A Rough Walkers hat came to Museum Textile Services from the Erie County Historical Society in 2020. The hat belonged to William C. Hegner who fought in the Spanish-American War. The members of the 1st Volunteer Calvary were commonly referred to as the “Rough Riders”, “Rough Walkers”, or “Wood’s Weary Walkers” in honor of their first commander, Colonel Leonard Wood.
The hat is made of felted wool with a pinked brim, and a silk band with black lettering in ink that reads “Rough Walkers”. At the center front of the hat is a pin composed of two rifles crossed with the number “15” above a central white shield and the letter “A” below. There are painted and inked embellishments on the sides and brim of the hat. The proper-right side of the crown reads “Spanish American War”. “E. Pluribus Unum”, and “Cuba Libre” with a painted four-leaf clover in the center. The proper-left side reads “1st Brigade Division 2 Army Corp.”, “Co. A”, and “15th PA” with a bald eagle in the center. On the underside of the brim are dozens of additional names, places, and dates inscribed in ink. The interior of the crown has the owner’s initials “WH” and other indistinguishable inscriptions. There is also a leather sweatband with a straw stiffener.
A custom-made mount for storage of the hat was constructed out of Ethafoam, polyester batting, and cotton stockinette. The mount supports the hat so it retains its original shape and won’t deform over time due to gravity. The metal pin at the front of the hat had a screw back which was tightened to prevent the loose pin from rotating and abrading the felted wool. The hat was packed in an archival box and returned to the Erie County Historical Society.
Artifacts are witnesses to history, and each and every textile we treat at MTS provides us with a opportunity to learn more about history and the individuals who made a difference.