the present Post Office. (Foxborough Historical Commission photo)

With many small straw shops operating in town, owners decided to join in forming one large operation, the Union Straw Works, and soon they were dominating the industry. The factory was on Wall Street, site of the present Post Office. (Foxborough Historical Commission photo)